Being an Expat means…
…Forgetting, in the heat of the moment, which language it is appropriate to curse in.
…Feeling 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.
…Losing 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.
…Making 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.
…Having 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.
…Craving 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.
…Forever 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.
…Thinking “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).
…Having 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.
…Having 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.
…Making a conscious decision, each morning as you leave the garage, which side of the road it’s going to be that day.
…Having 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.
…Being 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.
…Wondering, 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.
…Pulling 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.
…Marveling, 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.
…Spending 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!