There was Japan for two years (where I met my husband), vagabonding another year (ie living out of a suitcase in various locations planning my wedding), England four (with the man I married) and now New Zealand six months (with said husband's parents). The vagabonding year did include six fantastic months back in Seattle, but I was sleeping on a blow-up mattress in my parents' living room, so I was hardly settled in America.
Since that day we started Dan's green card process from London last summer, I've been doing a lot of thinking about the move back home. I've become so used to being a foreigner that the thought of living somewhere that I'll be a native daughter sounds amazing, but also strange. I've become used to being asked where I'm from, having an accent and always feeling, ever so slightly, out of my comfort zone.
On the whole I cannot wait to go home – I think I made that clear to everyone I came into contact with my last few months in England. But I also recognize that there's something amazing about being a foreigner in a foreign land that I will miss. To fully process this – and I like processing – I started a list of the good and not-so-good points of living overseas.
Here it is...
Ridin' the tube in London
The not-so-good news first...
- It's hard to be away from the amazing people in my life who live in the States. Especially when they start having cute little babies I can't be there to cuddle with. I hate how hard it is to be in touch by phone because of a difficult time difference; calling twice a year and facebook updates just isn't enough.
- It's humbling to be foreign and have different instincts to everyone around me. This was a particular challenge in England where we speak the same language, but sometimes just have completely different mindsets and understandings of what is 'normal'. It's hard when what you've learned is right your whole life is challenged, such as the American philosophy that it's good to be bold, confident, direct and friendly with people you don't know. This is what I had learned anyway, so eight years in subtle, self-deprecating and private cultures was a steep learning curve.
- It's exciting to move to a new city effectively every two years, but it also prevents you from ever letting your roots grow deep. I make friends easily and that's fun, but sometimes I miss spending time with friends who have stories from ten years ago or who even know my maiden name.
- And of course, anti-Americanism, the final frontier of politically correct snobbery. This is so, so tiring yet is the plight of any American who chooses to live overseas. If I hear one more snide comment about how awful the US is and how amazing Canada is in the same breath...God give me grace. (I like Canada by the way, it's the American stereotypes that I don't.)
A cheeky pint at The Fighting Cocks
And the good news is...
- I believe in stretching and challenging myself, even when it's uncomfortable. I like the risk involved with plopping myself (with my husband) into a completely new place and thinking, now what. It's an adventure.
- I'm naturally curious and different cultures fascinate me. I've always been obsessed with how other people live and I like people watching to figure it out. Japan and England have taught me so much about learning to be quiet, calm and patient. And of course to chop wood...
Wood chopping at the North Umbria monastery - who would've thought?
- Overseas I've met some amazing new friends I would never had the chance to otherwise. My husband being the prime example.
- Sometimes its nice to be an outsider, to have an excuse for not knowing what's going on and for asking questions. I've asked lots of questions.
- I appreciate my country more than ever now. To be honest, when I left at age 22 for Japan I thought America was pretty boring. As I return, just shy of 30, I see that it's a fantastic place to live. I know all it's flaw (they've been pointed out ad nauseum), but I also know that every place has flaws and that enjoying a place is about focusing on the good rather than driving yourself crazy with the not-so-good.