THOUGHTS OF AN EXPATRIATE
Last sunday morning, I went to my favourite bar to enjoy a nice breakfast. I am there, sitting in front of my hot chocolate and cheese toasts – hopefully this post isn’t about food compatibility – and I am watching. Around me, a dozen of people are talking, joking… and drinking, at 10:47 am. The regulars who know Gleb and I are trying to speak french with us, and some of them are doing really well ! A woman walks in laughing, she just came by to greet everyone before droping her son over some friends. Everyone walks behind the counter to get drinks, while Zappa, the black labrador of the bar, is eating leftovers on the floor. The bartender walks in front of me with a plate of gozitan toasts in her hands. Do you want some ?
The plate ended up on my table, but not on my bill.
That’s when I realised, during this sunny but chilly sunday morning, that I have found where I belong.
I love this solidarity, the fact that everyone knows each other, that they all greet in the street every morning. Wether you broke your car, you’re running out of gas, you lost your keys or just your way, you will always find someone who will be there to help you. I forgot this kind of community existed. In France, that’s something I’ve never experienced, even in the most rural areas. For that reason alone, leaving was worth it.
Gozo is a small island, we love to say that it is “the maltese Corsica”. The unhabitants are nice from the first day, but being a part of the community takes times. At the beginning, you’re nothing more than an other tourist : they politely smile at you, because they know you are going to spend a few euros in the local restaurant, they know you’re essential to the economy of the country. Then, when they realise you’re still there a month later, they start asking questions and showing some interest.
I think that the locals are thrilled to see that you’ve chosen their country among the whole world. Their lifestyle, their village. I also feel a great – and legitimate – astonishment when we explain that we live here all year long. A couple in their mid-twenties, without children, who decide to settle in such a rural, insular area, this is intriguing.
Yet, we love to drink our coffee every morning while talking to the seniors of the village. We love the ambient tranquillity, the fact that we can go on a walk without seeing anybody, apart from this old man sleeping on his threshold. I enjoy strolling on the cliffs or on the beach more than spending the afternoon shopping. And this doesn’t stop us from enjoying a good party in a night club – without a roof ! – from time to time.
But I have to confess that I would kill to be able to go to the movies whenever I want and have a big bowl of pop corn, I would love to be able to do some quality shopping without having to spend thirty minutes on a boat and at least 2 hours in a bus…
Despite all of this, yes, I have found where I belong. I’m feeling good here, this is home for me, I am comfortable in this country. Even if it’s not always this easy. Sometimes, I feel like I’ve made a mistake. Sometimes, I miss my family, my two little brothers, my friends. Sometimes, I miss meaningless things, like going to Ikea to buy a 20€ rug, loging to an eshop and knowing rightfully that they deliver to my doorstep, finding cheap frozen berries…
But I know that I’m only 3 hours far from Paris, and I take a deep breath. I think about those who leave everything behind and go live to the end of the world. I also think – with admiration – of those who leave their country alone, this is something I would have been incapable of doing without Gleb by my side. This “new” life, finally, it is thanks to him.
I’ve not always been this girl who dreams about travel, and a few years back I hardly imagined living abroad. But if I just have one advice to give : do it. The good moments will erase the bad ones. Travel, and discover how much life can be different – not to say better – elsewhere.