There’s No Place Like Home: A Houston Expat Returns to Her Roots


Arrival day at the Houston airport

Was it all a dream?

It wasn’t as easy as clicking my ruby red slippers three times and chanting the words: There’s no place like home {but oh, how I’ve always wanted a pair of those glamorous heels!}. However, after living abroad in the south of France for two years, this Houston expat has finally made it home.

At the end of The Wizard of Oz, one is left to believe that Dorothy’s entire experience in Oz was just a dream. I, too, often wake up feeling like my past two years in France were a dream.

Did I really pick up my entire life and family and start all over again in a foreign country? Did I really meet all those amazing people who showed up in my life just when I needed them the most? Did we really explore the entire country of France and see all those beautiful things? The hard parts of relocating are still very raw in my mind, and that might be the only reason I know it wasn’t just a dream.

The realities of a transatlantic move

Relocating in either direction is no small feat. It requires lots of organizing, scheduling backwards in time, canceling services and signing up with new ones, figuring out what essential things you can’t live without for the next two to three months, and waiting for the rest of it to come in a 40-foot container on a ship.

There is also the challenge of finding a school for your children without knowing exactly where you’ll end up, and then contacting them far past the normal registration window. Once we arrived back in Houston, I had exactly 10 days to get my kids acclimated to a seven-hour time difference and prepare them for their new school.

In a time of car chip shortages, we had to let go of the idea of having our own vehicles for a while. One month after putting down a deposit, my husband was united with his new car. Mine arrived after a six-week delay.

In a time of a housing seller’s market and a generally lower inventory, the search for a home that is right for us was much more challenging and slower than we had anticipated. In the meantime, we have been switching off living between our parent’s homes, located about 25 minutes apart. We are so grateful to have a free {and loving} place to stay. Still, I often wake up not sure whose house I am in.

Then, there is the culture shock. Yes, landing back into your country of origin after being away for some time is still shocking. I’ll never forget taking my kids to Costco {oh how i’ve missed that place!} during the first week of our return, and my daughter saying, “Mommy, everyone is speaking English!” For a Houston expat, it’s odd to hear another dominant language being spoken, even if it is your native language.

Everything runs differently here too. People text and email, and set up appointments online. In France, it’s all still done the old-fashioned way – pick up the phone, and speak to an actual person, in French. Overall, I feel completely out-of-the-loop in terms of American news, pop culture, fashion trends, food innovations, etc. It takes time to figure it all out.

A Houston Expat Feeling at-home

At the very end of our time in France, my parents flew to Montpellier for one last visit, and we took them on a two-week whirlwind vacation tour. One day, as I was driving near Montpellier, my mom asked me if I felt at-home there. I replied that I didn’t necessarily feel at-home, but I did feel comfortable. I then realized that it was a big deal to feel that way, because for many months in the beginning, I felt so out of my depth, and about as foreign as one can possibly feel. My relocation agent once told me that France is hands-down the hardest country in which to settle. I completely concur.

Now, here I am on the flip-side, a Houston expat who is home and back to all the people and things I have missed so dearly. We have slowly {and safely} been making the rounds, eating all the foods we have been craving, giddily shopping at places like Target and HEB {it’s amazing the things you miss}, and observing all of the changes that have taken place around our beloved city of Houston.

We have also had the chance to spend ample amounts of time with local family – they are ultimately the reason we decided to move back. The pandemic not only threw a huge wrench in our plans to travel around Europe during our relocation assignment, it also prevented us from seeing and being with the people we had envisioned seeing multiple times throughout this journey.

Some of our local family gathered to celebrate the Jewish New Year

I still vividly remember this one day far into our longest confinement in France {we had three lockdowns}, where I closed my eyes and as tears streamed down my cheeks, I wished for nothing more than to sit next to my parents. I didn’t need to talk to them or hug them. I just wanted to be in the same space as them. I was yearning for that sense of wholeness you can only feel when you are surrounded by the people you hold closest to your heart, and your mind can rest at ease.

Do I finally feel at-home, you ask? I’m getting there. After I move into my own house {which is thankfully in the works} and get settled, all will be right in the world. Do I miss France? Absolutely. I miss my friends, and I miss the beauty. OK, the food and the wine, too! It will always hold a special place in my heart, but for me, family will always win over any exotic destination. The temporary aspect to this relocation was the only way I could ever go through with it.

Houston might not be what many outsiders would consider a beautiful city, but there is definitely beauty here, especially when you look at it from a cultural and community standpoint. The beauty lies within the people here. They are friendly. They are diverse. In fact, a huge percentage of them are also expats or transplants, who came to Houston seeking better opportunities and a better quality of life. More than ever, I have a strong appreciation for anyone living in a country different from where they originated. It takes a lot of courage and tenacity to uproot your life and plant yourself somewhere completely different. And the best part is, no matter where these non-natives came from, they are super proud to be Houstonians.

During the first week after our return from France, my husband and I went to eat a late dinner at Papa’s BBQ after a long evening of test-driving whichever cars were available {insert sarcastic smirk}. As we sat there with our bellies full of delicious food, I paused for a moment to take it all in. The TVs surrounding the restaurant were playing NFL football, I had a Shiner Bock beer in my hand, and Tim McGraw was playing over the sound system. I thought to myself, it doesn’t get much more Texan than this. My heart swelled, and I said to my husband, It’s really good to be home.


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Originally from Denver, Colorado, Emily moved to Sugar Land, Texas as a young girl. She studied journalism and psychology at UT Austin, and has experience in newspaper reporting, technical writing, and freelance writing. When she can, she works on writing her first-ever book. Somehow, Emily randomly ends up living abroad for short stints of time. In 2007, while attempting to heal a broken heart, she moved to Bilbao, Spain, and completed a six-month work-study program. Despite swearing off serious relationships, her husband, Oren, swooped in shortly after her return. They struggled with infertility, but were ultimately rewarded with their two precious children, Mayer {June 2013} and Juliet {April 2015}. In 2019, Emily’s family relocated to Montpellier, France, for Oren’s job. They managed to learn the language, forever spoiled their taste buds, and saw some really beautiful things. Now back in Houston, they are eating all the Tex-Mex and enjoying family.


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