10 Things That Change Once You’ve Lived Overseas

The rewarding experiences one gains from living life overseas can sometimes be crowded out by the inevitable struggles that come with the full, expat-life package. But it’s through those struggles and challenges that you discover more about yourself and the world around you. You embrace lessons learned and broaden your horizons. If you’ve ever lived for an extended amount of time somewhere other than your home country, then you’ve probably experienced some if not all of these changes while living abroad.

1. You are constantly learning and unlearning language. I’m no expert on the brain, but I have a suspicious feeling that my brain regularly shuts the door on certain native-tongue-vocabulary words so that my search will lead me to the word I’m looking for in my newly acquired language. That’s all fine and dandy; that is, unless I was really hoping to find the word in my native language. It’s one thing to feel a little embarrassed when you don’t know the word for something in the language you’re still learning. It’s a whole new level of embarrassment when you’re talking to close friends and family members and can’t seem to find the English word to express what you’re trying to say. No, I’m not trying to be pretentious and passively brag about the fact that I’m confusing two languages, thereby pointing out that I know two languages. I’m legitimately having a humiliating moment right now and I’m desperately trying to find the word before I let the sentence, “I forgot the English word for it,” depart from my lips.

2. Life is regularly lived out of a suitcase. For some reason, I thought our suitcases would start collecting dust once we made the big move across the world. I even thought to myself, “Wow, what are we going to do with all these suitcases now that we’ve arrived to our final destination?” Now I know. We keep on using them. The suitcases are continually slid up and down the top of our bedroom armoire as we make visa trips, medical trips, business trips, and the occasional vacation sprinkled throughout each of the aforementioned trips. We know airline luggage allowance and how to get the most use out of luggage space like it’s our national anthem. If unloading your bags and pockets, walking through a metal detector (while also herding and maintaining control of your children) and then recollecting all your possessions on the other end were an olympic sport, we would likely take home the gold year after year.

3. This is your life, not a trip. It’s a clear distinction you’re able to make once you’ve packed your life into an allowed amount of suitcases, hopped onto a plane, and then started from scratch in land that’s full of newness to you. Last time I checked, I’ve never had to repair my own toilet or pay bills and rent on any of my trips. Nevertheless, you will still be asked “How was your trip,” when you return back to your home country for a visit every now and again. Your lip might get blistered from biting it so many times. Sometimes you might want to yell from the mountaintops, “I haven’t been on a trip!” Sometimes you might want to snap back with a question of your own, “I don’t know. How have the past 3 years of your life been?” But in reality, the person asking the question means no harm or offense. Instead you give a quick, honest, and polite answer, “So much has happened the past 3 years. We’ll have to sit down to a meal sometime so I can share some of the highlights!”

10 Things That Change Once You've Lived Overseas | TakingRoute.net

4. Conversions and exchange rates are always on the mind.  In the kitchen, I have my recipe set out and my conversion app opened up on my phone. When I’m grocery shopping and see vanilla extract, my joy is quickly followed with disappointment once I’ve calculated the exchange rate in my head. We change currencies so frequently, I’m always the dumbfounded customer at the check-out counter searching frantically for the numbers on the bills and coins because I haven’t had time to memorize “the look” of the money. Cue the kind cashier woman giving me a nod of reassurance when I pull up the appropriate bill.

5. The line between normal and strange has blurred a bit. Every culture has it’s clear distinctions on what is acceptable and what’s not. However, to the outsider coming in, who brings with them a set of different, but still clearly marked, cultural “dos and don’ts”, it can cause quite the clash of viewpoints. For 23 years of my life I believed that openly picking your nose in public was just plain wrong, but picking your teeth with a toothpick after a meal was acceptable. Would you believe that the exact opposite is true where welive now? I’m not saying I pick my nose in public now…but I’m also not prepared to deny it.

