Moved from the United States to the United Kingdom… and back to the United States. Currently in long-term limbo. My good, bad & ugly experiences as an expatriate and possible permanent repatriate (who'll continue traveling no matter what).
I love my city. There’s none out there like it. Check out this list for my hometown. Are there any lists out there like this for your respective cities, and if so, are those lists right? If you’re a fellow born & raised New Yorker, what do you think of this list?
1. When you meet people and they say they’re from “the city” you immediately interrogate them on what exact borough, avenue, and cross streets they lived on to see if they really mean “the city” or somewhere “20 minutes from the city.”
2. You went to schools that actually had racial diversity.
3. You would spend hours browsing CDs at Tower Records.
4. You learned how to ride the subway and take public busses at a very young age.
5. You NEVER had to rely on your parent’s car.
6. When you watch mainstream movies about high school, you simply can’t relate.
7. You had friends from all socioeconomic backgrounds.
8. When you travel abroad, you always say “I’m from New York City,” and never “the States” or “America” or “USA.”
9. You have fond memories of FAO Schwarz, the Bronx Zoo, and the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens.
(If you didn’t read the other parts, here you go: part 1 & part 2.)
Last but certainly not least, what else have I learned here so far?
11. If you can make it in another country, you can make it anywhere. Add a bonus if you live in a big city within another country. Becoming an expatriate is not for the faint of heart. Many people can’t make it for many reasons. That doesn’t automatically make those people weak, so don’t assume that that’s what I mean. What I do mean is that some people have illusions about what it’s like to expatriate. I’m sorry to break it to you, but Eat Pray Love is not real for anyone except Elizabeth Gilbert (or other [Caucasian] people who can afford it, and since the economy has been garbage for the past few years, maybe they can’t either). So if you can put aside your bullshit illusions, accept what you aren’t familiar with, and be as patient as a saint, maybe then you’ll survive with just a bruise or two.
12. I need to live in or near a big city. I already discussed this here.
13. I appreciate living near the European mainland. It’s easier & cheaper to get to other cities & countries; sometimes it feels like the center of the earth for that reason. Even for me, getting home is as simple as a direct flight without any layovers or plane changes. It’s unfortunate that I’ve not taken as much advantage of this as possible, but real life got in the way. I hope to take more advantage of this next year; I’m well overdue for a long trip somewhere far away.
14. You’ll have to do almost everything (if not everything) on your own. One of the annoying things about living here is the amount of red tape one has to cut through to get anything done. For example, if you need a technician to check your boiler and the expected wait time is 1 week, just go ahead and add an extra week to your wait time. You may as well buy a book for dummies and check the boiler yourself because you’ll get it done quicker that way. There’s another way that people get things done around here – either threaten to cancel a service like I did or raise hell until you get what you need.
15. No matter where I am on this planet, I’ll look back at experiencing expatriation with indescribable feelings and a wiser mind. I’m glad that I made my dream come true.
There are more, but that’s it for this series. I think too much sometimes, and I don’t want to make this any longer than necessary. Thanks for reading.
While each expatriate’s experience is unique, have I missed anything that you’d put on your own list?
(My From Above post inspired me to write the following post.)
I’m a New York City girl. I was born & raised there, it’s part of my identity, and it reverberates through my heart & soul. No matter where I go, it’ll always be my first home.
So when I began receiving e-mails some years ago from different agencies & organisations, recruiting Americans to work overseas, I refused many of them. Why, you ask? Among other reasons, I just couldn’t see myself living that far away from a city centre. It was only when I was ready, and only when I received e-mails from bigger places, that I decided it was time to make my move.
So here I am, solo, almost 3 years later. Although I know people here, they either don’t like doing the things I do and/or they’re flakes. Also, although there are lots of couples here (which is a feat in itself, in my opinion), dating in this country is different from dating back home. Since moving here, no one likes me, no one approaches me, and despite my many efforts at being open to dating/relationships here, nothing ever happened. As a result, I do things solo 98% of the time.
