Returning Home after Living Abroad : Eight Years Later

My absence from my blog for the last 12 days has not been intentional and I have certainly not decided to turn my back on the blogging world.  On March 2, I returned home for a brief visit after living abroad for eight years.

Friends had already warned me that I would see a difference but I paid no attention to those words. After all, I grew up in the UK so was not expecting that much of a change. It turns out it was a big change for me.

The last time I set foot in the UK was in 2004. I am not sure whether I have a right to call the country home. If we are to pay attention to the age-old saying that “home is where the heart is”, than my home is 100% in Turkey.

However, my roots are in the UK, so surely I should feel some sort of connection. Sadly, I did not. I felt no excitement, no vibes or familiar and comfortable feelings. The only connection left with the UK is my parents to which I owe a massive debt of thanks.

Observations About Returning Home after Living Abroad

Returning home after living abroad

The UK exists on ready meals that taste awful! Supermarket aisles are stocked to the brim with them. I have spent years in Turkey complaining about the lack of ready meals to pop in the microwave. Upon first arriving in the UK, I stocked up on ready meals and many ended up in the bin. I will never again question the meat source in a Turkish kebab. There is something to be said for Turkey and their insistence on fresh cooked meals.

The UK is a lot cleaner. Public transport is wonderful and a compete change from the dirty and disgusting public transport that I used when I was living there. Streets seem to be cleaner as well. Train stations are a breath of fresh air and public toilets are no longer an ordeal to use.

When I lived in the UK, why did I never notice the wonderful historical buildings that were right in front of my eyes?

Nottingham & Beeston Canal
I am not talking about the massive stately halls belonging to the rich. I am talking about the houses and buildings in city centers.  I spent time looking at Nottingham, Liverpool and Southport city centre and the architecture is wonderful. Most are still in use while others have maintained their original appearance while serving as a base for a shop.  Is it a case of we fail to notice that which is front of us all the time?

I have to question the ethics of a high street brand name.

Various people told me to shop in Primark for clothes. It is ridiculously cheap. After I paid just 60 UK pounds for 13 items, thoughts naturally began to pop into my head. The prices that I paid were not sale prices but were the original price. So how do Primark manage to keep trading if they are not operating sweatshops?

According to their ethical trading statement, they insist on good working conditions for their foreign workers so it is hard to judge however, they have faced criticism in the past. Another aspect is the quality. One pair of pyjamas developed holes in them after just three nights of wear. Sorry but I cannot latch onto the UK trend for cheap clothes. I would rather pay more , knowing the person that has made them is earning a decent living and I want quality clothes that will last.


Britain has to be the friendliest disabled body country in the world.

No disrespect to Turkey, but they are not exactly geared up for helping the disabled and if there are no family members, the chances of that person leading a good life is pretty slim. In the UK, disabled toilets were everywhere, staff were eager to help and getting about in a wheel chair is easy. Britain should give itself a pat on the back for its support of the disabled.

Disabled Sign
Is there no discretion left in Britain?

On various train and bus journeys, I was privy to a number of discussions held on mobile telephones.  One girl was facing the “will he call or won’t he call” Ordeal. Another man threatened to put the phone down on his wife six times, if she did not stop speaking to him like a piece of s*** ( she ended up putting the phone down on him).

Another woman was highly disgusted because her friend was feeding  her kid a diet of frozen sausages and chips every day. Seriously!! Have some respect for yourself and learn when conversations should be conducted in private

mobile phones

Notes : Photos Taken From Flickr. Normal posting will resume upon my return to the wonderful country of Turkey!

Readers Question : I am interested in other peoples experiences of when they return back to the place they grew up. Do you spot noticeable differences or is everything the same? Where do you call home if you are an expat?

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Hi. My name is Natalie Sayin and I am the author of The Turkish Travel Blog. I am an Internet addict with a passion for history. Read my story here or leave a comment below to join the discussions.
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  1. says

    We definitely call Turkey home. with you on British buildings though. Last time we were back in the UK, I went all over Manchester city centre with my camera, photographing the buildings. I was showing the photos to my friend who lives in the city and she said, “Wow, you’ve made my city look really nice.” No, it IS really nice. Strange what you notice when you’ve been away.