6. Time is measured differently. It becomes harder and harder to measure things by calendar measurements. You tend to gravitate towards unique mile markers that help you remember how long you’ve lived in one location or how many times you’ve moved or where all you’ve lived. Sometimes a visa situation causes you to make an unexpected move, temporary or permanent. Sometimes you live in one location for language school until you’ve passed all your tests and can move on to another destination. You are never sure how long you’ll be able to stay in one spot so you just throw calendar days out the window. Instead, you measure time with things that stick out to you most. I’ll never forget the words of a TCK whose family has moved more than a few times while living overseas: “We don’t measure our life in years, but in kitchens.” For her, it’s easier to remember how many kitchens she’s cooked in with her mom rather than how many years they’ve lived in certain locations.

7. The word “routine” is not in your vocabulary. Whatever predictable outcome you once had for any given set of events has now been removed as a possibility. In fact, you now put it in the category of “miracle” if something happens the way you once thought it should happen. It’s no longer out of the ordinary to devote an entire day to paying two bills. You don’t expect electricity and water each day. You always hav
e a back-up plan for that “just in case” moment when you’re suddenly without electricity and/or water. Your senses have sharpened because of your need to be on your toes at any given moment for the unexpected…because those moments happen a lot more frequently than they did before you moved abroad.

8. Material possessions do not equate happiness. You don’t have to move overseas to realize this, but there’s something about the nomadic life that makes you really stop and consider what you hold on to and let go of. The possibility of moving to another country is always in the back of your mind. In many cases, you’re better off not shipping a crate of all your belongings due to the fear of it being held up in customs for a year or more. This means that things might have to be sold again and dwindled down to the essentials that can fit in those suitcases of yours. You stop gathering and collecting and start making mental notes of what’s most valuable and worth hauling to another far-away land. You come to find out there are a handful of things that make this adventure of yours so great and everything else is expendable.

9. Anything seems possible. Before you moved overseas, you didn’t think it was possible to pack everything you wanted to take with you in a few suitcases. But you did it, and now you can’t remember half the stuff you left behind. Cooking seemed like such a daunting task with all the substitutions that were required to make it work. Now you’re able to whip up some of your old favorites in a flash and you’ve since added some new, local recipes to your collection (so no substitutions are required). You’ve kissed your comforts goodbye and you’ve survived. You might even be thriving in your new culture at this point.

10. You are different. You leave marks on people and people leave marks on you. Some things don’t matter to you as much as they once did and other things matter more. You’re continually humbled as you frequently find yourself in a position of needing help and guidance…sometimes from a complete stranger. Almost daily you are in a position where nothing is so familiar that you’re able to take it for granted. You knew you would set out on this new adventure as a learner of language and culture, you just didn’t realize exactly how much, in turn, you would learn about yourself.

“If you’re brave enough to leave behind everything familiar and comforting, which can be anything from your house to bitter, old resentments, and set out on a truth-seeking journey, either externally or internally, and if you are truly willing to regard everything that happens to you on that journey as a clue and if you accept everyone you meet along the way as a teacher and if you are prepared, most of all, to face and forgive some very difficult realities about yourself, then the truth will not be withheld from you.”
Elizabeth Gilbert



This post is an original post of Taking Route.
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Kimberlynn Boyce

Kimberlynn grew up in Southeast Texas and moved to "Sweet Home Alabama" just before her college years. She currently lives with her husband and their three children (1 boy, 2 girls) in Southeast Asia. Prior to moving overseas, she was a first grade teacher and had very few skills in the kitchen. Now she's one of those hip, stay-at-home moms who can make some pretty awesome homemade enchiladas.

205 thoughts on “10 Things That Change Once You’ve Lived Overseas

    • Haha, yes, I’ll have to share my recipe for enchiladas. I hope you can wait for it because I’m in another country until my second child is born. I’ll make a note of it though, for when I return home 😉

  1. One of the things I’ve noticed about our life outside of the US, is that we never live in our home. It doesn’t matter where we live, or how long we have been there, it’s always referred to as the former resident’s home.

