It’s so interesting to read about other people’s expat experiences, even if just to compare what challenges others face when setting up a foreign life. Sometimes, though, there is no comparison with my own experience. I saw some online advice on becoming an expat, where the first day featured visiting the supermarket and buying new gym gear. While food is rather important, and shopping can be fun, I think most people aren’t so lucky or have it so easy when starting out. Otherwise known as: moving to a new country involves bureaucracy, bureacracy, bureacracy.
I particularly loved listening to the first part of this This American Life podcast that featured David Sedaris. His experience as a foreigner living in Paris is described as a series of humiliations and near humiliations, where the struggle of communicating in a new language can make the smallest of tasks into an excruciating experience. Only for you, of course. I don’t think anyone else really minds a) as much as you do and b) as much as you think they do. Americans abroad so often come across as so self-confident and self-assured, so it was so refreshingly normal to hear from someone who shared some of my own insecurities. It isn’t easy being a little shy and reserved when every part of day to day life involves something new. I have taken to reminding myself that it doesn’t matter (it being everything) before heading into shops and telephone conversations, thereby halting any delaying techniques when I have tasks to accomplish. David Sedaris has written a book about his experience which I plan to read once I’ve finished both the pile beside my bed and Matt’s birthday books (he got given some good ones, so it may be a while).
**Of course once you have set up and mastered the basics of living, or even when visiting a new country, heading to the supermarket is always fun. It used to be one of my favourite things, mostly because I have an undying sweet tooth, and I loved checking out what new candies were available. More recently though I’ve been working to kick that candy habit, so am more of a fan of finding the local (sweet) snacks, so bakeries and street stalls are taking over.