Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Multi-Local: The Reality of Expat-Repat Life

Our fridge looks like a mini shrine to Switzerland. We have magnets featuring the Swiss flag, a pot of fondue, a Bernese mountain dog and cuckoo clocks. We have a pamphlet for the Conelli Circus that it was our tradition to attend every year the day after Christmas. We have postcards from our favorite ice cream seller and neighborhood shop. And magnets of the two tram lines that took us home. All of these things are on our fridge here in Spokane, and yet we have a full life back in Zurich. No matter where we are, we are forever more going to have two homes.

This is the greatest TED talk for anyone who has called more than one place home. Taiye Selasi proposes a three category system for determining where you're a local, rather than the usual focus on where you're from. These are what she calls "The Three R's": Rituals, Relationships and Restrictions. She urges you to get out a sheet of paper and examine each category. I did it and it's illuminating and fascinating to look at your life as it's lived day-to-day and see that, really, it might span multiple places beyond where you're living physically.

My favorite perspective she gives is on the idea of countries. She says, "Perhaps my biggest problem with coming from countries is the idea of going back to them...We can never go back to a place and find it exactly where we left it. Something, somewhere will always have changed. Most of all, ourselves." This has certainly proven to be true with regard to coming back to the States. And at this point, we've grown and changed so much, I wonder what it would be like if we were to go back to Switzerland?

If any of this resonates with you at all, you will just love Taiye Selasi's TED talk. Enjoy. And be sure to have paper and pen handy.

I'm curious, have you lived somewhere else and found it impossible to go back home? Were you then able to go back to where you'd been? Did you just accept a life in limbo? Or, like Taiye Selasi, have you cracked the code and found a way to live as a multi-local? I would love to hear your story! Please chime in in the comments below.  

7 comments:

  1. I'll watch this but have to say I know we will never be fully anymore again. I've lived in Ukraine, California, Switzerland, NC, FL and KY. I think the best possible solution for us as a family is to create a way to span both continents. We will start with the goal of summers in Switzerland. I'd also like a third party country expat experience where my husband gets to be a foreigner!

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    1. Three cheers to spanning two continents! Multi-locals, unite. :) xoxoxo

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  2. Thanks -- this brought me to tears (in a good way!). I'm an American mum in England. We're moving back to the US for ten months, with the possibility of coming back to England or moving to Germany. I get the "where are you from?" question all the time, followed up by the "but where are you really from?" question. How do I explain the many states I've lived in the US and now England and then back and forth? This was a powerful TED talk for me. Thanks for sharing.

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    1. Oh, Stacie, I'm so glad you enjoyed it! It brought me to tears as well. We expat-repats have to stick together. No one else understands us!! Good luck with the move and all the changes. I'll be thinking of you! xoxo

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  3. Hi Lindsey- I watched this just after you posted it and didn't comment because I just needed it to sink in. If that makes sense. I mean the message is straightforward and makes complete sense of course! And she's spot on. But it only led me to my own, neverending, usual inner battle of where SHOULD we be....which will only continue to contribute to where you are local. It left me a little unnerved as a result. But now that a week has passed, I have a warm, fuzzy feeling about it and the idea and the talk makes me smile. And that's a really good thing. So thank you for sharing! x

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  4. Finally got to watch this talk and so glad I did! Thanks so much, Lindsey! This is such a wonderful way for people with such international lifestyles to think of themselves because they will never have that 100% feeling of belonging in just one place, especially the children of those people ;) Hope all is well with you all! xo Tonya

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