  2. Deri Pocock says

    I grew up near Toronto, moved to the UK when I was 24 to discover relatives in the land of my birth (My family left UK when I was 4). And now I am about to celebrate 2 years in Turkey with every intention of staying. Home is here. If I feel nostalgic it’s for Canada. Although almost all of my working life was in UK, I always felt displaced. I left behind there a few good friends, and I will treasure memories of sailing from Plymouth, wandering over Dartmoor & Brecons, cycling in Home Counties, parties in London. Nices and nasties wherever you go, I guess. But I am enjoying life here.

    • says

      You have summed it up perfectly Deri – displaced was the word I was looking for. That is how I feel. I can not function properly either. Like I am somewhere where I am not meant to be. Turkey has a wonderful knack of instantly feeling like home
      Natalie wrote about..My Istanbul Pictures in Black and White

  3. says

    . . this is a mirror image of my feelings and observations when I last went ‘foreign’ to the UK. I was beginning to think I was peculiar for feeling no affinity for my former place of domicile – thanks for posting and saving me the trips to the psycho-doc!.

  4. says

    I make frequent short visits to the UK, solely to see my family. Turkey is my home and has been for years now. I no longer feel any attachment to the UK. To be honest after a few days, I’m more than ready to come home.
    Ayak wrote about..Teachers and Rain

    • says

      I will return for the same reason as you Ayak in that my family is here and they can no longer come out to Turkey to see me. But two weeks is too long. I don’t need the english shops or the food anymore. Like you, Turkey has become my home.
      Natalie wrote about..The Burning Flames of Chimaera

  5. says

    Umm? People don’t discuss their private lives on mobiles here too?

    I agree that it’s surprising that the supposedly reserved British have taken to talking about everything in public but I am nearly driven mad by mobile phones in Turkey too.

    And although I know we’re not supposed to talk about it but one of the biggest changes I notice when ever I go back to UK is the lack of traditionally “British” people there. Often I am almost the only English-speaker on buses in the West London suburb of Ealing. That certainly wasn’t the case when I was growing up there.

    I have no strong opinions about the rights and wrongs of that fact but it often amuses to be recorded in and out of the UK by Border Control women wearing headscarves when they would not be allowed to do that in Turkey. It always reminds me that Turkey is barely in the lobby when it comes to multicultural living.

    • says

      I honestly can not remember overhearing the details on a mobile of a persons private life in Turkey Pat. Generic discussions yes, but never a discussion where I thought, I should not be hearing that.

      Re the lack of traditional British people, a lot of people mentioned it to me before I left Turkey and I was trying to spot it but did not. I saw more foreigners in Liverpool and Nottingham than in southport but would not say they were in majority. I put this down to the places I chose to visit. Like Turkey, where all the foreigners tend to flock to certain parts, I assumed the same happens in the UK. The headscarf issue does amuse me though, especially where the case ends up in the high court.

      By the way – I left a comment on your blog the other day but it is not there. Do you accept comments on your blog?
      Natalie wrote about..Sea Kayaking in Turkey : A Personal Challenge to Conquer

  6. says

    My husband and I have both experienced this when visiting/living in the Netherlands and in the US. Things are bound to change when you are away and you yourself change during that time as well. Being an expat, adaptation to your new surroundings and appreciation for life there allows you to adjust quicker and to be more content. Plus, after being away you tend to see things in a completely different and unbiased light, which can be good or bad. The nice thing about going back is that you get to explore it like a tourist though :)
    TerriAnn @ Cookies and Clogs wrote about..Bissell Spotbot Pet

  7. Elaine says

    I couldn’t agree more. I’ve been in Turkey for over 15 years now although have managed to get back to the UK at least once each year. However I feel like a stranger whenever I go back. I also agree that getting away does make you view the buildings (and the countryside, art galleries, museums etc) in a different light. You really appreciate the beauty of what you’ve lived amongst for years. BUT . . . the food is terrible and society itself leaves a lot to be desired. I won’t be going back nearly so often once my dear old dad is no longer with us.

    • says

      Elaine – I never realised the food in the Uk was so terrible. Even the supposed fresh fruit and vegs, I have doubts about. Society is not that bad however I would not live here again as maybe I would see a different face of it
      Natalie wrote about..Photo – Bird in Flight

  8. Mark says

    I’m currently in Jamaica, 1st return visit for 37 years after growing up here for 15 years so a real “back to my roots” story. It took me 1 day to realise that my “spiritual” home will always be here but life has moved me to another place, the UK is now somewhere I use as a home for work etc.

