‘The longer you stay here, the more you forget who you were, the more you become to know who you are.’
This quote was scribbled on a wall in a rather lonely mountain hut in New Zealand. A hut on a wall in a country. A country I lived in for only two years of my life, much shorter than the time I spent in Scotland and much less than I have spent in the place I was born in, Germany. But somehow it beautifully describes with a few words what happens to you once you decide to leave known waters and venture out into the world.
Writing down some thoughts in this blog was triggered by a show coming to macrobert this Friday 28 October. Mind Walking reflects the problems and opportunities connected with our own cultural identity that we experience living away from the place we were born in. It tells the story of an elderly relative growing old in a foreign country, now suffering from Alzheimers, who is trying to relive his early, hitherto unknown, life. But apart from the interesting subject matter it also contains aerial pieces, something I am really looking forward to see. You can find out yourself by reading this review first and find out more about the show on the macrobert website.
The deeper meaning behind the show got me to reflect on my own personal experience living abroad ever since I left university in 2006, first in New Zealand, then Scotland, again in New Zealand and finally again in Scotland from mid 2009. I was trying to reflect on the opportunities and problems that eventually come with your decision to leave friends and family behind to explore the world, but at this moment in time I simply haven’t got the time to write them all down, but just some instead.
Overall it has been a great experience, I would not radically change the decisions if I would have to make them again. It will be an experience to see the show tomorrow to explore how much of my own personal findings are reflected in there. In my case I have developed a whole new cultural identity for myself, containing bits from my time in Germany, but also heavily influenced by the last five years abroad. I have become to hate the term foreigner, as it puts you in a box with many others that might be totally different from yourself. I am still struggling to apply the term home to any of the countries, and I will possibly do that all my life. Any time I go back to visit people in Germany I get this strange feeling you get once you leave nice people behind, but I am also glad to head back to my ‘normal life’ in Scotland. Life abroad comes with many opportunities, but also sacrifices. Maybe this is as much as needs telling at this stage. Every time you see a ‘foreigner’ keep in mind that there is a unique history behind any person. They may be a Cultural Care Au Pair, and they may have their own fascinating stories that they’ve picked up from their time living abroad. The best way to find this out is asking questions. The longer you ask questions, the more you forget who you thought this person would be. And the more you become to know who you are.