#2 in what seems to be an accidental series of reflections on frequently asked questions: “so, are you feeling settled here yet?”
I accompanied the children on a play date today, and while chatting to the other mum this casual (and fairly standard) question got me thinking about it more deeply than usual. I don’t know whether it was the contrast between the beautifully decorated home we were standing in and our bare-walled and rather sparsely furnished lodgings, or the fact that I’d been considering the odd impacts of Luxembourg’s high proportion of expats and immigrants yesterday when writing about languages, but I started wondering what it would actually mean to feel “settled” here, and how far that is even possible for us…
I should start by saying that I usually answer the question positively. Until today I’ve always thought of my yes as meaning that we are making friends, finding our way around, enjoying living in our home, and generally feeling positive about our decision to come here, which, on all but the wobbliest days, is definitely true.
Today, however, it struck me that it’s a bit strange to describe yourself as “settled” while living in a rented house that you haven’t yet plucked up the courage to hang any pictures on the walls of (there’s no concept of fair wear and tear in rental contracts here), you don’t know how to answer a friend who proposes visiting in 2 years’ time as you aren’t quite sure what country you’ll be in, and most of the people you meet are in the same situation, leading to a most un-settling feeling that friendships here are far more likely to be suddenly interrupted than they were back in the UK.
Reflecting on all this while enjoying a bedtime cuddle with my daughter tonight, the other meaning of “settling” – accepting something that’s less than what you were hoping for – popped into my head. I think that most expats move abroad because we are trying to improve our lives in some way, and this decision-making process brings our desires into focus and helps us to remember what we are aiming for. So no, I haven’t settled, I still believe that this adventure can be a hugely valuable experience for our whole family, and that we should try our best to make the most of the opportunity.