On Living Abroad

It’s funny how living abroad makes you hold on to things from home more than you usually would. I’ve visited, backpacked, studied and stayed with friends abroad, but living in another country has created a shift in my mentality especially as my life becomes increasingly intertwined with something that was once so foreign.

More often than not, when travelling I would let go of my “americansims”, try to quiet down, blend in, learn a little language, taste the local foods, and do as the locals. When Bush was president, and I was backpacking through Europe, I didn’t dare utter that I was Texan. I almost told people I was Canadian in an effort to avoid the Bush shame. But when you live in a place and your idea of home starts to shift, you find pieces of your identity, pockets of your home and covet it like an irrational gollum creature.

“Damn right I’m from Texas!”

“Of course we’re celebrating Halloween…and Thanksgiving…and Christmas, and Valentines- ALL the celebratory American occasions!!!”

“What do you mean they don’t have triple sec? What kind of godforsaken land is this?!”

“I finally found black beans!! They actually exist!! Don’t touch! My precious….”

…You don’t want to imagine the greedy hoarding that would take place if I found refried beans.

It’s as if not even having the option for these things, makes me all the more determined to find a way to fit them in my life. And out of this inability to have those tiny reminders of comfort, comes a brazen stubbornness that would make backpacker me go “I’m Canadian by the way…”

“I WILL have a Thanksgiving feast with difficult to find ingredients!”

“I WILL buy overpriced and oddly tasting French versions of American candy for Halloween and Valentines day!”

“Oh? I’m loud and I’m standing out as a foreigner?? So what, I’m American!!”

Hence me creating celebratory occasions whenever possible (prepare for festive overload):

It boils down to this- it’s the first time I’ve been abroad this long. It’s the first time I’ve gone a year without seeing my family. The first time I’ve gone a year away from friendly reunions, from the love of neurotic cats, from refreshingly strong (and REAL) margaritas, from hit the spot breakfast tacos, smiley street hellos, efficient supermarket lines, horribly awesome summer blockbusters, 4th of July fireworks, oven-like Texas heat and spastic New England climate change. I’m used to travelling and returning. Especially in summer. I always found a way home for summer.

But home has shifted throughout the years. Home has become pieces of me spread all over in people, and places, and memories. And I’ve learned that it’s easy to idealize a place when you’re not there. It’s harder to see the imperfections from a distance. You smooth over the blemishes and scars, remembering what you want because it had to be less irritating than this, right?

I asked Antoine if he ever felt the need to covet French traditions. His response, “Nah. I was in immersion mode- I ate burgers and beer.”

Maybe I need to immerse myself more. Maybe I have a harder time letting go. Maybe I attach too much of my identity to tradition, wanting to wrap myself with the familiar in an effort to cushion the foreign, or maybe American burgers are just that good, and any excuse for celebration is a good one.

Plus I’m not alone. 

What excuses do you use to celebrate? What traditions do you covet?

6 thoughts on “On Living Abroad

  1. Pingback: Reblog: On Living Abroad | Nika Likes Maps

  2. Pingback: Time of Thanks | I'm not lost, I'm just exploring

  3. This articulates exactly what I’ve been going through. Except I’m Indian and now living in America.
    I guess it’s the comfort factor a person is used to, and where one grew up is a huge part of who they are.

    • I completely agree. It’s amazing how the little things like familiar food, or holiday traditions, or even the way stories or jokes are told, become sources of comfort when you’re extracted from your element. More and more I realize how much where I grew up has shaped who I am. It’s nice to know that I’m not alone- that you’re in the country I’m from and relating to these ideas. Thanks for reading and sharing!

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