7 Ways to Tell You’re Not In (Insert Your Country Here) Anymore

Do cultures change the ExPat? Or do ExPats change to fit the culture?

I ask this because after reading Naomi Hattaway’s latest post excerpted below, I got to wondering just what changes when we cross the international dateline? Do our host cultures change us, or do we change ourselves to fit in? And what about when we repatriate? Which “us” comes home?

Repatriation Move: Boxes- What Does Change Look Like To You?

What Does Change Look Like To You?

Upon moving back to the US, Naomi Hattaway (Box 53b – “Typing Without Edits“) had this reflection this week:
“I might as well tell you that I completely LOST it earlier today while trying to program our aircon units. We have two – one for the upstairs and one for the downstairs and the control boxes are in the most ridiculous of locations.”

Change will do that, make us lose our moorings over odd things.

If you wake up and wonder who you are and where you might be today, here are 7 signs that life has surely changed!

1.) As an Expat you expect ridiculous construction and remodeling jobs; as a Repat, not so much.

When I moved into my last apartment in Baku, a fine apartment right on the main street just as it rounded into Fizuli Circle, the landlord had agreed to install a split a/c unit in the main living area. This is a heat and a/c combination that has the motor (noise) unit outside and the quiet vent hung up at ceiling height (in this case about 14 feet up). Brand new German model, very sleek and closed down completely by remote control–which happened to have been thrown out by the installers.

When they installed the unit, it was 16 degrees (Farenheit, not Celsius)- and that was inside the apartment. I was really ready for some heat. All I could do was bundle up to sit and stare at that shiny new unit, so close and yet so far away. It took about three weeks to order and receive a new remote from Germany. Coldest 3 weeks of my life!

2.) As an Expat, life was full of unique opportunities, charity balls and being the center of attention; as a Repat, we tell people “we’re from Ohio,” it’s just easier that way. (Typing Without Edits.)

Every month it seemed we had some official function to attend, and as a result when I came home I had one box (of my three) that contained nothing but ball gowns. Ok, maybe that was illogical, but I wanted to keep them.

Now, I look at that closet full of frills and frippery and wonder, “What was I thinking?” Am I planning to grill the steaks in chiffon and lace? What do I need these for in Suburbia? Yeah, I’ll just say we did a lot of entertaining in Ohio, apparently.

3.) As an Expat, we got to socialize on our off hours. If we had help, the housekeeper did the house, cooked if we wanted, and did laundry as needed, even ironing the sheets; as a Repat, we are lucky the sheets get folded before going back on one of the beds, usually the wrong one. One person laundry (Expat Me) + one person laundry (NoPat Husb) should never be as much as I have here now. Do we have rabbit laundry?

4.) As an Expat, we often took in the local ballet, symphonia, and/or opera (The Thousand and One Nights was particularly popular in Baku); as a Repat, why is the 5 miles over the river to the Kennedy Center equal to taking the Trans-Siberia Railway? Ok, there is more traffic, you’re right, much more!

5.) As an Expat, we loved to walk everywhere, to the seaside Promenade on a warm evening, or even take the Soviet era subway, with its smell of axle grease and flickering lights; as a Repat, I am looked at like I’m crazy if I walk to the market a half mile away. (Apparently they only do that in Ohio!)

6.) As an Expat, we looked forward to the entertaining weekend trips to the Bazaar, crowded with hundreds of families looking for batteries, old carburetors, spices, USAID sacks of rice or flour; as a Repat, why is it so much less entertaining to go to the local Wal-Mart? Just sayin’.

7.) As an Expat, going to the new bowling alley in town, watching local kids pitch the balls overhand down the lane was hilarious; as a Repat, it’s mostly annoying to watch kids being loud and obnoxious.

What changed?

Do cultures change the ExPat? Or do ExPats change to fit the culture?

Did I accept the different standards (buying meat hanging from a tree on the side of the road) to fit in, or did I finally realize that there are more than two ways to live life and be happy?

Did I change to be less uptight, more open and accepting of ways I didn’t understand, or did I find there was sometimes a method to the apparent madness of how others chose to live?

As I rush to re-assimilate, I have to remind myself that when I was having some of these problems moving “there” I laughed at the absurdity of how the system ran (or didn’t).

Here, when Comcast keeps my husband on the phone for 45 minutes, I have to remind him that we’re lucky, even at this- we could have just Deutsche Welle, BBC and Al Italia (and no customer support for what may or may not have been pirated channels at that). It’s a matter of perspective and expectations.

As I continue to look back, and imagine forward, I wonder who changed whom. All this just reminds me, that I’m not in Kansas (or Ohio) anymore, Toto.

For a look back at how this all began, take a look at Life Begins at 40… Or So They Say!

P.S. Naomi (@Naomi_Hattaway Box53b) – thanks for providing your thoughts which served as inspiration for this lighthearted look at cultures and repatriation changes.

5 thoughts on “7 Ways to Tell You’re Not In (Insert Your Country Here) Anymore

  1. Pingback: Sometimes you just have to cry | Firenze Moms 4 Moms Network Expat Group

  2. So true. Like “Star Trek”, we have that Prime Directive dilemma- can we go somewhere and not change the culture, even a little, just by being a participant and sharing ideas? I think we do make an impact, and vice versa. I can’t help but live somewhere and not come away changed myself by all I see and learn.

    Thanks again for the good springboard for thought!


  3. Pingback: An Ex-Pat And A Cop: Who Do You Trust? | Life Lessons

  4. Pingback: Life Lessons: What I Know Now Versus Then | Life Lessons

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