    I’ve spent the last 2 days rediscovering my childhood homes, touring my old school & more, today is a chill by the beach day, no need to say which I prefer!

    Heart v Head is always a complex issue, long may you continue to enjoy both the UK & Turkey, oh don’t forget to enjoy the break!

    • says

      Hi Mark, I always imagine Jamica to be another colourful and vibrant country so you must have great memories of growing up there. It is definitely a case of head versus heart but in this case, my heart is telling me Turkey is my home and my head is as well.
      Natalie wrote about..The Burning Flames of Chimaera

  9. says

    Natalie, how about doing some research and writing about this topic some more? This is really good stuff and you are in a good spot to enlighten us all about it.

    After having lived in another culture for a long time, going back is nearly always a shock at some level, and yet, we “transnationals” (individuals living for extended periods of time in one place outside of their home country) cannot escape who we are no matter how long we live in our new home abroad. I know people who have lived here over 30 years, who speak fluent Turkish and are still Americans, or Brits, or Canadians even though, when they go home they are “strangers in a strange land.”

    Americans Abroad: Theorizing Expatriate Life by Mary Lou O’Neil (an academic friend of mine who lives in Istanbul and is married to a Turkish man)
    “…there rarely seems to be the expectation to assimilate. Being American is not something one should give up and not something one should want to give up. In many ways, it is difficult to disengage from American culture no matter where in the world one is. Even if no substantial contact with the U.S. is made by a transnational, America is ever-present, both through endless exports of culture and consumer products and in processes of identification. As an American transnational you are consistently identified as an American and/or asked to identify yourself in one way or another. The bureaucracy that regulates one’s life serves as a constant reminder of one’s Americanness—one’s foreignness.”

    and what about the experience of Reverse Culture Shock?
    “Reverse Culture Shock Makes Repatriating Stressful for Expats”
    Re-entry Shock and the Expatriate Experience
    “Immersion in a foreign culture is a profoundly transforming experience, and it should not be surprising to find that the person who comes home is not the same person who left. Even a few months or a semester overseas can stretch the mind and heart in unexpected ways, making it difficult or impossible ever to return to formerly familiar grooves. The home culture may seem narrow and provincial after exposure to a wider multicultural world, and issues and projects that previously seemed important may appear trivial in light of the overseas experience.”

    • says

      They are both very good articles John and Marys words are also true. I liked the paragraph from one of the articles

      “The experience of living as an expat changes people in ways they sometimes don’t fully appreciate until they return home. They may have undergone a fundamental shift in perspective, and are disturbed to discover that in many respects they just don’t “fit in” any more”

      Perhaps when I have got over the shock of my return visit, I will look more into it but at the moment, I am quite shocked at how I felt that “I was just not meant to be there” The return visit certainly provoked a lot of emotions that I was not ready for.
      Natalie wrote about..Sea Kayaking in Turkey : A Personal Challenge to Conquer

  10. says

    P.S. I too quickly tire of the loud phone conversations going on in Turkish locales, especially nice restaurants. Both personal and business conversations have been heard, not unique in the world perhaps, but annoying none the less. If anyone sharing a table with me takes a phone call at the table, I ask them to go outside as politely as I can without ripping the phone out of their hand and tossing it in a bin…
    HobbitTR wrote about..Expats: February Antics

    • says

      Taking a phone call at the table is so rude. If my phone rings, I will make my excuses and go outside. Not only to be polite but I also don;t want everyone to hear my conversation!
      Natalie wrote about..The Burning Flames of Chimaera

  11. says

    This a wonderful post – so balanced. As you know we’re going back to Britain this year. We do so with mixed emotions. But, since we’ve been travelling back and forth three and four times a year, we’ve never really broken our ties. I’m one of those who really like both countries and cultures. Blighty gives me what Turkey can’t and vice versa. One day we hope to return to live here again and we certainly will visit. One of the most important things we’re taking back with us is the appreciation of freshly cooked food. No more convenience meals for us.
    Jack Scott wrote about..Norwich?!

