“You touched my heart, you touched my soul
You changed my life and all my goals” – James Blunt
This could have been my poem to England and its people, but instead, I wrote other words, all dedicated to this beautiful country and the marvellous friends I met there.
The fact of living in another country, in another language, fundamentally changes you. Living in England profoundly changed me and my heart.
When I arrived there, slightly more than a year ago, I was left on my own. I knew no one. I used to walk streets alone and eat dinner at tables for one. I read… more than I had ever read before (and I’m a quite an avid reader!). I was left alone and the only things I had to deal with were my thoughts, questions and doubts. My insecurity and, at the same time, my deep joy of being in this place I always knew I’d call my home.
It was great. It sincerely was the greatest experience I’ve had so far.
I remember… I enjoyed everyday life and appreciated every aspect of it; from my doing-the-shopping time at Tesco or the few hours I spent at the charity shop, where I was working. And I enjoyed waking up in front of the sea, when I was on Hayling (such a lovely island by the way).
Also, I loved doing my road trips to London, where I usually ended up living in Soho for a few days, for Soho is the heart of London’s theatre land and just like Oscar Wilde, I hold this form of art very dear and “I regard the theatre as the greatest of all art forms, the most immediate way in which a human being can share with another the sense of what it is to be a human being”. Plus, this part of the city overflows with street performers, who all take you someplace else and make you forget about everything else around. Going to London were always the best times… I was always such in awe when I stood in front of Big Ben and the Parliament or still when I had a break in one of the wonderful parks of the city – I felt so small near those majestic monuments and places but at the same time, I somehow felt as unbreakable and unreachable as one of the Lions of Trafalgar Square… It’s quite amazing how greatly a place, a city can affect you. It provides your body and your soul with an immensely great feeling! What’s more, I always had fun taking the so typical double decker buses and using the so British phone booths; I savoured every meal I could possibly have too; I enjoyed testing the very specific local English food, whether it was breakfast, the very English one-quick-sandwich lunch or the very British dinner. And last but not least, one of the best souvenirs I always brought back from London was the sound of the East London Cockney accent! What a delight! It’s more British than actual Britishness!
In short, I learnt to love every little things of life again. It’s crazy, but when you’ve always lived in your home country and have never been away for quite a long time whatsoever, you’re sort of imprisoned in your routine and you don’t realise how fantastic this routine is. If you’re in this case, pack your things and leave (Go for the UK preferably though!). Leave and you’ll see.
As an expat, I know what it’s like to be in a new place, where you’re all by yourself, but also where you can truly find yourself again.
I lived in another language and it was the most thrilling and enriching activity ever. I learnt everyday and I was like a child, who’d go to school for the first time. Every single day was a new step to a better English.
Leaving France meant that I had to start from scratch and had to rebuild everything. It might seem insurmountable for some people but it is possible. And more than that, it is fantastical. It feels like a real purification of your mind and soul.
Obviously England played such an important role in how I changed and evolved… but the ones who really matter are the reasons why I call this country my home, my adopting land. They are the people I met, who had their own impact on me, on my heart, on my mind and on my soul. They’re the ones thanks to who I’ve become a woman and a better grown-up. I’ve become so much more tolerant and open-minded by meeting and learning to know new people, locals or expats. I owe them everything. I owe them the growth in my entire heart and soul.