Something that comes to mind on days where I go to work on 4 1/2 hours sleep because I stayed up past midnight correcting student exams and Zoe woke me up at 5, is how my lifestyle makes my life unreal. Moving country every 2-4 years makes it difficult to think of anywhere as 'real life'. After walking around in a daze today I realized that I have not been thinking of my life in Stockholm as something serious, something real yet. Perhaps due to my rather complex work situation (which needs a full blog post) but probably more importantly because I am not able to (refuse to?) completely understand the language and hence what goes on around me (what people talk about on the subway, what the tabloids say and which politicians are in power), I don't engage. I feel that this is just a game, a temporary thing, something that doesn't really concern me. Ironically I feel very much home in my academic field. I have really close friends who live around the world, (even one or two here) I am passionate about that environment and community. I also have close friends outside the field that do not live here. But walking around in the streets, interacting with strangers in shops, cafes and my gym, I don't feel the 'realness'. And I haven't for a while.
The US was as unreal as this, people would speak a language I am fluent in and I enjoyed small talk as much as the next American. I have a fairly American accent (with a mix of Scottish) so I didn't stick out the way I do here. But I often got to a certain place where the cultural differences caught up on me and meant that I could not emphasize any further with the people I was talking to. I simply could not understand their eagerness to repeat themselves, to talk about irrelevant issues or to talk about themselves as much as some tend to do. Again, don't get me wrong, I am not generalizing about Americans, they come as differently as other nationalities, but the basic cultural differences between me and them, made me realize that my life there was unreal or at least not grounded in a settled notion of everyday life.
One of the reasons it feels unreal is of course that many of my loved ones, including my family, are far away and not easy to talk to due to time difference and diverging schedules. The fact that these people cannot understand my everyday life as I do, means that they cannot advise me in normal matters (like bureaucratic issues or language specific concerns) and that I feel even more removed from them. I think I end up choosing to stay attached to people instead of places, which in return makes my everyday life feel so unreal. I make people in my life important, no matter where, in what time zone they are. Or perhaps it is just the 4 1/2 hours of sleep talking and I will feel perfectly real in my own life tomorrow.