You Know You Are An Expat When …

Sometimes you have encounters that remind you that you are indeed a foreigner in this land and things are more different than you may have assumed. Often these encounters are amusing (maybe slightly awkward) but depending on how you handle them, you do get a sense of achievement and a little flash of expat pride.

Here is my list. What do you think – have you found the same where you moved to?

  1. Going to a local grocery store is considered a trip out (you still love looking at all the different food, people etc).

2. You get overly excited when you find a brand of something from your home country and may or may not do a little happy dance (mine was for a Lion bar).

3. You spend far too long admiring the huge array of different flavours of food items and take far too long deciding which one you want.

4. You randomly and completely unintentionally insult someone because you use a word that has very different connotations in the country you are living in (I am not going to tell you what I said).


5. You get confused by everyday gadgets around the home and need a native to show you how it works (still shaking my fist and condemning the electric can opener).

6. Children say you sound weird.

7. You giggle and get people to repeat words that they pronounce in a way you find really cute, and then find the same thing happening to you.

8. You still try to get in on the wrong side of the car.

9. You get an overly inflated sense of pride when someone asks you for directions to somewhere, and you actually know where it is, and give a route to it that they can understand.

Do you have any others you could add? I would love to hear about any experiences or expat moments you have had.


25 thoughts on “You Know You Are An Expat When …

  1. jlhilleary says:

    Hi Molly! This one just happened tonight. A question in our local pub quiz (trivia night here) was to name the longest river in Europe. None of the group (all Americans, sadly) had a clue. I said I was debating between the Volga and the Danube- chose the Volga… and got it right.

    In America you know you’re an expat when you’re the one they turn to for geography info… πŸ˜‰


  2. DebbieT says:

    Ah – it was the giving directions thing that resonated with me. When I was actually able to provide someone with accurate, clear driving directions, including which awkward turn to keep an eye out for… I felt almost like a “native”! But then, when I ran into issues in the midst of a local parade-like event, I surely felt like an expat, when being told “but *everyone* knows that was today!”.


  3. Amy R says:

    I’m always trying to get into the wrong side of the car because it changes so frequently for us!!

    Love this post – in expat life everything is an adventure, including the supermarket.


  4. Irene @ Away from Tenerife says:

    hehe yes, trips to the supermarket can be the highlight of the day (especially during grey and cold winter days!) For me one of the more “expaty” things is wanting to try absolutely everything, even if it’s something I wouldn’t eat at home, because, well, it’s new and seems like the right way to fit in.

    And I always look at the wrong side of the road when I’ve visited London or more recently Dublin πŸ™‚


  5. Cindi says:

    Great list! After seven years as an expat here, I’m still excited when going to a Norwegian grocery store … but what’s most funny is, when I’m back in the States visiting family, my excited reaction when I go into a U.S. grocery store! Repatriot excitement is, well, exciting! πŸ™‚

    Years ago, the minister of our little church took a sabbatical/exchanged places with a minister from England. One Sunday he used the word “stupid” often during a sermon, which has a totally different meaning in both countries. I think many members of our congregation – who hadn’t had the opportunities to travel much – were quite taken aback. πŸ™‚


  6. Ace CB says:

    Oh, what a perfect list! Talking to children can be a real eye-opener since they have no qualms about telling you how you sound (or that you speak strange Dutch!) πŸ˜‰


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