I'm visiting the UK soon; one of my oldest friends is getting married, and another friend from China wants me to show her around Britain. I said I would if she would show me around Shanghai. So on the way back, we'll be stopping off for Chinese New Year.
So people have started to ask me "When are you going home?" "You're going home soon, aren't you?", and so on, as if I'm just here for a holiday and will finally be returning to the UK. That's not it at all. The UK isn't my home. It's a nice place, but we never really fit into each other. I loved living in Scotland, and to start with that felt like home, but the underlying Anglophobia from ancient resentment wore through over the years.
I think people assume the UK is my home because I was born there and I have an English accent. I guess if that's what makes a place your home then it is, but then "homely" would also have a different meaning if it wasn't to be disembodied from its mother word. Since leaving home in 2007, I haven't lived in England and I haven't wanted to. I lived in Wales, then Scotland, then New Zealand, then Scotland again, then back to New Zealand. Each of those places was home, and now I can make myself at home pretty much wherever I am. New Zealand is now most definitely my home. I'm comfortable here, most of my friends, responsibilities, and possessions are here, I have a way of life and I feel like myself. I can talk with people who are like me, and have the freedom to direct my life. If I'm having a bad day I can hop in the car and drive somewhere remote. New Zealand has its problems, of course, but it feels like I belong. I'm really happy here!
Not to say that I don't miss things about the UK. I come from Rodborough Common, an ancient tract of wind-blown meadow land where farmers have grazed their cattle since before anyone can remember. Rodborough Fort was built in 1764, 76 years before the Treaty of Waitangi was signed in New Zealand. It's still a private dwelling. I miss the oldness of buildings and traditions, the feeling of gravity that surrounds them. I miss seasonal festivals being in the right season. I really miss the seasons. Weather was always quite important, but I only really recognised how important it was when I moved here. There's no autumn, and the winters are dull and wet rather than crisp and snowy (although really it is Scottish weather that I miss).
I suppose these are first-world international student problems. They aren't problems really. But I get a bit tired of people assuming I'm going to go back to the UK one day and stay there, because that would really be quite bad for me. I'd much rather stay wherever I can do science, live relatively peacefully, make friends and control the direction of my own life. Isn't that what everyone in my position wants?