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When I was child, I remember this add during the Christmas season, in which a young man came back home for Christmas to his lonely mother (sometimes father). The ad was very emotional and everyone seemed to be happy after the reunion. Yet, reality is rather different.


Migration and/or expatriation are not easy, but what about return migration? What happens when you “go back home” after a long time abroad?


First of all, where do you go back to? To your mum’s? Your dad’s? Your sister’s? It’s funny how even though we have not lived there for ages, many of us still call it home. And even for those of us whose parents or other relatives have managed to keep our childhood rooms intact, does it really feel like home? Maybe your bedroom does, but what happens when you start walking around in the house to find out that your mother is keeping the cutlery in a different place now, or you’re not allowed to sit anymore on your favourite spot in the couch, because alas that spot has been now appropriated by your father’s cat.


Second, there are your “friends”. I remember a couple of years ago, I went to a café with a friend after returning from Sudan. She had just had a baby, and I had just recovered from typhoid fever. I remember her talking to me about how she was thinking of enrolling her new born in swimming classes, while she asked me whether Sudan was near China. Yes, real story. It was in that moment that I realised that as much as I liked her, we could not be friends anymore. I think she must have felt the same because ever since that day, we say hello to each other whenever we meet in the street, but we’ve never met for a coffee again.


Then there is all the family gossip. When you meet your cousins, aunts and uncles again, and they start to tell you how one is pregnant, the other one is getting married to someone whose existence you ignore, or someone else had this massive 60th birthday party that you only saw on pictures, and the list keeps on growing.


Returning might actually be more traumatic than migrating. Why? Because it is then that you realise that what you believed to be “home” is not anymore.




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