Here is where I’d like to share those expat “Ah-ha” moments where the light bulb goes off in your head and you think, “Wow, I’m in such a different place!”, “There’s no place like home!” or “Nope, no differences here!”. I will start the list and add them as I have them.
BUT, I would LOVE for you to contribute. So, just message me at firstname.lastname@example.org with your expat epiphany and I will list it on this page with a link back to you! Please also include the country you are discussing. I love the idea of seeing how similar our “Ah-ha” moments are, despite the different locations. I can’t wait to hear from you!
Here we go!
1.[GERMANY] It hit me one day: “Holy crap, these Germans are so environmentally sound and such a minimalist society that they don’t even sell tampons with applicators!” Oh heavens no! That would create extra trash and take up space! So what is a girl to do? Well, you get OB or the generic version of OB. For this girl, this is a traumatic experience!
2. [QATAR] The author of Gypsy In The Me shares her expat moment:
For me, it was the one time I actually saw “Cheez Whiz” brand spreadable cheese on the shelf at a local supermarket. I grabbed a jar, clutched it close to my bosom, paid for it cash, and drove home with it zipped up securely in my handbag. I excitedly showed Smilin’ Vic, who didn’t seem phased despite the fact he knows I can’t stand the stuff. I told him it was one of those “special” treats from home that we should use as sparingly as possible (even though I can’t stand the stuff). Unfortunately (well not really, since I truly can’t stand the stuff), we used it so sparingly that it passed its expiry date and ended up being tossed. I’ve never seen Cheez Whiz here since and can’t say I miss it. But it made me realize that as an expat, something doesn’t have to be great to be great, it just has to be familiar.
3. [SAUDI ARABIA] From the author of Yankee Doodle Saudi:
One day a few friends and I braved to venture to the restaurant across the street from our hotel. We were sick of getting hung up on by delivery people that didn’t understand us, and our kitchenettes were under construction. After surviving the four lane cross with the ease of Frogger, we burst into the doors to the restaurant only to be chased out. Certain restaurants in Saudi Arabia are “bachelor’s only”. No women allowed Although the incident was extremely frustrating, eventually we were able to get the restaurant to make an exception for the extremely hungry Western teachers across the street. Although we got through the restaurant doors, we never got over the stares and leers. Talk about being a zebra on a horse farm!
4. [FRANCE] From the author of Creatrice Mondial:
I moved to Paris hardly speaking a word of French save how to say hello and my name is Amy. I had French classes while there, but the majority of my schooling was still in English, and therefore my circle of friends al spoke English… so lets just say my immersion into the language wasn’t complete. I remember laying my bed in my ground floor apartment one morning though, and listening to the French ladies outside my window speaking, and ah-ha! I understood everything they were saying!! I made it!! The keys of the city were opened to me, and I was no longer in my own little cloud of understanding nothing. Unfortunately, the the kind ladies outside my window were merely speaking of how expensive swimming pools are in Paris, so these exotic conversations I always imagined in my head were in fact much less exciting than I had hoped…
5. [GERMANY] From the author of Ami in Franken:
While I, like every other American I know in Germany, bemoan the fact that air conditioning is a rarity here…….I had an epiphany last week. While I walked past a store that had a/c, I felt the heat blowing out of it. I realized that in the States, while we make our interiors colder with a/c, the outdoors gets hotter. And that effect probably snowballs into more people turning on a/c, the outside getting hotter………..blah blah blah. So, it´s actually probably a blessing on the hottest days here that we don´t have too many a/cs.