I had a very good expat friend from the UK who lived in Malta for over 40 years until the day she died. She was buried here in Malta. Although she had many complaints about the island and missed her husband who had died the year before I met her in 2008, she said she could have never seen herself having lived in any other place.
And then I met a couple from Belgium who moved to Malta almost the same day I did. They loved the same things and places as my partner and I did. But within a year, they were gone. Since then I’ve seen many expats come and go from Malta; some people have even tried it twice.
Now, five years after I came to Malta, I’m leaving. I came with my partner and a cat and a lot of hopes. And now I’m going back to the US with my cat but no partner. I still have hopes but also a lot of fears about repatriating back to the US. My former partner is staying on.
After my 12-year relationship ended here in Malta, I felt there was nothing left for me here. Many people asked me to consider staying on, but I realized at this very difficult time that I want to be in the same country as my daughters. While I won’t be able to live near my daughters because they each live on the East and West coasts, I will still be closer and the phone calls will be so much easier with only a one to two-hour difference between us instead of six and nine hours.
The other thing I’ll be taking with me is my teaching certificate (CELTA) enabling me to teach English as a Second/Foreign Language anywhere in the world, including the US. I’ll also be brining a good five year’s worth of experience teaching English at language schools and online, based in Europe, to students as far away as China, Russia and Israel. And, finally, I’ll be leaving with the knowledge that I started learning how to teach at the age of 55 with no previous experience and without knowing if I would even like it.
Luckily, I do, and I’ve been successful at it.
So how do you know when it’s time to go back to your homeland, if ever? It’s time to go when:
- You came to be with someone and the relationship ends.
- There are more bad days than good ones. My guide is the majority rule. No place is perfect or even great all the time, but if you like your new home at least 51 percent of the time–in other words–the good days outweigh the bad days, then it may be worth staying. However, if you only like it at most 49 percent of the time, you may need to consider moving on.
- You never get over the normal phases of culture shock. If after a year, you still feel depressed about being away from your homeland or you still feel hostility toward the local people, you may not be adjusting well enough to stay.
- You don’t like the sound of the native language. After I had lived in Malta about a year, a foreign visitor asked me if I had started learning Maltese. I said I hadn’t. He asked why not and I replied that I didn’t like the sound of the language. “You’e going to end up leaving, you’ll see,” he said. I resented his prediction. But–he was right. You don’t have to necessarily learn the native language if your own language is spoken in your new country, but I guess not liking the sound of the native language indicates something about your motivation for staying there.
- You never stop complaining with other expats. If your main source of entertainment is hanging out and complaining with other expats–instead of trying trying to make friends with the local people–your new homeland may not be what you thought it would be.
I’m trying now to not look at my years spent in Malta as a waste of my life, but as a part of a journey that didn’t last a lifetime. It just may be, as some people say, just time to go back home.