Expat life is so hard to explain unless you've experienced it. My best friend growing up was an expat many times over. She would tell me things about her life abroad and I always thought I knew exactly what she meant, exactly what she was feeling. But now, many years later, I realize that I only had a vague understanding of what she was going through. Living in her shoes, so to speak, has given me a whole new appreciation.
What you don't realize, or at least you think you do until it's blatantly obvious that you don't, is how much you miss completely random, silly things. Today, as I was digging through my freezer for an after dinner snack, it hit me how much I miss TCBY Yogurt. Where on earth that came from, I have no idea! It's been years (at least 10) since I've lived anywhere near a TCBY and almost as long since I've had one of their fabulous frozen delights (thank god for a job that required travel and airports with decent food vendors). But, staring into the abyss of my freezer, this strange longing hit me...and it hit me harder knowing that since I am in England, I can do absolutely nothing about it.
Then there's the music. I'm a big rock/alternative fan...but I do have my roots in country music. And the fact that I can't just turn on the radio and hear country music is so alien to me. Here it's pretty much rock and pop, with a dash of classical, lots of talk, and the occasional show that will play an eclectic mix. And that's it. Over the years, I've become used to this. It's just the norm. But when I've been back in the states for a visit, that first blast of country coming from the radio reminds me what country I'm in...and that for a long time I've been a stranger in a foreign land.
And last, certain turns of phrase. It seems such a minor and obvious point. When in a foreign country it is expected that they won't talk the same as you. But the little things that don't even register with us when uttering it, can make a girl homesick when hearing it. I was in Sainsburys a while back, going through the checkout. Normally, the moment I open my mouth, I get the typical questions - so, what part of America are you from? do you like England? California, do you know any movie stars? But this day, the checker struck up a conversation that ran near to my heart - grocery stores. Being that I worked closely with grocery chains for quite some time, I am always curious to see how non-Americans view our supermarkets. This woman had visited the US many times and said that she found our stores fascinating...big, bright, welcoming. I smiled and agreed, British supermarkets are still behind the times in many aspects. But it was as I was taking the register receipt from her that the differences struck me the most. She said it was a pleasure talking to me and then paused and smiled, "Have a nice day, "she said, gushing that she always wanted to say that since being in the US (they don't do that in the UK). I had a huge grin on my face and said, "you too"...and almost fought tears in my eyes as it hit me how common that phrase is in the States, yet so foreign here.
Anyway, at some point I will find my TCBY again and be able to tune into a country radio station, it just may take a few more years. But until then, have a nice day.