“Gone Girl” was filmed in my hometown…how exciting! Stay tuned for more on this subject.
Whew! The summer has come to an end. And for most expats we are very excited to get back to our own lives. Not that we don’t love you. Not that we didn’t love visiting you. But the summer exodus to our hometown is absolutely, positively, exhausting with a capital “E”. Ever wonder how it feels to be a displaced person no place to call your home roaming from place to place? Well, we do. Not that we don’t love you. Not that we didn’t love visiting you. But coming home is kind of weird.
Here’s the 5 things to remember when your expat comes home to visit (based upon my own personal feelings and others who have shared but will not be named). No hate mail please. We all still love you dearly.
1. For god’s sake let us drive around. We have been darting in and out of foreign traffic using our car like a warrior’s shield for the past twelve months. We would love to drive in normal traffic for once. Just to meander along with people who share the same rules of the road and who presumably didn’t just learn to drive, would be a dream come true! Sharing the road with people who yield to pedestrians, people who don’t consider the roadways to their own personal Gran Prix, and children who are strapped into car seats instead of hanging out sunroofs would be like living in Pleasantville. This doesn’t mean we do not trust your driving. It just helps us emotionally connect to our hometown again. Cruising through streets and neighborhoods that we once loved reminiscing as we navigate our way through our own history. It’s about a trip down memory lane and fond memories. It’s about putting our hands on the wheel and feeling something familiar that grounds us to our past. Don’t take it personally, it’s not about you. It’s all about us.
2. Regardless of how many calories or the lack of dietary nutrients — let us eat it. We don’t care if we have to run to Los Angeles and back to Boston to get rid of the calories we intend to consume; we want to eat what we want and when we want it. We have been eating humus for a year (not that we don’t love humus) but most of us (especially Middle Eastern expats) want to literally PORK out. We are on a BBQbiscuitandgravypepperonipizzacanadianbacondidIjustsayBACON…holiday! Bring it on, pile it high, slice it up, and slather it with sauce because we are taking up residence at this dining room table! Bacon, bacon, bacon. Along with all of the other yummy dishes that we love so much. So if you hate the restaurant and don’t want to go there I suggest just going enjoying the company and ordering the salad. And what about that long list of dishes we want mom to fix but she doesn’t want to fix anymore? Or even worse, the dishes that she thinks we love but we no longer love and she is still making them as if we still love them? My suggestion, before your expat family comes home ask for a list of restaurants and the list of foods that they want mom, aunt, sister…whoever to fix while they are home. More than likely, the expats will not be interested in going to the new restaurant in town. They will probably be interested in the places they remember and loved.
3. Ask Questions. So we’ve been living in a foreign country, (for me) a Middle Eastern country to boot, what sort of questions do you have for us? Seriously, we are like foreign correspondents. We are better than FOX News and MSNBC rolled into one…because we are going to tell you the truth. How it really is. Regardless of how you think you feel about the Middle East or Russia or Europe or wherever your expat is coming from, you have a friend that will offer a candid opinion on what it is really like…so go ahead and ask us…something…..anything. Need to study a map first? No problem. We’d be happy to explain it all to you. The truth is that whatever you are hearing on the news is really far from the whole story. They are simply snap shots of an issue, an event, or a place. We actually live here. We interact with people from all over the world. We gave up a lot to move away and explore. We gave up holidays with family, comforts of a familiar life, the feeling of belonging so we could go out to explore and come back with wide eyes and smiles to tell you how fantastic the world is. So please ask us. Ask us anything. Don’t lose this chance to understand it, to experience second-hand, because we are dying to share our lives and experiences with you. Yes, it is nice to know that Maude down the street passed away; but we would also like to tell you about our wonderful neighbors Mohammad and Fatima. Can’t think of anything. Start writing your questions down now 🙂
4. Don’t hate us because….. Yes, I have a full-time housemaid that lives with me. Don’t hate me for that. You could too if your country had different immigration policies. So don’t hate me for things I cannot change. The truth is, my housemaid is kind of like a sister-wife, a social responsibility project and an employee all at the same time. The salary that I pay supports a family of 8 in the Philippines. I also provide hand-me-down clothes, school books, holiday bonuses, birthday gifts, all personal items, food, a cell phone, an apartment and health insurance. I believe that tops any minimum wage job in the USA. I also live in a world that I don’t understand very well. Drivers and housemaids help us manuever through the unfamiliar and they are very valuable. Also, don’t hate me because I post pictures of Rolls Royces or beautiful beaches or gold bar machines; the truth is (for me in the Middle East) it’s like I live in Disney World. I am not REALLY a part of the Rolls Royce lifestyle. I am just a bystander. I watch as they drive by. And just like Disney World, it is fascinating and mesmerizing, and surreal. Which is why I post pictures — because I am just as blown away by it as you are. For all the other expats living in other parts of the world; there’s always trade-offs. Things always appear more glamorous than they really are. And for the beautiful beaches….well, they’re just a short plane ride. And when we live in a more conservative and restrictive country — we have to get away. Don’t hate us for it.
5. Try to remember…. That our kids aren’t around all of the time and so they miss out. Not only do they miss out on material stuff, they also miss out on the hugs and kisses. That happens and it is understandable. And yes we made the decision to live far away. But do us a favor. Don’t talk about all of the things that you did with the other kids while our kids are in earshot. Don’t talk about the things grandma and grandpa bought for cousin Emily and Andrew but didn’t buy for our kids because “You know, delivery is a pain in the arse. What if it gets lost? I don’t know how to navigate an online order. It was just spur of the moment!” When you say this, our kid’s little ears are as good as a wild animal’s, and it hurts them. And then we have to give them some story to make them feel better or go out and buy them the new XBox to make up for the fact that they have a long-distance relationship with their family. No blame. Just be aware. Another thing, for many of us, it costs a boat load of money to get home. And even if our company is paying for the tickets that means we are substituting a family vacation at an exotic place just to come to see you. So when you are organizing family events like reunions, birthday parties, weddings, anniversaries….think of us first. We usually want to be there and if can’t we will appreciate being considered. Nothing makes our heart hurt more than to be excluded from something that we could have attended if given the opportunity.
Until next year. All of our love.
Love this post? I hope so because I love it when people read my stuff. Want to love my stuff regularly and be my BFF? Sign up to receive my stuff above and share below. It truly is the quickest way to my heart. Thanks for reading XX