Second time around

When you decide to be a serial expat, there is a certain loss of control you come to expect in exchange for the privilege of living somewhere new. Diplomats move in pre-defined cycles between ‘home’ and ‘postings’. Some corporate expats do the same. Others bounce around the globe more randomly, taking advantage of opportunities as they arise, just for the adventure. Yet others are servants to a bigger master, moving where they are sent with little choice, in the name of career advancement.

Getting sent to live somewhere you’ve already been can be heaven or hell. It is either an opportunity to see how a place has changed, to rediscover hidden spots and favourite foods and people. Or, it is an interminable sentence somewhere you thought you’d seen the back of and were happy to leave; it is over-familiar and claustrophobic; perhaps it does not suit your personality. And you know that going in.

I can’t lie, coming back to Brussels was not our first choice. In fact, it was not really a choice at all. And I struggled with it. Hard. For the whole of the first year. Friends had left for new postings or were at very different stages of life, the atrocious weather was still here, I was unemployed and told repeatedly that I’d been gone too long to be ‘relevant’  anymore (complete BS).

Over the last four years, I’ve come to see that second-time-around-postings can, if you’re lucky, be a pause, a time for reflection and rediscovery. As a colleague who has just left for Perth (for the 2nd time) said at Christmas, “at the end of the day, its only for a few years and there are worse places”.

Are you on a repeat assignment? Any advice?

2 responses

  1. I have no advice on repeat postings, but I can say I’m jealous of you. I fell harder for that town than I fell for London or Paris, and that takes a lot of doing. Brussels can feel a bit claustrophobic (thank goodness for the high-speed trains), but I’ve never felt as comfortable in a city like I did in Brussels. And it’s warmer there than here in New Jersey right now.

    • You know, a lot of French friends and colleagues love Brussels compared to Paris and resist going back with every fibre of their being. It is small(ish) and relatively friendly and has a lot of charm if you’re in the mood to find it. Can’t say I’ve ever been tempted by New Jersey but I love NYC. Not sure I could live there but I’d love the chance to find out!

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