    • It’s funny you should mention that, Amber. The owner of our house (and his family) live just a street over. Whenever they come for a visit, they walk through our whole house and open all the doors to see what I’ve done with the place. I guess if you’ve lived there once, you don’t have to be waited for an invite to get a tour of the home 😉

    • I’ve noticed this since being “back” in the states. The house we have lived in now for the past 3 years in the states isn’t ours and so I constantly refer to it as the former residents home (Marie’s house). I’ve never felt at home here. We sold our home when we moved overseas in 2007. We came back in 2011, and I’ve never felt “at home” anywhere since. Love the article! Got a big kick out of #5. I still don’t pick my nose in public, but I definitely cover my mouth when using a toothpick. 🙂

  2. So much of this is like growing old-forgetting words-trying to respond to “you haven’t changed at all”- (we love to hear it even if we know it is not true)-packing our treasures-what will our children value? Our Bible full of notes, old photos, reminders of our grandparents, Lotton vases. We are preparing for another journey, it will be wonderful, I’m not trying to imagine what the new country will be like-our God who made this wonderful world, how can we hope to imagine what heaven will be like, we’ll leave it to Him! We would love to talk sometime.

  3. I absolutely love your writing. It’s like you were describing my life living in Central America, Africa, and now Thailand. Nice!

  4. Great article…I traveled overseas for the first time last year. I was in SE Asia for two weeks. Stayed in one country but traveled to different cities. It’s amazing how those two weeks changed me…..I can really relate to #10. Certain people I met are still on my mind all the time…I so want to go back!!

  5. Kimberlynn, I love your article, but how does one live overseas, in the sense that the little bit I’ve looked, most companies have to hire local first. Also, a lot of companies do not want to worry about work visas and sponsorship. Any advice?

    • Thanks for commenting, Tim. I’ve found that a lot of fluent English speakers are able to find jobs teaching English. People are always looking for fluent English speakers to teach. There’s actually an international school in our city that only hires if you’re fluent in English and they will help out with housing and visa sponsorship. I don’t think all schools will help out with housing but they will at least make sure you’re on the proper visa. I’m not certain about the application process for any other types of businesses. Hope that helps a little bit!

      • Companies usually send their employees over…they don’t look in the US for new employees to send over. And yes, they do pay for the visas, the move and even our kids’ school…they go to the American school (an international school). Currently we are in Warsaw, Poland and we were in London before this. International living is great and excellent for the kids. I could totally relate to ts article. Thanks for posting. P.s. They are always looking for good American teachers to work I the American school. Some packages pay for housing as well as other perks….I don’t think a lot of people know about it and have the desire…you should look into it.

  6. My wife and I can soooooo relate! We moved to Northern Ireland for two years, as I was a pastor there in Belfast. We have been back in the States now for two years and have not felt ‘normal’ since! Everything you said is so spot on – and I mean everything. Thanks so much for sharing your experiences and giving us the opportunity to commiserate.

    • Thank you Chris! I really appreciate your comment. It’s good to know when people can share in similar experiences. You don’t feel so alone with all the change.

  7. So true.
    Wife and I also packed up and left everything but our suitcases and lived & worked in the east. Then sold everything and put just the essentials in suitcases again and came back.
    Everything’s still the same except for us. Great experience and the most valuable memories were created.
    Thanks for this post. Great read.

    • Thanks so much for commenting, David. You’re right, we are overflowing with valuable memories. I feel like if I don’t write them all down, I might not remember them all!

  8. Reblogged this on Zebras and Llamas and Camels….Oh My! and commented:
    This is an amazingly awesome blog post about expat life. I did not write this, but I agree with every word that is written here. Kudos to the author…well done!

  9. Hi Kimberlynn, another expat friend sent this to me. 🙂

    I’ve lived in three continents outside the US (where I’m from), and it’s just now that I feel home here abroad, which is strange in a way. My French husband and I bought a house in France 5 years ago and our three kids go to the local school. And I’m so happy. I think it would feel like a foreign country to return to the States to live.

    But everything you wrote made sense in regards to some of my former moves. Oh my goodness, when I first moved to Taiwan … (you’re in SoEa Asia, so I know you get this). The language, the smells, the culture – everything – was simply bewildering. By the time I went back a year later to spend another year it was comfortable. And then Africa – what a shocker! But more for the poverty and the Muslim (covered heads and no talk of Jesus) component than for all the rest.

    We could sure talk, huh? 🙂 Great post.

    • Hi! Thanks so much for stopping by to comment. I love hearing others’ stories 🙂 I agree with you, the longer you’re away from your passport country, the more foreign it starts to become. I’m actually starting to get a little nervous about the trip we have planned to go back to the States next year. I just keep thinking of how much I’ll have to readjust to. And the thought of leaving my house makes me sad…especially now that it feels very homey!

