Going Home: Reflections On Visiting Your Home Country

In early February I found myself headed back to the United States for the first time since we’d left for Ireland in July of 2011.  While I was excited to go, I was filled with questions, and knew that neither the U.S. nor I were the same as when I’d left.  I also found myself reflecting on the ways that modern life has changed immigration, and on the ways that immigration has changed modern life.

Just as we’d expected some culture shock upon our arrival in Dublin, I was prepared for things not to be the same back in Atlanta and Texas. But what had changed?  How had I changed?  Am I still American?  I sound American, but will I inadvertently lapse into “yer man”, yer one”, “good craic” and “thanks a million”?  They’ll know I don’t live there, won’t they?  How will they react?  Remember, they all carry guns, even the children.

Of course, stepping off the plane, I was greeted by the same old U.S.  There was fast food at every exit off the highway (thank God), and the grocery stores are still palaces of consumerism.  The people were friendly. But this got me thinking about why the “shock” of culture (both leaving and returning) seemed so much less than I’d expected.

In times gone by, immigrants who left home were often never heard from again.  Or, if they were, it was usually infrequently, as calls were difficult and expensive to place.  But, more to the point, immigrants in the past mostly left because they had to.  Famine, political/social instability, and violence against dissidents left many with little or no choice but to grab what bits of precious they could lay their hands on, and run (not walk) to the nearest port. And arrival in their new home was not always a welcoming experience either.  But, given the place they’d just left, it was somewhere to live, and a fresh start.  Many never looked back.  And, back in the place they left, it often fell to later generations (who had the luxuries of time and technology) to figure out what had happened to the ones who were forced to leave.

Today, while many immigrants still flee intolerable cruelty and desperate financial situations, there is now an entire class of immigrants who emigrate by choice, and not necessity. Over the last few decades, travel has become much easier. Technology now allows us to stay in touch much more “easily”. And satellite television has given the world a certain baseline of cultural literacy that blunts culture shock.

Now, we go because we can.  It’s almost too easy.  And, that ease, I believe, takes something from the experience.  When you can’t go back, or the memory of “that place” is so haunting that it wakes you in the night, surely you approach your new home in a different light.  “Grateful” can’t begin to describe it.

As someone who left the States, arguably, because we could, I’m sure that my willingness to criticize Ireland (right, wrong, or indifferent) in this blog comes from a place of entitlement.  I’m not saying that that’s necessarily wrong.  My class of casual immigrant is a fact of modern life. And it’s not all bad.

As someone who has been privileged enough to travel quite a bit, I genuinely believe that travel and immigration can (and should) be the cure for much of what ails the world.  When we get out and meet people who are different from ourselves, we beat back the dark territory of the unknown.  And when we realize that people the world over face many of the same problems that we do, we are far less likely to sell guns to their neighbors, impose sanctions, and look at them as just another market to be penetrated.

So, from the standpoint that it’s made travel easier, technology and cheap flights aren’t all bad.  We can argue all day long about whether we developed Skype and beat the airlines into submission over ticket pricing because more of us are moving around the planet, or whether we travel more because we have Skype and cheap tickets.  But the fact is that more of us are moving, and it has become easier.  It’s not all easy.  There is still a gap, and culture shock.  But even those things have been reduced.

As much as I enjoyed going back to the U.S. for a few days, and was not “shocked”. I definitely felt myself living at arms length.  Ireland is now my home.  Culturally, the U.S., with its guns, and creeping religious control (threatening to erode the very freedoms upon which the U.S. was founded) is not something I want/need in my life anymore. I’ve lived elsewhere and know that there are happy, viable alternatives (lots of them).  But, as a recent emigrant, I still feel able to come and go easily

We’ll see how I feel the next time I go back. Who knows if it’s time between trips, or elapsed time since making the decision to leave home that will make a difference.  Perhaps it’s neither.

Perhaps it’s just time.

For now, it’s just good to be back home.

Things to look forward to in upcoming posts:

International Banking

About Glenn Kaufmann

I'm an American freelance writer, photographer, and web publisher. I specialize in writing about travel, food, arts, and culture. I also write dramatic scripts for stage and screen. I'm based in Ireland.
This entry was posted in Home & A Sense of Place, Immigration & Emigration, Modern Life and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to Going Home: Reflections On Visiting Your Home Country

  1. Dan Price says:

    In my life I’ve left many things behind; some reluctantly, some eagerly, and some by just moving on. In any case, you really can never go back home. The place doesn’t exist anymore and neither does the person you were when you lived there. I think the secret, as you say at the end of your post, is to note that you’re home now.
    An interesting post; far more interesting I’m sure than anything about banking, domestic or international.

  2. Excellent post. And brings to mind the question of just what is “home?”

  3. Thank you for these updates! As someone who looks forward to moving to Ireland myself one day, I feel like your experiences are helping smooth a transition that has not even begun yet.

