On becoming European

Monaco train station all lit up

“Does Europe feel like home yet?” asked a good mate from South Africa.

“I can’t say it is – just yet,” came my reply.

Although it did get me wondering when Europe would feel like home. Would it be when I learn how to speak the language? Or when we have kids here? Or when we live down the road from Arvid’s family?

Still not much clarity.

So in a moment of homesickness, I got on the phone to mom and dad who were staying at our good family friends in Hazyview, South Africa. Jeremy’s a crocodile farmer and his wife Nola is an interior designer for all the big bush lodges in the area.

I listened as they told me about what was showing on “bush TV” (a name we invented for the couch on their stoep where we drink wine and literally watch the bush).

"Bush TV" at Olifants River, Kruger National Park
“Bush TV” at Olifants River, Kruger National Park

Today “Bush TV” had a Fish Eagle swooping up a baby croc from one of the dams, they elaborated. And then – quite suddenly – the Fish Eagle dropped the croc carcass on a graveyard of bones he’d been collecting over time.

I sat on our stoep in Beausoleil near Monaco – a world apart – looking over a bay of super yachts and seagulls. A place where people doll-up to the nines and Bentleys become boring; a world away from the Fish Eagle and his crocodile dinner.

Still pretty - Beausoleil's "Bush TV"
Still pretty – Beausoleil’s “Bush TV”

These are the times when I miss seeing Africa and her rawness. Dad always used to call them the “TIA moments”. This is Africa. When you catch someone dragging a tree across a highway, or braai-ing mielies on a drum at a busy intersection. When the gaaitjie leans out the taxi and screams “Wynberg! Wynberg!” or when a bakkie drives by with a load of dead chickens.

It’s these moments of contrast and colour that make Africa so special…

…and so hard to leave behind.

On the other end, Europe feels a little stiff and a little too polished. And France – for all her beauty and character – feels a little moody.

In their defense – the French in the south are tired of tourists and expats who spoil their summers with English. One can’t expect them to open their homes with a smile and a cheeseboard when their coastline is riddled with sun-hungry Brits.

Monaco train station all lit up
Monaco train station all lit up

Luckily for us, Monaco has put her best foot forward and has turned out to be quite charming. English is widely spoken and understood. It’s absolutely safe – in the day and at night. Their public transport is efficient and the busses are always on time. Young kids walk to school on their own. History and culture are preserved, the streets are clean and people walk with their heads held high.

I suppose as long as we have each other, no matter where we are in the world, we’re home.

This post is a follow-up post from: Am I still South African?