      But it’s so great when you do start to feel at home, no matter the country. I haven’t been to France yet (but I keep hinting that to my husband as a “next place to visit”). If that trip finally happens, I’ll have to send you an email and get some of your recommendations on what to do while there 🙂

  10. Great read and helpful now that we find ourselves back in the states! It seems we have met somewhere along your adventures! 😉

    • Hmmm…I think I recall meeting you at some point. Or maybe eating a few meals with you and your family every now and again 😉

  11. This is so true. When we were in Budapest (for three months)it took us a long time to adjust to the language, food, and culture. It was hard but I wouldn’t change the experience.

  12. Great article. Being an expat ourselves for many years now, I can surely relate to much of what you posted. We’ve settled now in Thailand and honestly have no plans to ever move again. Does that mean I am no longer an expat!? 😉 In any event, one thing I know for sure is that I can never move back to the States again. The mere thought of it sends shivers down my spine! Maybe one day I will return as a very short term tourist….


  13. What a great post! I especially liked the parts about forgetting words in your own language, people viewing it as a ‘trip’, and how you are different once you’ve traveled. As a person who grew up in different countries, I remember thinking I always sounded so arrogant when people asked me where I was from. I always tried to play down the fact that I’d been born in Tokyo but was French and Belgian, and yet had an American accent. I always used to say it didn’t change me because I felt people were intimidated by it. But in fact, I absolutely loved traveling and attending international schools was fantastic. It did change me. And it has made me more aware of how different people behave, think, and react, which I’m really grateful for! I’ve now settled in London (for now!) and loving a bit of stability. But I realize I very often pick up that suitcase for weekends away to discover new cultures. Lovely post looking forward to reading more! Write a blog about growing up in different countries and how that impacts relationships on WordPress too! http://tckdating.wordpress.com/

    • Wow, that gives me some great insight on some of what my own children will probably experience. It’s encouraging to hear what a positive impact it had on your life, though. Thanks for sharing!

  14. I enjoyed your article because it rings true. I have found that in Vladimir, Russia (4 years of short term mission work) or Budapest, Hungary (teaching Outreach English for 3-1/2 years to Hungarians for the E Free church missionaries) that speaking the native tongue is important for building relationships. Even if you do not have the gift of tongues – the natives love the fact you are trying to learn their language. Hungarian is maddening – one word could have 8 to 20 different meanings depending on the context used. I found my vocabulary was far more extensive reading signs, placards, menus, etc. but annunciation of the same words was a challenge nonetheless.

  15. This post is so true. I’m in my 3rd year as an expat and just moved to Hungary from South Korea. I’m experiencing double-culture-shock right now, since Hungary is so different from both the US *and* the ROK!

  16. Great post! I feel your pain with currencies and conversions. Once on a bus in Tel Aviv, the poor driver looked at me with such compassion as I frantically scraped around in my purse and handed him all the wrong coins to come up short on the fare. Amazingly sometimes those moments turn out to be the most special though, as they bond us together in kindness and a good laugh!

    • Haha! Thanks for giving me a good laugh as well! I’ve had a similar situation with paying bus fares as well. You have to laugh or you’ll just have a miserable day.

  17. I’m new to the blogging world… and I just LOVE your blog!!! You are a brilliant word smither… is that a word? Thanks for sharing your great stories! Atriptolove.wordpress.com so new, I’ve only written 1 post! : )

  18. Great post, I was nodding along the entire time. I hadn’t stopped to think about how time is measured differently, but it’s true. I measure my time by airport visits.
    Regarding currency exchange, I never really understood the difference between earning dollars and earning another currency before I moved abroad. Now I know better than to convert to dollars because it’s pointless. You’re earning the local currency.
    Also, I think your relationship to your home country changes a bit after you move, besides the relationship with yourself. I’ve realized so much about the US and what it is to be American by leaving it.

