One of the strangest things about being an expat is going back and forth between feeling like you have two homes, or feeling like you belong nowhere. Two sides of the same coin.
I spend my life in the States 'being English', it's my defining characteristic over here - well that and the mother-of-two-under-five pallor. When I go 'home' though, everyone talks to me as if I'm an expat, an outsider. This happens to everyone who leaves their home, whether it be a home town, country, or continent.
Two things have happened recently that have made me feel like I'm not quite as English as I pretend to be. Firstly, we're going back to England in a month (yay!) and this coincides with a general election. I immediately thought about having the opportunity to vote for the first time in 15 years (I am not an American citizen). I take the right to vote very seriously. Then it hit me - what right do I really have to vote in a country where I haven't been resident in almost 15 years? I have more to say about the politics of the US these days. Healthcare reform, education cuts, these things will directly impact my day to day existence. I could vote by party lines in the UK, but even those have probably changed dramatically since I've been gone. At what point do I admit that I've lost touch?
Then there's my need for contraception. We want to have more kids. We can't afford to have more kids. We can't afford the two we have quite frankly. I need a long term contraceptive solution that is not permanent (not the snip) just in case we win the lottery, but I can no longer tolerate hormonal solutions - that is an entirely different blog post. The copper IUD seems the only obvious solution, except that my genius American health insurance doesn't cover it. It's over $800 out of pocket here thanks to private healthcare gauging, and it's free on the NHS. I called my doctor in England this morning hoping to get it sorted out while I'm over there so I could save the equivalent of a plane ticket. I was surprised at how American I sounded on the phone. I had to make a concerted effort to speak English. I got the feeling they thought I was milking the system asking for healthcare when I no longer live there and no longer pay taxes. They were right. I'm still entitled to free healthcare but do I feel like I can justify it? Am I still owed it by birthright? After all I've 'chosen' to live in a country that withholds long term contraception because it won't afford my insurance company a monthly copay. More fool me.
I'm conflicted. I've decided to pay for my IUD over here, or at least investigate payment options or a different health plan. Damn you Blue Shield! I don't think I'll vote in the UK unless I can spend some time researching the issues, and reading the BBC magazine online in the mornings doesn't count. I'm still not ready to call America my permanent home but it seems that I'm starting to realize that I'm not a full British citizen any more either.
At what point do you let go?