This is where being a city girl comes in handy. There are so many things to do here, I can get on solo with no problems. For example, in the From Above post, I went to the food festival on my own. I asked a couple of people if they wanted to go, and they either never responded or they flaked out on me at the last minute… which is why I often don’t bother inviting people with me anywhere. Since my friends are back home and they’re the only ones who like at least some of the things I like, I just do things on my own over here. What better place to do that than in a big city? (And as I’ve said countless times, thank goodness for Meetup.) I know I wouldn’t do well solo if I was far outside of a big city. I probably would’ve moved back home by now, honestly, if I lived that far away.
So for me, living in or very close to a big city suits me best. I need access to many different venues & activities, and a big city usually has these things easily accessible to its inhabitants & visitors. Don’t get me wrong – I appreciate suburban & rural areas for escaping from the negative aspects of city life, including stupid self-entitled neighbours with loud, crying, whining ass children noise & rude people. But even in a big city, I can find (and have found) a quiet place to call home.
So expatriates, in what environment did you grow up? In what environment are you currently living, and which one do you prefer & why?
For more about the Weekly Writing Challenge, click here. For more about this week’s writing challenge, click here.
(NOTE: This is the challenge from 2 weeks ago. Whatever… I’m still dealing with jet lag from going home. Better late than never.)
My maternal grandmother died over 17 years ago. Although it has gotten easier with time and the pain isn’t as sharp as it used to be, the longing, the memories, the love… even the pain, no matter how dull… never go away. She was a major part of my life. We (her grandkids) saw her almost every day, as she lived down the block from us and watched us after school sometimes while our parents worked and made their way home in the evenings. We’d play in front of her building, not too far from her sight of course. Our old neighborhood is far from savory, so after calling us to get in before the street lights came on, we were inside with her and/or down the hall at my god-sister’s house and/or upstairs at my play cousin’s house (her god-daughter).
Before I moved over here, my aunt J surprised me & gave me one of my grandmother’s possessions as a parting gift. It pained her to do it (she shed a few tears), but she wanted me – the oldest grandchild & only granddaughter – to have it. I was, and still am, humbled by it and keep it on my dresser. I’ve even used it once or twice. What is it, you ask?
Her old school powder puff. (I have other items from her, but this one sticks out the most.)
Grandma used this powder all the time, whether she was making a quick run to the store, or going on a weekend trip to Atlantic City, New Jersey (Wikipedia link) with her sisters (my great-aunts), or visiting Panama (Wikipedia link) or Barbados (Wikipedia link) or (insert anywhere here). I vaguely remember her putting it on, standing in front of her mirror as she finished getting dressed. I loved hugging & kissing her after she dabbed the powder on her neck & chest because she smelled so sweet! She’d fuss at me a little – “Don’t mess up my face (make-up) & clothes!” – but she knew full well that she loved her granddaughter’s hugs & kisses.
I still think about her, miss her, and love her beyond infinity. I wonder how our relationship would be if she were still alive. Grandma liked travelling a bit, so I’m sure that she’d visit me over here for a while and, later, fuss at me for making such a fuss over her.
(Panamanian accent) “You don’t worry about me! I’m not that old, I know where I’m going. I want to explore this place, it’s so big, my goodness!… Yes, I know it’s like back home but still, it’s big!… Just give me the spare keys so I can find my way around… Yes I’m sure, dammit! You’re not too grown for a pop in the mouth. Your mouth fresh!… Yes, I’ll be fine… Yes, I’ll call you… No, I won’t lose the spare phone… Alright alright! Ay yi yi, dios mio, yes I’ll behave!… I love you too, babes.”
If any of you are from the Caribbean or Central America or South America (hell, almost anywhere worldwide) and you have grandparents or older parents who visit you when you’re an expatriate, they stay long time! My grandmother would surely stay at least a month.
I laugh just thinking about it… but that’s how I picture things in my mind if she were still alive. I’d prefer her to be here in body & mind, but at least I carry her spirit with me everywhere. And it only takes one whiff of her powder to reminisce and treasure the memories.
You are forever missed & loved. Que en paz descanse pa’siempre, Grandma. And thank you, aunt J.
Tell me about your favorite things in the comments section.