In my nine months of travel returning home and reintegrating was the single hardest thing I’ve done. It’s not something you expect to be so tough, everyone says about a culture shock but I don’t really understand that because of course I know what England is like, I’ve lived there for 24 years so the culture doesn’t shock me it’s just the mentality and habits of a day to day basis, which I suppose could be considered culture but on the same ways I visited cities abroad I could see the charm in places here. England was, basically, exactly how I had left it. The only problem was that I wasn’t.
What I considered normal was bizarre to everyone else and visa versa. I had to realise this at the same time as trying to adjust. I would say it felt a little like being in morning or a break up, as if a big loss had gone from my life and now I was unsure of how to react. On the road the conversations you have and overhear are nearly always on an international level, where you are going, have been, comparing places. Generally all with a positive air of people inquisitive to learn about somewhere new. This in itself gets tiresome sometimes but compared to the drab conversations I have and overhear here I would swap them in an instant. The typical English conversation is about three subjects; the weather, work, a TV show. Apart from the latter I would say that 90% of these are complaining. There is a huge amount of daily moaning about friends and co-workers and a general lack of hope or any sense of future goals.
People look unhealthy and overweight and nobody is smiling. What happened to the smiles? A woman talked to me in the bus queue the other day, which in itself spontaneous stranger interaction is a rarity, but only to complain about someone who had cut in the line. My response to this was ‘ah well there’s always enough seats anyway so we’ll be ok’ to which I received a grunt. A touching interaction I think not. I find it very hard having serious discussions with people because they refuse to extend their vision beyond the edge of this little island we are floating on. And that’s ok but then I know if I try to give an example of something further afield they all tell me I’m wrong, without having any idea, or wanting to learn. So any serious discussion these days I try to avoid because I will just annoy people with my ‘worldly ways’. Because they have read the Guardian and are therefore the expert on anything in the world, despite it being highly censored and only reporting on insular non sensitive topics. Heaven forbid any Western media report anything against China, we are terrified of them after all.
I left my job when I left my country and so now I have to join the 25% of people my age who are continually job hunting (well not all of them, many are sat on their arse smoking weed). Jobs are hard to get and the wage doesn’t make it very easy to have any luxuries in life (classing a luxury as a meal out, a car or buying video games that aren’t pre-owned). I graduated in the heart of the recession with a not very useful degree and have been struggling by since being talked down to and patronised at every step. But that’s life and right now I need the cash. I can think about prospects when the country isn’t in such a mess. Not having a job to come back to has made the integration worse as I have to open my e-mail to rejection every day, at a time when I feel like I don’t belong more than ever before. I have seriously considered running away to somewhere like Spain for a few months, but with only the basics of the language (and that being Spanish, not Catalan or Valencian) the job situation would be even worse there than here.
The weirdest thing about job hunting is that I understand it will be near impossible for me to take a step up the ladder or a change of direction at the moment but in the basic field of customer service I have seven years’ experience and can still only realistically aim for minimum wage, £6.08 an hour. Supervisor roles seem few and far between and often only pay 10p more an hour. On top of this I plan on relocating for a job so my field isn’t so closed and I need a new base, I’ve seen too much of my small city for now.
I have no idea what the next few months of my life will entail. Not at all. I want further education but this is another expense, quite a huge one at between £4,500 and £9,000 for a Masters… which I’m expected to somehow save on minimum wage. Oh wait I’m not because the government have decided that they only want rich people to be able to afford education. Just like the good old days when the working class knew their place.
Two weeks in, as you can tell, I have re-embraced the grumpy British attitude. So rant over I’m going to keep on with this mission and gosh darn save up enough money to show them all, somewhere and somehow this time next year I’ll be much more satisfied with my situation. Watch this space.