  12. says

    Wonderful post, Natalie! I often wonder where is “home” for me, and I wrote about this topic last year. I grew up in a small town in the Midwest, U.S., but I felt totally out of place when I visited at Christmas. It was too quiet, too slow, too much of everyone in your business. That’s not me anymore! I’ve made Istanbul my home and adapted so that we’re very happy here. Who knows where our next “home” will be someday? 😉
    Joy (My Turkish Joys) wrote about..7 Good Eats in Konya, Turkey

    • says

      I felt totally out of place Joy and it shocked me. I expected to just walk back in and all would be familiar. I wonder if you move on from Istanbul whether you will feel the same one day. After all Istanbul is quite unique
      Natalie wrote about..The Burning Flames of Chimaera

  13. phil + Di marina gateway says

    Hi Natalie what a shock we landed in Turkey the early hours of Friday morning friday the 2nd of march we went down to see Debra and asked where you were and she said back in England we missed each other !!!!!!!!!!!!!

    i can see you liked some things about the uk but its not home any more but i think we knew that any way now your back home in Tinky town and were back in the uk

    were back in Turkey in august so we must meet up then im just catching up with your blogg very good reading usual

    • says

      I thought we had missed each other when I saw your photos Di – Looked like you enjoyed your holiday better than I did!

    • says

      Hi Simon, Great website. Not sure I would move to the Uk from New Zealnd though. Never been to NZ but it seems like a wonderful country

  14. Dorina says

    It’s interesting reading other people’s reactions and (dashed) expectations of the UK after years of absence. My experience is rather the opposite. I grew up in Eastern Europe, but have lived in London for 8 years before moving to Vancouver, Canada. While life has been good to me here – wonderful friends, reasonable job, breathtaking views – not a day passes by without me thinking longingly of England. My birth country engages neither my heart, nor my mind, and if it weren’t for my family, I’d probably never go back. As for Canada, I’d have fallen in love with it straight away had I not spent time in the UK before… I find that relocation, while opening the mind and broadening horisons, also messes you up so that you don’t know where to settle down anymore. The things that were better in the country you left behind will haunt you for a very long time. I for one haven’t found a way of dealing with that yet.

    • says

      Hi Dorina, I find now that the things that are better in the Uk, I no longer miss. The chocolate is a lot better but I can do without!

  15. Chris says

    I’d just like to mention HobbitTR’s reference to people speaking fluent Turkish. How long does it take to achieve that I’d like to know!
    I find Turkish very difficult, especially since I’m trying to learn it all by myself, with just a couple of books. I’ve thought more than once that I’m never going to be able to speak this flaming language!
    Sorry for going off topic. I just had to pass a comment.

    • says

      Hi Chris,

      I know some people who have mastered the language in just a year while others will take anything up to five years. It is difficult to learn a second language. Experts say the best time to do it is when we are seven years old!
      Natalie wrote about..Photo Essay – How Turkish Carpets Are Made

  16. David Race says

    I had only been in Turkey for 5 weeks before returning to the UK last Saturday.
    The early morning train from Manchester Airport to Darlington, passing through the English countryside at it’s best and in glorious sunshine and warmer weather than we had left in Turgutreis.
    The trees and hedgerows were that vibrant green that you only get with new leaves before they start to age. The blossom was fantastic and it was good to be back.
    However, give it a few weeks and I’ll be missing our place in the hill’s overlooking the Aegean. That is when I start scouring the ‘net for flights again. I think we have the best of both world’s by commuting back and forth and fortunately our second home is in another country rich in diversity of people, landscape, history and beauty, namely Turkey.

    • says

      Very true David about us having the best of both worlds. I need to return to the UK this summer for a two week period and think i will make more of a point to notice the landscape, flora and fauna as you mention
      Natalie wrote about.. The Colourful Greek Island of Meis

  17. Chris says

    Hi Natalie.
    I just wanted to say that I used to take Spanish lessons, which I really enjoyed and I was good at it too. But this Turkish lark is hard! At least the Spanish speak in the right order. I find the word order in Turkish sentences a complete puzzle. It isn’t easy talking backwards!

    • says

      Chris – don’t remind me about how hard it is too learn Turkish – I don’t think I will ever quite get there. I must sound terrible to the locals, more so when i have had a beer! :)

  18. HM says

    Hi Natalie, I have recently moved back to Turkey after living in the UK for almost 20 years. It is comforting to read that you call Turkey your home. Although I like Turkey, I miss the system in the UK. I agree with your comments of food not being good. I also think people are friendlier in Turkey, but I am used to doing things over the internet and receiving replies to my written correspondence etc. I can see that things are getting better in Turkey compared to the past. However I still miss the ease of life in the UK and hope that my 9 year old daughter will not struggle.

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