  4. Rowena says:

    I appreciate all the requisite tips you provide in moving to Ireland.
    However, your view of America and its innumerable problems, has only accelerated since last you were here. I’m not sure whether you chose not to see these serious problems impacting millions of us, Nonetheless, they do exist and are destroying nearly every aspect of this “democracy.”
    Health care in the US has spiraled even further out of the reach for many Americans. Even when you are insured, 40%+ of all personal bankruptcies are directly related to health care costs. No federal regulations on these corporations and Big Pharma because they’ve bought off the federal regulators and 95% of all D.C. politicans. Ditto with all the banksters, and the Corporate World.
    In the last 4 years, US poverty rates are now the highest in any industrialized nation. Something like 20% of the entire population.
    Student tuition at universities have grown so much, student debt (or parent debt) is even higher than credit card debt. It’s something like 1 trillion $s. I read how a student wanting to become a veterinarian would incur nearly $145,000.00 for her education/certification.
    Drone use is now gearing up to be used by many police departments in various states. Very few statutes required to “prove” someone is/is not “a terrorist.”
    Millions are on ‘food stamps” including Walmart employees because their income simply doesn’t cover the cost of living. Naturally, health care is nearly non-existent.
    Billions of $$s are, per usual, going into Homeland Security, the military complex, private military contractors, drone warfare; $1 BILLION a month for the Afghanistan incursion over there. Meantime, federal cuts have even even further into Head Start, Medicare, Medicaid; Social Security has nearly 3 $trillion in it. D.C. Politicans are now reducing SS benefits- an unprecedent act since this has never been done before.
    The vast majority of new hiring are part-time jobs, minimum pay and mostly without health care insurance. Average salary has remained stationary for nearly 3 decades while the wealthy 1-2%’s pay has grown 200, 300x+ more than the rest of us.
    Millions of folks are starting to wake up to realize the corrupt corporations, banksters, and politicans. Those with an ounce of knowledge recognize “corporatocracy” when they see it. Ask those in the know: corporate heads, attorneys associated with these folks. They, more than anyone else realize this.
    There’s the real update: America is on the precipice of utter despair. Try reading Chris Hedges, Alternet.org, Truthdig.org, The Guardian, Truthout.org, Democracynow.com. The corporate media is surely not going to reveal the truth. Most everyone who has half an eye open realizes this.
    Thank God you got out before things got really tough. But for millions of us, and all furture generations, I feel very sorry for them.

    • Rowena,

      I was/am aware of those things, and they make me very sad.
      The promise of America is being co-opted by the quest for money.
      In the land of the free and the home of the brave, the pursuit of hapiness has become the pursuit of cash.

  5. jan says:

    “………creeping religion……” is an understatement. The God Squad is trying to undo more than a half century of progress in a woman’s right to control her own body.

  6. Laura says:

    I have been reading your blog for a while now, with interest.

    I’m an American who has been living in southern England now for over 11 years. Our family will be in a position next year to purchase a home, and we’re seriously considering buying a house in Ireland.

    My daughter and I visit the US every 3 – 4 years, and every time I return, I have less in common with my birth country.

    The religious zealotry and horrible healthcare system are the two main reasons we stay away, and will continue to do so. I’d love to have the option to pick up and try to move to the Pacific Northwest one day. My husband and I have never been to Maine, or Oregon. We would both like to travel there.

    In my opinion, life wasn’t great in the US more than 10 years ago. But it seems to have gotten so much worse. And the possibility of returning has always been in the back of mind, to be geographically closer to my mother. To live in a great expanse instead of congestion.

    The US is a place I enjoy visiting, but much of it seems alien to me now. It’s England and British sensibilities I cherish, and while the US is on its unreasonable, sensationalist path, we will continue to live in Europe. And that’s no hardship. 🙂

  7. Rowena says:

    I live in the Pacific Northwest, but am a native Californian. “Once a Californian, always a Californian” as we say. 🙂
    Sure, visiting Oregon and parts of Washington is a great experience, but living here has its drawbacks. The folks in the Pacific Northwest tend to be friendly, but cautious about many things in life such as driving. I still fume over their cautious, almost timid driving habits. Politics? There’s a definite conservative and/or Wildwest independent attitude. In the last 12+ years, there’s been a large influx of fundamentalist folks that seems to have met the needs of many in parts of Washington. The weather? Never a bother for me. I like the drama of rain, wind, and icy roads. 🙂 I hope you do someday travel over here, but having traveled to several areas of Continental Europe, and regions in the UK, I can’t recommend living in the US. Not with all the political corruption, the criminal health care system, and the majority of people who seem so oblivious to what is happening to their own country.

  8. Stephen says:

    I’ve moved around my whole life, as a military brat and then after I enlisted as well. And when my time came up to be discharged from the military I chose to not go back to Florida where my family was and the area I considered my hometown at that time. I’ve lived in Texas for the last 13 years and some change, and admittedly, I am feeling the wanderlust again.

  9. Jacque says:

    >>and creeping religious control (threatening to erode the very freedoms upon which the U.S. was founded)

    Oh please, expand on this.

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