I found myself back in a situation that the five-year-old me often found herself in - just this weekend. Being as basic as I am, I like to stock up on ‘cheap essentials’ when I’m at home, buying pyjamas and socks in Luxembourg is fairly pricey when you have grown up relatively close to a Primark.
So, when I happen to be back I always make a trip to the nearest store, dodging all the prams and mothers threatening to whack their kids with the wooden spoon - I hastily made my way through the masses of bargain shoppers. My mum had another errand to run and assured me she would meet me in Primark in a few minutes. As I was throwing multi-pack ankle socks into my basket a strong booming Belfast accent came over the intercom “If there is a Christelle McKillen in the store could she please make her way to the ground-floor tills where her mummy is waiting for her”.
I froze mid sock-grab and turned the deepest shade of crimson my pale hue would allow me, of course none of my other fellow shoppers knew that I was the ‘missing child’ but I was still mortified nonetheless.
Cutting my bargain binge short I made my way down to the ground floor – the cashiers looked up expectantly, as I was reunited with my mother they understandably seemed quite surprised that I was in fact a 29 year old woman. My mum started laughing and told me she had left her phone in the car so there was no other option - still my cheeks were on fire.
Alas, this is not the sole instance where I feel like I have time travelled back – there’s also something about being in close proximity with your siblings and temporarily living under the same roof that brings out a rather unsightly juvenile nature. When I found myself uttering ‘You started it!’ at the top of my lungs the other day I knew that something was amiss, and when I found myself getting genuinely quite angry that I didn’t have control of the TV remote.. I also knew this wasn’t my finest hour.
I woke up the following morning to find mother dearest preparing breakfast and she had indeed cut my toast into ‘soldiers’ as we call it, to make it easier to dip into the egg…
Upon packing my case into the car to make my way back to the airport our longtime neighbour was out in the garden, after the requisite exchange of “Oh you still live in Luxembourg? When are you coming home?” he commented that not so long ago I was running rampage around his garden chasing my pet rabbit – I would argue that indeed it was long ago…
These are all nice things that may evoke an ‘aww’, I mean who doesn’t want their toast cut up into egg-appropriate shapes? But the contrast between my life in Luxembourg and the place still known as home is stark – whilst I behave like an adult (most of the time) in Lux, when I come home I feel like any independence or adult-ness slowly evaporates and before I know it I’m asking if I can have a hot-water bottle put into my bed in advance (a home-comfort of the highest degree FYI).
In a previous article I wrote about how I love the anonymity of living in Luxembourg which also brings with it a sense of responsibility and independence that I simply would not have if I were to return to Ireland. The rarer your visits home are, the more fuss your loved ones make, equally if I lived there all the time, I would eventually become part of the furniture and the toast-cutting would considerably reduce.
I think it all boils down to having two lives and therefore two different versions of yourself, and it just seems to be that the ‘home version’ of me is much younger than the Luxembourg version – and that’s ok, learning how to reconcile these two different lives is all part and parcel of the so-called ‘expat life’.
So how do you reconcile your ‘home self’ with your ‘Luxembourg self’?
Christelle McKillen works in communications for RTL Group and in her spare time writes about expat life, like many a millennial she considers herself a budding Instagram aficionado @girlinluxembourg