This And That: 10 Things I’ve Learned After 2 Months Living Abroad
In last month’s post, I was wrapping my mind around the major move my husband and I made across the world. This month, I’m more focused on how we’re adapting to our new city. Here are 10 things I’ve learned in two months living abroad.
1. I firmly believe in house shoes.
Not slippers, not removing your shoes at the door (though that’s obviously part of it), but house shoes — shoes you specifically wear in your home. After living in a country where not even a maintenance man will enter your home wearing shoes, I have come to realize just how much sense it makes to have shoes you reserve for wearing outside your house, and ones you reserve for wearing inside. I don’t think I can go back.
2. There are geckos in Hong Kong.
I know this because I found one in my sweatpants when I was changing one evening. I saw a flash of something bigger than 2 inches moving about, dropped the pants and screamed. Turns out what I thought was the biggest bug in the world was actually a very small baby gecko. My husband thought it was adorable, I was horrified, and I have not touched said sweatpants since the whole debacle.
3. Culture shock is real.
I experienced my first feelings of culture shock after we traveled to mainland China for the first time and understood just how westernized Hong Kong is by comparison. After the trip, I felt anxious and on edge, slightly sad and confused — and I can only conclude that I experienced culture shock because I had an overwhelming urge to seek comfort in a low-fat tuna salad wrap from the prepared food shops in the town where I grew up. I think culture shock will do that to you.
4. Patience is crucial.
I thought that the most important thing to do while living abroad was to maintain an open mind. Yes, that’s obviously important, but forcing myself to confront the fact that I have very little patience and am in desperate need of learning how to cultivate some more has been the most challenging and rewarding thing about living in a new country. Everything requires about 200 times more patience than I anticipate, and I think that might have been true even when I was living in New York. I just didn’t realize how deficient I was in this area until I moved 8,000 miles away.
5. Using more-specific nouns while communicating is helpful always, but especially while traveling.
“Hey, can you grab the thing in the whatever?” is not the most effective way to communicate that you need your passport from the travel wallet, especially when moving through an airport in Asia with what seems like a million other people moving at rapid speeds in the same direction and if you pause for a moment to understand what someone means by “the thing in the whatever,” you may or may not cause a fatal collision.
6. When my husband starts a sentence with, “Do you want to just…” he really means: “I want us to do this, so let’s go.”
This took me the better part of a decade to figure out. For example, when Dov asks: “Do you want to just run a few miles on the treadmill, do some abs and then figure out dinner?” He really means: “I want to work out together, so let’s go.”
I spent years answering this question honestly with, “Of course I don’t want to work out right now, are ya kidding?“ But living abroad in 400 square feet with my life partner has taught me that the answer in these scenarios has to be an emphatic, “Yes! I did not start drinking already… In fact, I’ve been waiting all day for you to suggest this awesome plan.”
7. I can now blow dry my hair with a round brush.
I really don’t want to come across totally vain and silly but this is a MAJOR accomplishment, and I think any person who has been trying to figure out the same since she was a teenager can understand the extreme sense of pride I feel now that I’m capable of doing this.
8. Routine is sneaky.
I have a very taxing relationship with routine. I crave it and I despise it all as the same time. I've noticed since moving that routine just has the ability to appear out of no where and take over and before I know it, I'm suggesting we order mid-week takeout again from the same Thai place downstairs instead of going out to try a new place. There are creature comforts, and then there's just pure laziness, and sometimes I fall into routines because of the latter.
9. Travel takes a lot of planning.
Especially when it comes to Japan because everything books up so fast! I usually book travel mere weeks ahead, but I realize now this is foolish. Plan ahead, do tons of research and let yourself enjoy looking forward to an upcoming trip for a few months.
10. Make the bed every day.
I don't know what it does to the brain but it brings some sense of calm and order to my life that I just can't explain, but I highly recommend doing it, even if you have someone who can do it for you.