This And That: 10 Things I’ve Learned After 4 Months Living Abroad
We’re 25 percent through our year living abroad. Here are 10 observations from the past month.
1. My computer thinks I’m in Japan.
I’m serious. My Google results are in Japanese. News websites show up in Japanese and then quickly translate into really awkward English headlines. My "Hamilton" soundtrack binge-fests on Spotify are abruptly interrupted with ads in Japanese. All videos on YouTube start with commercials featuring young Japanese women seemingly cooing about their smooth skin. I don’t understand how this is happening and haven’t put much effort into correcting the error, so I’ve decided to use it as a learning opportunity.
2. I still don’t miss working at a desk in an office.
Four months of working by my lonesome from wherever I want, and the novelty has not worn off. I'm starting to think it won't.
3. My definition of a “short flight” has changed dramatically.
Will it take less than 15 hours to get there? Great, let’s go.
4. Because of this, I travel here like I never did when living in the U.S.
Every few weeks I find myself looking at a map of Asia and cross-referencing it with the massive list my husband and I made featuring all the places we want to visit during this year. There’s nothing like having a deadline to provide some much-needed motivation to prioritize seeing the world.
5. My parents were right — Cambodia has the best food in Southeast Asia that no one talks about.
Just about everyone I know who has traveled throughout the region returns home talking about the incredible food in Vietnam and Thailand. My parents are the only people I know who returned from a trip to the area and said Cambodia was worth visiting just for its cuisine. After my visit there last month, I now consider curries made of lemongrass, turmeric, ginger and coconut milk my new comfort food.
6. Fun fact: Despite being the financial capital of Asia, Hong Kong has surprisingly awful personal banking options.
Besides the fact that it takes two months to open an account and you have to stand in line for a teller when making basic transactions, Hong Kongers still use paper bank books — like the one George Banks steals when he’s secretly rummaging through Brain MacKenzie’s father’s possessions in “Father of the Bride.” For context, that movie came out in 1991, and even then bank books seemed a little outdated.
7. Living abroad has significantly silenced my bitchy inner critic that makes me want to spend all day every day in bed.
A few years ago, I saw a self-help poster in a Whole Foods that said something like, “Treat yourself as you would your best friend,” and I had what Oprah would describe as an “ah-ha moment.” I think the poster was referring to integrating more whole grains into your diet, but I took it as a reminder to be a bit kinder to myself. To a certain extent, I think that’s a daily struggle for all of us, but living abroad has changed my internal monologue. Half the time I walk around this city disoriented, not comprehending a word most people say to me and unsure if I’m even going in the right direction. There's something about being in a constant state of semi-confusion and discomfort that has made my inner critic take some much-needed days off.
8. I started meditating.
I think the preferred term now is "practicing mindfulness." So I practice for 10 minutes, most mornings right after I wake up. I countdown from 40, breathing in and out with each new number. Whenever I lose my place (which happens every few numbers), I start over from 40. I’ve been doing it for a few weeks now and haven’t made it to zero yet.
9. I only miss having an oven when I remember Ina Garten has a new cookbook out.
Sometimes I feel an overwhelming sense of urgency to whip up Jeffrey's favorite chocolate cake recipe that Ina makes for their anniversaries and on select Friday nights. I calm by self down by going out for dumplings.
10. A teeny tiny container of Tide laundry detergent costs $20 in Hong Kong.
Just thought y’all should know that as you’re buying a year-long supply in Costco for the same price.