  19. This is a really great article. I caught the “travel bug” a few years ago and I have been taking trips 2-3 weeks at a time since. Recently I’ve been doing a lot of research on making the move across the pond. I get nervous just thinking about it, but I know it’s something I would probably really enjoy and cherish. It’s nice to hear from people that have experienced and made it through the difficulties, thank you!

  20. Makes me miss very much the time my husband and I spent in England while I was doing my Master’s. While I’m no longer an ex-pat, moving across the country parallels a few of these; especially 9 and 10. (Though Nashville and Nottingham are quite different 😉 Thanks for sharing!

  21. No, you don’t have to live a nomadic, ex-pat life to experience the notion of less possessions in suitcases, the better.

    Be a cyclist and have no car as part of one’s lifestyle at home. That is me for past 2+ decades: you learn to become non-consumerist and learn to vacation by cycling to places with your clothing in your pannier. Only the essentials. I carry a purse only…um less than 10 times per year. And I work full-time. I don’t need a purse. I just carry my wallet down to the coffee shop,etc.

    Happy travels!

  22. I am about to embark on my own journey. I don’t even know what to expect or how long I will be there. Thanks for your experiences.

  23. I recognize myself 🙂 Even if it is not that pleasant to live in the house with empty walls, I still have all my paintings “in the storage” until I move to a better than London place 🙂 Seriously great article and so funny to read. I think about the continuation, or what do you feel when you are finally back to your own country.

  24. The part about languages made laugh, happens so often and the looks on the faces of friends and family could be priceless at times. But it isn’t funny when it happens during a business meeting.

  25. A couple corrections:
    – you don’t “return back”, you “return” or “go back”
    – you either have “very little skill in the kitchen” or “very few skills in the kitchen”

    I would agree with no. 1, but having lived overseas for over 15 years, things are very routine and I only think about conversion rates when travelling home. I guess it’s different for everyone.

  26. Your article was spot on with everything we’ve experienced in our 40 years living overseas. We’ve had our ups and downs and our frustrations and our joys and so many tears and so many smiles! We have faced grave danger and yet experienced the beauty of life. We’ve lived in Seoul, South Korea in an apartment for 6 years….we’ve lived in Izmir, Turkey in 4 different apartments for 22 years….and finally in NE. Italy we lived in a house with a huge yard for 12 years.
    My husband retired from DODDS….(Department of Defense Dependent Schools….and they are always looking for teachers of all grades/subjects!) and now we are in Virginia. We had become so accustomed to living as you listed above, that when we returned to the USA ~3 months ago, it was and still IS a culture shock!
    The only regret that we have is that we didn’t live close to relatives and thus in the summer-times vacations scrambled to see everyone! We raised our daughters overseas and as a result they speak many languages, are very “worldly”, are super international cooks and can make friends with just about anyone at anytime. They are never afraid to attempt new situations since they’ve done it so many times!
    Now my wonderful memories and photos keep us going here in the USA. We long to have that exciting, never boring life again, but know it is time now to settle-down for the autumn of lives.
    I will pass your article on to my many friends who are overseas and who are here in the USA…they’ll know exactly what you are talking about and will smile as they read your message!
    In closing I will share with you our most favorite saying and it gives us a chuckle each time we hear it…..”Wait just a minute”…..and my husband would reply back….is that a Korean minute? is that a Turkish minute?? is that an Italian minute??? Each country DOES have a different interpretation of 1 minute!!!!
    Thank you! Linda “Scarf”

  27. What if I told you I’m an expat,too. One going abroad to seek greener pasture because the one left behind was in chaos. Yes, it was in 1986 when my government was torn into pieces by a revolution. I was a fresh graduate from the university and there was nowhere to go but outside. I have been living here in my new country for twenty eight years already, assimilated its culture, its language and bore two beautiful daughters. Thank you for reminding me of all the hurdles.

  28. I can relate to much of what you write. I didn´t move away from my native country as fas as you did, but still it´s a different country. I often say I am language confused, I start a sentence in english, and somehow I end up using 3 different languages in one sentence! And no one has a clue what I just said. Lol

  29. So true! All of it! To me the biggest change is how easy it becomes to pack and move again. You feel you want to belong somewhere but deep inside you’re detached. Friends become spread across the globe and so do your good memories.
    Great post

  30. I always described my move as, ‘Standing in the middle of the street, with no clothes on’. Does that resonate?

    Also mundane tasks become vast mountains to scale, buying a stamp, is a stress filled adventure.

