Home is where you hang your ushanka...

I got to thinking the other day about being an expat and living in another country and how it changes you as a person and your perspective on a lot of things. I also got to thinking about what home is and, indeed, where it is. This is a post on my thoughts and how life in Moscow for me has changed and made it, in essence, a second home.

Свой или чужой
A lot of Russians say to me that they wouldn’t like living in another country because you are, in some way, always a stranger or foreigner which means another country could never be seen as home. I don’t know whether this is Russian patriotism or what, but personally I like being English in Russia. I like the fact that it makes you stand out and gives me an increased sense of individuality and I love the fact I’m foreign, hell, I can’t get enough of it!
In essence, I think a lot of people in the UK couldn’t care less where a person comes from. There are hundreds of foreign citizens in the UK with mixed culture and heritage who get on just fine.

Moving to another country
Well, everybody has their reasons and all, some for work, some for family and some just because. I hauled ass over to Moscow for the first time when I was 19 and bored to tears in my home town. I wanted to escape, as it were, because I was board with everything that was familiar and wanted a complete change. I chose Russia because I had been learning and loving the language and history.

When I first came over it was for 5 months on a gap year program and I fell in love, although, I was far from living the Russian life. I was living in a student dorm, partying 3 times a week and hooking up with as many Russian girls as humanly possible. I also met some truly great people, travelled to different Russian towns with them and had some of the best times of my life – hands down.

I was out of cash and visa by the end of it and came back to England where I needed to work to fund my next trip. I took a crappy admin job in an office full of people who hated their tedious lives and worked there for 7 months to save up. I was pleased to escape again.
Back in Moscow again and this time studying full time at a faculty for foreigners. This time was different from the first, good, but in a different way. Again, I met some good people, settled with one girl who I was with for 3 years and got a different perspective again.

The third time back was more or less for good (for good is a tricky thing in Russia). This time around I was simply working and renting a flat. All my previous Western friends, bar one, had left. It was interesting because life in Russia had become like life in the West – work, food, home, work, food, home. Sure the work was different, but the inevitable had happened - life had become routine and the exotic factor was no more. This, I suppose, was when Russia became a second home. Now, as a juxtaposition, England is my carefree land of free food and no stress (I never thought that would happen).

All this has also made me appreciate things about the UK that never even crossed my mind before. Sure, there are many things you read in the papers that simply make you shake your head (for example: a six-year-old was recently branded a racist for saying a black girl had chocolate on her face etc) but it does have its good points, relative stability being one of them (along with the police force because we all know about Russia’s police).

I also think that after, more or less, successfully adapting to another country and life it makes it easier to move and adapt to other countries, kinda like learning a third foreign language. I think that after being here I could quite happily move to most other countries in the world and would love it. After all, it would be nice to view it all again with a clean slate and a fresh perspective.

Home I guess, is where you hang your ushanka (which, for those who don’t know, an ushanka is a glorious Russian hat with ear flaps), but I think my spiritual home, as gay as it sounds, will always be my home town in England. I still think I will end up back in England, the question is when.

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Lachlan on December 1, 2009 at 5:55 PM said...

Mate, that was actually a fantastic article. Obviously hits pretty close to home for this one! Keep it up

Unknown on October 15, 2013 at 12:10 AM said...

Foreigner in the UK: I've heard that a rather persistent class structure keeps a lot of people from becoming truly integrated. True/false/nuance/perspective?

Lt. Columbo on October 15, 2013 at 10:42 AM said...

There is definite truth to that i think, I think it's more of the nature of the people though, instead of the class system.
I notice that my fellow Brits abroad are also horrible at integrating with other cultures

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