Adventure bilingual britishness cyprus english language expat journal language life lifestyle psychology travel

My bilingual-expat split personality

I’ve been back to Cyprus for two weeks now and I’m still ‘adjusting’. It’s never been that bad before, maybe because I always had an end date in mind or I had somewhere and something to return to, regardless how gravely I disliked it, or maybe so much happened in the last month alone, my brain is still struggling to fully comprehend what is going on.

But it can’t explain my annoying, pretty much constant (with very brief moments of happiness, laughter and relaxation) irritableness, and no, it’s not hormones.

I’m like an upset, angry hedgehog, keeping my quills raised, prickling everyone in my way, blindly and indiscriminately.

Why do I feel like this? Why does every single thing upset me? Have I been away for too long? How long can I stick it out for? Should I just find a job in another country and leave ASAP?

Endless questions with no answers. Suddenly, out of nowhere Gaia Vince turned a shining light in this question mark shaped pitch black room.

This idea that you gain a new personality with every language you speak, that you act differently when speaking different languages, is a profound one.” she writes in a brilliant article discussing the benefits of being bilingual. Ironically from the whole article I focused on one of the disadvantages of being fluent in two languages.

http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20160811-the-amazing-benefits-of-being-bilingual

Am I really bilingual since I was born, raised and lived in Cyprus until I was 22 you might wonder. The answer is without a second thought yes. After 10 years of fully immersing in the British culture and way of life, I think and speak in English first.

Apparently bilinguals develop two different mindsets, they are a different person depending on the language they speak at the time (when you add the country they live in AND the language they speak at a given time in the mix that’s when it gets mind-baffling) and those mindsets are always in conflict as the brain is constantly trying to decide which language to use.

My two selves are always in conflict now that I’m back in Cyprus and not just the language parts. The noise, the attitudes, the people, the culture, everything I’d normally enjoy when I’m visiting Cyprus contradict my ‘British self’ who is dominating at the moment and can’t compromise and accept the fact now we are in Cyprus for (hopefully only) a few months it needs to let my other self out more or learn how to live here. My ‘Cypriot self’ is weak though and doesn’t even have an idea on what makes it Cypriot anymore, it hasn’t lived here for 10 years and since it last lived here it was a whole other person, an immature, 22 year old Cypriot who knew nothing about life or herself. That person doesn’t exist anymore but for most of my friends and family that’s the person they knew and sometimes treat me as if I’m that person, which doesn’t help with the eternal battle in my head.

So, I finally have the answer, but what’s the solution?

No idea. Though my ‘British self’ desperately desires to flee, I’m giving it time for now.

If you’ve been in a similar situation and/or wish to share some words of wisdom, please do. In the meantime, I’ll get back into my yoga and try to bring some calmness and tranquillity in this stormy, windy sea of my mind.

Eleni

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