  31. OMG!!…this is awesome it’s amazing how I connected and relate, even now to the first thing on the list….great post.. 🙂

  32. Reblogged this on Emerald Traveler and commented:
    “Life has been some combination of fairy-tale coincidence and joie de vivre and shocks of beauty together with some hurtful self-questioning.” ― Sylvia Plath, The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath

    I left New York almost a year ago and extemporaneously moved to Tel Aviv, with no job and no definitive plan. A year later, I’m happy to report that things are going well – but I often have trouble explaining in words how unbelievably difficult it was to get to this point. This article really resonates with me, particularly the point that ‘this is my life, and not a trip’. Ahhh!!

  33. Thank you for this. I found this article from a facebook post. My husband and I lived overseas for about four years. We have been home for almost 13 years but I still feel everything you have written here. I thought that I was just having a hard time getting over leaving or that I somehow didn’t get good closure. But now I am confident that I am just forever changed by what we experienced living abroad!

  34. I would add an eleventh: You are a lot more tolerant of others. I have found that travel and coming into contact with all sorts of other people has helped me get rid of some of my prejudices. I have family who have never left Northern Alabama or East Texas and I see what I could have become and I am so thankful I got away.

  35. So true. Thank you for making me feel at home while reading you’ve we’ll written article. Moved to Greece 16 years ago from NY and it all still rings true. Have read and shared this on Facebook and it’s being liked, replied on and shared by many.

  36. I’ve really enjoyed reading your blog entry as I can definitely identify with a lot of what you say. I am Spanish and came to England as an au pair to study the language back in the summer of 1982 because I wanted to work in the Tourism industry and travel the world. Well, I’ve done both and, after more than 30 years, I am still here and still learning and unlearning languages: we travel to France a lot in our motorhome now, so this makes it even more interesting.

    One point I would like to add to your list is that you become less prejudiced about people and that one should never generalise. You discover that there are good and bad, kind and mean people wherever you go and that no country has the right answer to the enigma that is life.

    And finally: you will always be a foreigner!

  37. That’s so true! Returned to Italy in 2007 after almost 8 years in England. I still find it difficult and yes, It has broaden my views and the way I relate to people. Very interesting article. Tony

  38. #3 The trip thing is really interesting- I never really thought about it- but yea good point. I also struggle with “Where are you from?”

  39. This a beautiful piece of writing. It is refreshing to see all the feelings I have felt as an expat summed up so nicely. I have lived away from my home of New Zealand for 3 years now and am currently experiencing European living in Germany. I’m 3 weeks in. I digress! Thanks again for writing such a lovely post.

  40. Love the quote. Interesting write, can’t say I’ve experienced any of the above because I have lived in the same place all my young life, this makes me want to travel and experience time differently just like in item No.6.

  41. Didn’t read the whole article .. but yes, whatever I read was very good… While leaving my country even I had thought that once I reach this new country, my suitcases would be stored away catching dust … but its been a month and I am still opening them almost everyday …lol … nice observations.

  42. Thank you. I was having a “let go of the past–let go of living abroad” kind of unhappy moment. Your post made me remember how strong and independent it made me, regardless of where it has gone. Thank you.

  43. I can relate to a lot of things you write about. The language thing- Well most of the time I feel like the more languages I am exposed to the less I know. My native language has deteriorated a shameful amount and my English, even though it’s now my everyday language, has it’s major ups and downs…
    I am coming across your blog for the first time but am going to explore it further for sure. I LOVE South East Asia…

  44. I’m from Asia and I lived in Europe and US. After many years of living out of a suitcase I realized that I was so wrong thinking we were different and what should be the norm. No, we’re not different and we can only notice the similarities among cultures when we actually live in the cultures. When we read books, they only talk about the difference. Maybe it’s just easier to focus on the difference so that we can stand out as a ‘unique’ group of people. I find the thought silly in this age. And yes, totally agree that once you live abroad, life never seems to be the same as before. Nice blog! : )

  45. Hey, thanks for writing this. I lived in southeast Asia for nine months. Reading your article made me tear up a bit. I’m looking forward to going back. Also looking to read more from you on this topic.

