Expat, repatriate, returnee – Thoughts on life in between countries

Travelling is easy – if we ignore covid and think about the world without the restrictions it has introduced. You just need to book plane/train tickets or fill up your car. Simple.

When you decide to move abroad, it is different.

Moving is different

I’ve lived in a few different countries but usually it’s been temporary. However, the last few years in Britain no longer felt like a temporary situation. I had started to build my life there.

During the years I lived in different parts of Scotland and England I got a UK bank account and a phone number, enrolled with medical centres and acquired a National Insurance Number, registered as self-employed and applied for settled status. I was in the UK system using all their services and paying taxes to their government.

When I visited Finland, I came home, but I was a visitor. I was not entitled to public health care, social support, or student discounts. But I always had the option to move back to Finland.

I had decided to stay

It might seem odd to those who have not lived a suitcase life, but I realised that I had decided to stay in Britain when I bought a kettle. A good quality, not-very-cheap kettle. For the first time in a very long time, I bought something that would not fit into a suitcase. And it was not just a cheap essential that would be dropped off at a charity shop when I moved to a new place.
Then followed a few bits of furniture and a surfboard. I was thinking of buying a car, although I really disliked the idea of owning one. These things do not fly between countries.

Even the belongings were not enough to anchor me in the UK. My life there collapsed. I felt like I could not stay in the area where I had been living and my previous struggles with unemployment and countless rejections were fresh in my mind. I wasn’t optimistic about starting life in a new place without friends and support. So I left.

All the paperwork!

Even though I returned to the country of which citizen I am, it hasn’t been simple. I informed the officials about my return, changed my address, and updated my details for all the relevant parties in the UK and Finland. Finally, last week, I got an email confirming that my foreign university degrees are fully acknowledged in Finland (waiting for the bill now). But I’m still floating in between.

I’m not able to get full social security benefits if I keep working for a UK company. Or I should somehow inform someone about something, but I just don’t know how to do it. Getting the second covid vaccine was a juggle for many reasons, and, obviously, none of my medical history from the past few years is available in Finland. I’m paying taxes to the wrong country as well, so I might get double taxed… It is probably my own fault that I haven’t been able to get these things sorted during the past four months, but it isn’t clear how to do it.

I have two homes?

I don’t know if I belong to Finland any more than I belong to Scotland or England. I miss the English language – I think in English when I’m alone. Coming across non-Finnish speaking people at the climbing wall or at a café or seeing a foreign friend is great as I get to use my second language.

I also miss the hills and the mountains and the fields. I love Finnish forests, but I miss the open spaces where the horizon stretches out and the valleys, roads, lakes, and even clouds lay below you.

Some things are better in the UK, others are better in Finland. I know that, at the moment, the smartest option is to stay in Finland, but I don’t know where I really want to be.

For some insane reason, I had the kettle shipped to me afterwards.

2 thoughts on “Expat, repatriate, returnee – Thoughts on life in between countries

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