August 7, 2012

BEING AN EXPAT MEANS...


F

orgetting, in the heat of the moment, which language it is appropriate to curse in.

F
eeling annoyed, upon moving to your new country, at having to divide all prices by seven to figure out what things cost. And then finding yourself multiplying all prices by seven when you're on home leave just to cross-reference.

L
osing track of where you are, after one too many hops across the Atlantic, and asking for tomahto sauce with your burger at a Wendy's in Vicksburg, MS and then for ketchup at a Wimpy's somewhere along a highway in rural South Africa, both times being met with utterly blank stares.

M
aking a culturally insensitive joke somewhere along the way, not because you haven't been immersed in other cultures but precisely because you have lived in other cultures where people have a different sense of humor.

H
aving to watch reruns of your favorite TV show from three seasons ago in a Groundhog-day kind of fashion, and not really minding it, because that's what's on cable where you currently live.

C
raving forever an enchilada with all the trappings and a nice big margarita at your favorite Mexican place, only to find out when you return that it doesn't actually taste as great as you remember it, longing for some decent haloumi cheese and Portuguese prawn curry instead. Not to mention a glass of good Chardonnay.

F
orever picking moving company stickers off your furniture, some of them from over ten years ago, and surprising yourself by remembering exactly which country they came from.

T
hinking "overseas" is a perfectly appropriate response when asked "Where are you from?" because everything else is too complicated (and because, frankly, you may have forgotten where you're from).

H
aving no idea what your current mailing address is. And realizing that you've only gotten about twenty letters (eighteen of them your monthly pest control bills) in your mailbox the entire time you've lived there. And then realizing that you're perfectly happy with that.


H
aving had to dispose of so many of your prejudices about different people and countries that you're seriously considering giving up forming prejudices about different people and countries in the first place.

M
aking a conscious decision, each morning as you leave the garage, which side of the road it's going to be that day.

H
aving no idea if you are allowed to turn on a red light in this particular country and doing it anyway, because it is a sensible rule you've picked up in one of the previous countries you've lived in.

B
eing caught in mid-air on numerous occasions when greeting people because you can't remember whether you're kissing them one, two, or three times.

W
ondering, upon repatriation to your home country, why everybody is getting into such a frenzy over a simple power outage, complaining about the inconvenience and immediately getting on the phone to report it to somebody, rather than just sitting down with a good book to read, or going to the coffee shop around the corner where several friends have already gathered, driven out of their house by the same power outage.

P
ulling into a gas station when on home leave, and sitting there patiently minding your own business and checking your emails, only to realize after about fifteen minutes that no one will ever come to put gas in your tank.

M
arveling, while you are sitting at that same gas station and have having nothing else to do, that you've driven around for an entire day and haven't come across a single traffic light that was out of order.

S
pending your first year abroad whisking vast amounts of O.B. tampons through customs at every chance you get because you absolutely know they are the only real thing but never available in the right size where you live now, then finally throwing in the towel and buying the local Lil-lets brand because you can't bring yourself to ask the next expat moving here, let's call him Dave (whom you've just met over the internet), to bring you a few packs, only to discover that Lil-lets are absolutely positively the only brand you'll ever use from now on out, because they have this nifty twist-it unwrapping action that totally beats that fiddly piece of plastic you can never quite seem to grasp on the O.B. ones, and now being faced with the prospect of having to ferry vast amounts of Lil-lets packs back the other way when it's time to head home again.

Have I missed anything? Do let me know!

14 comments :

travellingtonito said...

Love the post! Completely identify with it except for the tampons bit... :P

Anonymous said...

Lovvvve it... I'm south african expat living in korea, and just loving to read from your perspective... Have a spur burger for me will u...

Anonymous said...

Written by Mitzie van der Merwe

Sine said...

Travelingtonito - Ahhhh, but there must be a male equivalent to the tampon smuggling, no?

Mitzie - would love to hear sometime what live in Korea is like for a South African. What do you miss the most?

travellingtonito said...

Sine, the only thing I've had to smuggle into a country (Libya) is Biltong and Bacon.

Sine said...

Ah, I was thinking about Biltong. I'm sure you smuggle it everywhere if you have to. There is nothing like it anywhere else in the world.

Dave said...

So that's why there was no request to bring stuff back. I'm sure we could have fit them somewhere in one of the dozen pieces of luggage we seem to have brought over. Perhaps the one we filled with the entire contents of a CVS store.

Sine said...

Haha Dave, that is so funny! I actually just pulled a name out of the hat and had totally forgotten that we had chatted about bringing stuff here. Trust me, if I needed them I would have asked. But I've even stopped asking for Starbucks beans, having come to the conclusion that you can find really good coffee here too.

Shaila said...

Hi Sine, been a regular reader of your blog to prepare myself for the final move to SA from India. YES and I have actually moved two weeks back and am stiiiiiiiiillllll settling to the change. Things like traffic signals being called robots here! When you ask for fresh lime what you get is plain water with a slice of lime in it!! I am still settling down but your posts are helping and make wonderful reading.

Shaila

Shaila said...

Hi Sine, been a regular reader of your blog to prepare myself for the final move to SA from India. YES and I have actually moved two weeks back and am stiiiiiiiiillllll settling to the change. Things like traffic signals being called robots here! When you ask for fresh lime what you get is plain water with a slice of lime in it!! I am still settling down but your posts are helping and make wonderful reading.

Shaila

Sine said...

Hi Shaila and welcome! Glad my blog has been helpful and hope the rest of the settling in is fast. Once you've figured out the robots, it should be downhill from here:-) especially if you get to go on your first safari soon!

Sonya Elizabeth said...

Yes! The tampon thing is right on. I have a supply of beauty products like those biore nose strips and face mask cream to last a lifetime and a year's supply of those plastic dental floss picks because I was terrified of life without them before I moved. 2 years later in SA and I've discovered them in my cupboard unused and now admit that life is obviously just fine without biore nose strips.
sunnyliszy.blogspot.com

Sine said...

Hi Sonya Elizabeth,
I somehow missed this comment earlier. Must have been during my Kili climb:-) Too funny about your beauty supplies, and yet it is so true. We often think we can't live without something and only later realize we never really needed it. And the things I'll miss after leaving Africa aren't really things at all. They are all much more valuable than mere things. Like the perpetual sunshine. The sunny people. The accent. Our kids school. Too bad I can't buy an eternal supply of those things and take them back to America with me. Oh, I think you've just inspired me for another blog post:-). BTW checked out your blog and liked it!

W. A. Jeffrey said...

To the last item.... YUCK!!!!!