7 reasons not to commute between two countries
Do six months in each country, they said.
It’s every ex-pat’s dream, they said.
It’s the best of both worlds, they said.
I don’t know who ‘they’ are, but ‘they’ need to get real.
For 12 years, when I was living in Canada, I aspired to this ideal. I lived with one foot in each country, indulging in a bi-country love affair, firmly and naively believing that one day I could jauntily fly between England and Canada, having my cake, and … well, you know the rest.
I used to think that living in both countries would be exotic and fun and interesting. Until I actually did it. Yes, it is kind of exciting (in an exhausting, frustrating, did I mention exhausting?) way. So, in case anyone is asking, I do not recommend it. Not only do I not recommend it, but I strongly discourage it. Here are 7 reasons why:
It’s expensive. Little bit obvious, this one, but living in two countries is a really, really not cheap way to live. Unless you are a lottery winner, or you really don’t care about your bank balance, you will constantly be worrying about money. Let’s forget the fact that you have to run two homes, and let’s ignore the fact that you could have bought a small country with what you spend on airfares. The main problem is that you can never really commit to working and earning money. And so you never do. I do have a business in England, but funnily enough, customers have started getting fed up when they arrive to see a “closed” sign on the gate because I happen to be 5000 miles away that day. And as a Realtor in Canada, well, clients expect you to be in the country when you are selling and buying property for them. They’re needy like that.
You will never have a real holiday. You can’t afford it. You don’t have time. You don’t want to get on another plane if you don’t have to. You cannot justify the time, the expense, the luxury. You gave up the Mexicos and the Greeces and the exotic destinations of your friends’ vacations, when you became a bi-country gypsy of the skies.
You never feel truly at home. Just because you have two “homes” doesn’t mean either of them is actually home. Neither is home. Home has no meaning any more. Home is where the heart is, they say (they would, wouldn’t they?) except the heart is confused. And as for the hat and wherever it lays, well, I’ve no idea where any of my hats are.
4. Your things
You cannot have your things around you. You never feel fully settled enough to unpack everything. Your books and family photos are packed away in boxes, not displayed on mantles like normal people’s.
If having pets is as important to you as it is to me, you are not going to do well with this way of life. I manage to keep a dog in one country and a cat in the other, but I live in perpetual guilt about not being with one of them. I think I miss my pets as much as I miss my human kids. (I also have one of those in each country).
You will be tired. The jetlag, the psychological stress, the long-distance relationships, the money woes.. they will all conspire to exhaust you. But mainly the jetlag. Zipping across the Atlantic like a malfunctioning boomerang is simply bad for you, I don’t care what any flight attendant says.
Routine? Forget it! There is no longer such a thing in your life. This applies to everything from work, to socialising, to exercise. I was once a serial exerciser, but nowadays my workouts are limited to slow, lazy walks with a 15 year old dog; barely enough to elevate my mood, let alone my heart rate. I am currently living the writer’s life, which is great because I love writing, but basically I spend most of the day in a dressing gown, and only leave the house for cigarettes and alcohol.
That’s not actually true. I get them delivered.