Monday, April 02, 2007

The Whole Expat Thang

I've been "tagged". Katie at Longayelander has issued a challenge of a set of questions pertaining to the expat experience. So here goes...

5 things that you love about your new country
  1. You can be who you want to without the constraints of a set society structure and the go get it attitude.
  2. My wonderful friends.
  3. The healthfood stores.
  4. The music (in N'awlins especially).
  5. New Orleans, New York, San Fransisco, The Rockies, The Desert, Road trips, Utah, Hacky Sack, Hanging out.....
4 things you miss about your old country
  1. Family and friends.
  2. The air and the countryside - "God's own country" as my Mum says.
  3. The self-deprecating humour.
  4. Just home.
3 things that annoy you about your new country
  1. Having to explain about being Scottish all the time (this was mostly in Ohio - in New Orleans they don't care so much...- but in a good way!)
  2. The media - everyone seems to care more about American Idol than how their country is viewed in the world.
  3. Suburbia.
2 things that surprise you about your new country
  1. Mardi Gras in New Orleans (and New Orleans in general)
  2. That "America" is just a concept - Miami, Cleveland, Salt Lake City, New Orleans they are all so different - its so hard to pin this country down.
1 thing that you'd really miss if you had to leave your new country
  1. The sense of possibility in everything.
There I did it Katie. However I think I have way more to add - so here goes...

Being an expat is an odd existence. I think it is an existence that is becoming more common and certainly prevalent amongst my generation. I have many good friends married to spouses from halfway across the world. I have many good friends that live in far flung places.

This odd existence, for me, is defined by never feeling completely at home in either place anymore. I have been in the US for seven years and my sense of homesickness has faded somewhat over that time. My first year I was very homesick. Now I miss my family and friends just as much but I don't get depressed because I can't drive through the Scottish mountains - although I would still like to do that tomorrow.

My association with certain things have changed. I no longer hanker after Cadbury's Dairy Milk, or fish and chips. I dislike the supermarkets of Sainsburys and Waitrose and love Wholefoods. I still hate American TV - but know that's because of the bombardment of adverts. I still love British TV. But with the developments of the Internet I can create my "own" hodgepodge of good TV instead.

I still hate the American media and welcome Jeremy Paxman's direct and often times rude, questioning as a breath of fresh air. However I love the gutsy impassioned left of center activists in this country. I love the vegans, the environmentalists, the idealists. I love Harpers, The Utne Reader, and Mental Floss. But I miss reading the Guardian in hard copy and settling down with coffee and the Observer on a Sunday morning.

Being an expat, to me, means being able to create my own life with less constraints - my very presence is different. It means living between two worlds and in both of them at the same time. It means missing dear friends in other time zones. And missing big family gatherings. It means creating a life out of good aspects of two experiences.


The Moon Topples said...

I've read this meme three times today, and each time I have really enjoyed the responses.

Each time I have also burned a little with jealousy that my ex-pat dreams have yet to come true.

Cursed Tea said...

Your not dead yet!!

Katie said...

Your post reminded me about how much I miss big American health food stores like Wholefoods and Trader Joe's - they have some small ones here but they lack the sheer amount of choice. Food is of almost ridiculous importance to me, so it's a good thing I live in a part of the city where ethnic markets are just a five minute walk away.

My Scottish friends also complain about the number of adverts on American TV. That's one thing I definitely don't miss!

HORIZON said...

l couldn't have said that better- all very true- especially the Jeremy Paxman bit- some straight talking.
l lived in the U.S. for over a decade- miss it a little for some things but am so glad to be back home- even if it does mean taking a holiday on Uist-lol :)