An isolated island 

As the year nears to an end, it appears that 2016 has been overshadowed by politics. Brexit is one episode that Brits won’t forget in a hurry. No matter which way you voted, Brexit is probably still a sore subject. The referendum tore through the nation and left a gaping scar that will take a long time to heal. ‘Remainers’ were heartbroken at being ripped away from Europe, and leavers have yet to see the repercussions of their vote. The whole escapade has left the nation questioning what is going to happen as 43 years of treaties are unravelled to remove the UK from the union.

            The six months that have followed the referendum have been spent in a precarious limbo. No one seems to know what will happen between the UK and the EU over the next few years as they are untangled from one another, and the timeline is extremely ambiguous. News sources still rage about Brexit and the slow, uncertain pace that it is taking. The outcome is still hotly discussed, but it seems that many people have started to see that the grass will not be greener when Britain re-establishes itself as a lonely island nation. In fact, many of the claims that were made in the Brexit campaign have been proven to be completely ridiculous.

            Immigration was a defining issue of Brexit, and the main reason that many people voted to leave. Prior to the referendum 330,000 people moved to the UK every year, and around half of those were Europeans. As the campaign reached its climax, many news sources ran the stories of the refugee crisis perpendicular to those about Brexit. People began to fear the deluge of refugees, many of them Syrian, that appeared to be racing towards the British border. This fearmongering led to the victimisation of innocent refugees who were fleeing from oppression in their native countries. Brexit campaigners increased paranoia about the flow of migrants; asserting that they would wash away British identity, and this was something that many voters wanted to protect. Therefore, they attacked free movement to the UK, and claimed that if we left the EU this would be restricted. Due to this irrational paranoia about immigrants, many people surmised that leaving the EU would completely resolve the issue. However, the campaign failed to highlight that the refugees were not fleeing countries in Europe, and therefore leaving the union would not affect their migration to Britain.

The EU has asserted that the UK will no longer have access to the single market if they don’t accept free movement of its members. Theresa May, who voted to remain, has the preposterous task of negotiating the terms of Brexit with the EU. She has two options: soft Brexit, where the UK will remain in the single market and Europeans will be granted free movement; or hard Brexit, where there will be no compromise. The terms of her proposal must be accepted by all 27 countries of the union. It is no wonder that May appears paranoid about unveiling her plans; with the country so divided on this topic, neither option will please everyone.

            As we look to 2017, many people feel that not much is going to change. Brexit will gradually be implemented, but many contemplate that the proposals will be edited and altered so that they hardly change anything. The referendum has left a distinctly bitter taste, and it has raised the question of why we voted and were our voices even heard. There is also uncertainty about the EU, as the second country to leave the union (Greenland left in 1985 after their own referendum that mirrored Britain with 52% voting to leave), many speculate that other countries might follow suit further rupturing the EU.

Reverse Culture Shock

During the 27 months that I spent living and travelling around Asia I had a lot of time to speculate about returning home. It was a common topic amongst fellow travellers and migrants; many had been home at some point and grimly recounted the adjustment issues that they suffered. Their woe painted my image of home, and I began to agonise over reverse culture shock. The possibility of no longer fitting into the place that I left, and consequently feeling isolated loomed over me. I sought out blogs that narrated tales of bleak acclimatisation in a place that was once normal. When the time finally came for me to return to the UK I was torn between ecstasy and anxiety.

I really shouldn’t have distressed myself about returning home because it hasn’t been anywhere near as bad as I imagined. My family and friends are still here, and it feels like I’ve only been away for a week. We have so much to catch up on; many of them are starting families or settling into homes and it’s lovely to see their lives unfolding. Living at home is not as bad as people make it out to be; I get to be around the people that I love and have missed so much. Also, England has many special quirks and so much beauty that I was blind to when I lived here, but now my eyes are wide open.

Of course I miss lying on the beach and spending balmy nights drinking local beer. I yearn for the butterflies in my stomach as I sit on a long bus to a new, unexplored town. I’ve scattered my heart like Hansel and Gretel along the roads that I’ve wandered. I find myself feeling homesick about so many things, because I love a multitude of places, but really there’s no place like home.

If your homecoming is approaching and you’re starting to feel anxious, don’t believe all the negative stories you hear!