A long-term life abroad means that I have become a foreigner in both the land of my birth and in the country which I now call home. I have no idea of the benefits of a building society account over a bank account, and I have only the most sparse knowledge of the political system in Switzerland.
As time goes on, it’s more likely that my knowledge of the Swiss way of life will increase, whilst the comparable knowledge of the British way of life diminishes.
If a friend in Britain asks for tips on places to visit in Switzerland, I can provide an almost limitless and detailed list. If a Swiss friend asks for the same information about Hampshire, or London, then the list is much shorter. Not because there is less there, but because I am decreasingly aware of what the current state of these places is.
This shift in knowledge or experience doesn’t mean that the affinity with Britain diminishes with time. I am asked occasionally whether I feel “more Swiss” as time goes on. The answer remains the same. I don’t feel Swiss at all, because I’m not Swiss. Having a residence permit or passport of an adopted home doesn’t change my heritage.
I am in tune with life here in Switzerland, and I feel that the quality of my personal and professional life is streets ahead of what it would be if I were in the U.K. That’s no criticism of life in the U.K., but a statement based on my personal situation and of nearly thirty years of experience before I moved away.
We only get one run through our life and it makes sense to get the most out of it. I have this life thanks to the upbringing and education which my parents enabled me to receive. Through a period of hard work and learning to settle in a different country, I built on that to achieve what I have now.
Being a foreigner, or Ausländer, is only how other people classify me and what affects my life for better or worse makes me who I am today. I am just a person, formed in character of those experiences which have led me to where I sit today.