  46. Can’t agree more with you. I’m an international student from asia, now studying in Vancouver. I’m currently facing the situations you mentioned. Reading your blog made me feel like you’re helping me to express my feelings deep inside. My english level is not good enough to express the exact feeling I’m going through. Also, it’s assuring to know that I’m not the only one who feels that way. I enjoyed reading your post. 🙂

  47. Reblogged this on Counting Stars and commented:
    Throughout my life, I have noticed that I often have a very difficult time relating to people that I meet, and I don’t think that it’s their fault. I automatically began searching my mindset for whatever was causing the great disconnect between how my mind works and how other people’s minds work. Conveniently, an article popped on my timeline the other day, and I think it explains very well the difficulty that I have relating others. Because of my life of traveling, I have experienced things that many people that I come in contact with haven’t, and I forget in my self-centered little world that I can’t relate to them like I relate to my family or other people that have experienced life outside their own sphere of understanding. I am going to share this article with you so that if you are a traveler, you can learn to relate to people that haven’t traveled as much, and if you are a non-traveler, maybe this article can help you understand why that certain person is so weird.

  48. All of this is true unless you live in Panama. The exchange rate is 1 to 1. The culture is different and in many ways better than in the states. You do have to give up many things that you used to take for granted. If you are good and kind to people, you will get the same in return. Be open minded and do not inject your values onto the local population. Listen to what is being said and watch what they do. Folks are very nice. Family is everything here.

  49. So very true…I can relate to a majority of the list. Esp the language bit, I have a few running through my head that it takes awhile for me to look up the vocabulary I need. At times it can gets frustrating when there is no equivalent in English. Although what would be different in my case would be that the US was one of the foreign countries I moved to and returned “home” from 😉

  50. Have lived in Brussels, now live in Warsaw. 10+ years in Europe.
    Change #11: You miss ingredients and “things” that you cannot get where you are currently living. You think, “this ham can’t hold a candle to Polish ham” or I wish I could get those fresh-from-the-ground leeks in Brussels that still have dirt on them! Or, Yeah! A whole aisle of chips, including kale/spinach/tortilla chips (US — Whole Foods). : )

    Change #12: You can borrow from different cultures to create the holidays you want. Homard (lobster) for New Year’s Day, pate for first course at Christmas. You also have permission to skip the huge Thanksgiving cook-a-thon if you want!

    • ……we lived in France for sixteen years, and our students and other French friends always loved our American Thanksgiving “cook-a-thon”. ha! (I DO love to cook.) They taught me to eat pumpkin soup and I taught them to eat pumpkin pie. 🙂 Now, I see in France you can often buy turkey and the trimmings around the time of our American Thanksgiving. 🙂

  51. Wow I love this post .. I just moved overseas (America to the Middle East) and it’s different but rather then “surviving” I’m “thriving” and so happy to read your relatable post!

  52. I really enjoyed this post. I only lived overseas for 6 weeks, and it’s so interesting to see how quickly these things kick in. There were 29 different cultures in my study abroad program, so I got bits and pieces from all over the world. When I came back to the U.S, I felt like a completely different person. I thought differently (more open-minded).I want to experience so many different cultures. It would be perfect to find a career that would send me all around the world.

  53. As a recent member of the Expat community, I am learning that these are true! Thanks for sharing…makes me laugh and feel a little homesick at the same time.

  54. Good work on the nice piece. It’s thoughtful and well written. I’m sure it’s inspiring to a lot of people. In my experience, I often feel these ways even just traveling within the states as an almost full time lifestyle.

  55. I’ve traveled back and forth around the world so much the past three years, I think I have it down to a science, more or less. Every stitch of clothing I own and every necessity fits in two seabags and a carry-on backpack.

  56. First, I was struck by the wonderful quality of the writing. Then, I was struck by the unexpected perfection of the changes identified. The humor was so subtle and embedded in the accuracy of the perceptions, I found myself laughing at the pure authenticity of it all. A perfect gem of an article.

