As I am writing this, I have just spoken to my mom back in Sweden about the day’s Midsummer’s Eve festivities. It was getting to be evening, and things were winding down, but it sounded like they had had a really good time. It’s morning for me so I still have time to figure out what we’re going to do. Uncharacteristically, we have no plans. When the kids were younger, we would make an effort to celebrate with all the traditional fixings – food, Maypole, singing and dancing. It felt important. This year, with the kids all scattered and doing their own things, I’m thinking maybe it’s enough to “celebrate by proxy”, via my mom. That, and maybe a glass of bubbly tonight!
I am not quite as indifferent as it may seem however. Before the day is over I will undoubtedly talk to some friends back home and have them tell me about their celebrations. We’ll probably reminisce about the good old times, and tell a funny story or two. I’ll read newspaper articles about the raucousness that by now will have replaced the family friendly early evening festivities. In short, I will revel from afar.
During all my years abroad I think I’ve become more prone to celebrating my country’s holidays, following its sports teams and promoting its culture. I don’t think I am alone in this. For many of us it’s a way to stay connected and involved, it helps make home more tangible.
I often hear stories from other expats about the lengths to which they go in order to keep some of home alive and well while living overseas. Who hasn’t traveled far and wide for a specialty food item, or squealed for joy when unexpectedly finding a favorite item from home? Or better yet, promoting something that you never really gave a thought to before moving. I know I have.
I read an article recently about a guy who had never been interested in soccer whatsoever. After living abroad for some time he found himself a huge fan of his national team, watching games on TV, reading up on players and even traveling to see games if they were within reach. Being able to immerse from a distance made him feel closer to home. It spurred pride and longing all at once.
For me it wasn’t soccer. No, I have developed a slight obsession with crossword puzzles. I had never as much as attempted to solve one before, and now I am stocking up every chance I get. I think it’s a combination of having to deal with the language in a tangible way while at the same time getting current event insights. The whole exercise just gives me a tremendous amount of satisfaction.
I’m not sure we become more patriotic while living abroad. I do think it’s common however to crave things that remind us of home. I don’t think it has anything to do with not wanting to be where you are, or a lack of interest in the new culture. As a matter of fact, when I think about it, among my expat friends, it’s the ones who are the most in tune with traditions from back home, that are also the most settled and invested in their new community. Maybe this speaks more to type of personality than anything else. But regardless, it’s interesting to think that absorbing a new culture and way of life, is also something that fuels your wish to maintain a strong connection to home.
By: Felicia Shermis