One amazing thing I have learnt from years of going away and coming home is that no-one really wants to know anything about it!
Don’t get me wrong, friends and family members are really happy to have you back, thrilled even, but the level of enquiry remains pretty low, a light drizzle of questions before they dry up completely. On returning from living in the Caribbean for four years my most intense questions so far have been, ‘You must be finding it a bit chilly?’ and ‘Really, why on earth did you come back?’
I have travelled a fair bit in my forty odd years but I still find myself returning to the UK and feeling a teeny bit disappointed that no-one really wants to know much about it. It’s not as if I want to sit everyone down to a two hour powerpoint presentation on my experience; I’m not expecting the Spanish Inquisition. It’s just I always thought people would want to know more.
I don’t want to be the bore at the cocktail party people run away from, raising their eyes behind my back as I give one more lengthy anecdote about my time in the Caribbean. I think I am pretty good at being restrained and not giving information unless I am asked, but I do find myself wanting to share an experience and as I do so, I often sense a slight pause afterwards before we move onto something else. I have that ‘You’re being boring’ sensor wildly vibrating from side to side.
Perhaps it is arrogant to assume that people want to know all about your experiences, after all you left them for whatever reason you did and their lives have been perfectly fine without you. In fact, the truth is their lives are very busy and you don’t actually fit in all that easily anymore. You’ll have to work to get back in. People probably think: you’re here now, so be here. There are also often little people running about who make finishing any conversation a challenge.
I have found the best approach is to have low expectations and to be humble, repress the ‘me me’ voice (it’s difficult!). You have gone away and it is up to you to find out about your friends’ or family members’ lives first as a lot has happened in your absence; don’t assume everything is the same. Fit in first. Be grateful if people show any interest and be ready to have a few interesting or amusing stories of things people can relate to. Be positive about the area you have moved into and the new opportunities you have available.
One day over a cup of tea or a glass of wine with your gem of a best friend you will suddenly find yourself telling her all about friends and experiences you had, and she will begin to know the landscape of your previous life.
In the meantime, just rejoice that people are happy you’re back!
(Picture: istock: thorbjorn66)