Homesickness also hits senior expats

“What does being home mean to you?” asked the British daily The Telegraph to its readers, many of whom reacted to the testimony of one of their fellow citizens who had left the countryside near London for Washington, in the United States, and was suffering from homesickness. The newspaper therefore decided to publish three testimonies from senior expatriates on their relationship with their country.

Jane Seccombe, 67, is from South Africa, but she has lived in the United States since 1994 and obtained American citizenship in 2005. While she appreciates the work-oriented mindset there, “no matter who you are or where you come from”, She nevertheless experienced a cultural shock and appreciates being able to return to her country, because “it’s always so wonderful to look like everyone else and not stand out with (your) accent”.

Patience Lacy-Smith is British and moved to California to be closer to her two daughters and three grandchildren. However, she quickly became disillusioned. She took her American driving test three times before getting it, while driving in London, probably due to age bias, she thinks. This seems all the more ironic to her since she finds that Americans “feel free to travel five lanes to get to the desired exit or dart in and out of traffic much like an urban rodeo”. She also deplores the exorbitant rents, the political climate and the superficiality of Californians:

“You are judged by your car, your address and your designer clothes. You have to be blonde, you have to get Botox injections regularly and you have to be thin.”

She eventually decided to return to the United Kingdom where, according to her, “life is truly beautiful. No one pretends to be something they’re not.”

Tom Donley, 71, dreamed of following the same path, from the United States to the United Kingdom, where his wife is from. In 2003 the couple moved into a converted blacksmith shop in Lincolnshire. But in 2010, they had to return to Texas to care for Tom’s younger sister, who had suffered a stroke. Upon their return to England in 2023, Tom described the period of mourning he went through, having to adapt to a different pace of life and a once-familiar landscape that had completely changed: “It took me a while to go from leisurely drives on country lanes where I once spotted hares, ring-necked pheasants, deer and badgers, to high-speed roads that turn everyone into a driver of Nascar (the body that governs stock car racing in the United States) just to survive.”

Today, “I’m happy to live at home” And “more interested in the travails of international air travel”, he admits.

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