  57. Reblogged this on Adventures in Ankara and commented:
    Our friend Natalie at Turkish Travel Blog passed this article around the other day. I found it really interesting and completely true. “10 Things that change once you’ve lived overseas.” I got a good laugh out of some of it, like I am constantly forgetting words in English!! And I loved some of the language, like, “This is your life, not a trip” and “Conversions and exchange rates are always on the mind.” But my personal #1 is “You are different.”
    What do you think? Anything to add? Any favorites?

  58. I almost cried because it is so familiar – in a land where nothing is familiar, only Same Same. I even wondered if I had written it over a glass of wine and forgotten it by the morning. From Texas to Indonesia, and now Thailand with our family of four, thank you for writing this and reminding me that I’m not alone, just different. 🙂

  59. So true! I love how you encapsulated so many of the things I faced as an expat! I find that there’s a personal struggle to readjust to life back home, at least initially. I’m itching to go somewhere again long-term!

  60. I’ve been living overseas for the past 7 years hopping from country to country and finally moved “home” this past July. While there are certain things I love about being back at home, reading this article has tugged on my heart and my yearning to be back overseas and doing it all over again.

  61. This is so true! There is a very big distinction between living in other countries and visiting them. I always hesitate to point this out to people in conversation because I worry that it makes me sound pretentious. You definitely do learn how to let go of material things and how to pack everything you need in a suitcase (something I used to be terrible at). It’s funny how perspective changes.

  62. Hey,wow I loved this!
    I have been living and working abroad for 6 years now and am only now thinking of returning to my “passport country” due to pressure from friends. I’m sure I will hear “how was your trip?” many times. I feel the same, it’s my life, not a quick trip!
    I have never felt more at home living in South Korea, I fear the reverse culture shock and having my independence taken away from me. Korea has become home, my friends here are more than just friends, they have been through so much with me, scenarios that just wouldn’t make sense to my UK friends.
    Reading this has made me realise that it is just something I have to face and that I am not alone in feeling home away from home.
    Great read!

  63. This is wonderful! I am currently in Texas, graduating from college in about 3 weeks and possibly taking a job in Thailand starting in 6 weeks. This list seems both exciting and daunting as I imagine my life abroad! Thank you for the honesty! I will probably spend the day devouring this blog now that I’ve found it 🙂

  64. Good job! Coming to you from “The Loft” Thank you for sharing the truth behind the Missionary Life. I spent a lot of time overseas (military) and it was different. Blessings ~Chris~

  65. I love this! I was an MK and grew up living at a missions headquarters, so much of this rings true for me. Thank you for sharing with us – for giving us a reminder that we change, life changes. And the best part is, when we’re walking with Jesus, these changes mean that we will never be the same! Blessings! Thank you for joining us at The Loft!

  66. as an international teacher, my life has been blessed by the opportunity to live and work abroad. #10 rings loudest for me because every single day I am able to notice a little something about me that was so different before leaving home. I love the brief mention of TCK because only people abroad (or those themselves) can understand this term. I work with those kids every day and leave work feeling amazed by their bright spirits. thanks for this article! 🙂

  67. I have never lived out of the U.S., but I moved to a totally different region and experienced a little culture shock. (smiles) When I did that, I kept wondering what it would be like for people who left the country, because life seemed so different to me, just moving 800 miles away! Thanks for giving me a glimpse of what that would be like. Nice to meet you via The Loft.

  68. I can totally relate to #3. I’ve been on the road by myself for almost 2 years now and everywhere I go, people say, “Oh, are you here on holiday?” I have to say, “No, not really…I’m just traveling the world and I’m actually homeless.” I often get looks of horror like I’m a bum living on the street or something. It is NOT a vacation but some people just roll their eyes and go “Yeah, right!” I often feel I do need a vacation from my ‘life’. Ha!

  69. Thanks for the article. I am planning to change my life and start everything from zero and now I know that I can do it!!!

  70. Points 1 and 4 hands down! Doesn’t matter if it’s a first language. And I’m constantly living number 4 out – everyday! So true. You nailed it.

  71. Fantastic article. I live overseas,too. The most stressful thing for me was to realize that this is my life it is not a 2 weeks journey. It took me 3 months to realize it. I hope you adapt faster. Best regards!

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