Lies I Told Myself Before I Moved Abroad


In early pregnancy, everything I eat is stuff I normally avoid -- like fast food, instant, pre-packaged products, and soda. There's something about those foods that make them the only things that sit well during morning sickness. So I eat them, even as my brain lectures me about how unhealthy it all is. I turn off that inner critic for those few months, knowing that at some point, I'll get back to eating well.I've found that my inner critic is alive and well in several aspects of expat life, also. There are many things I decided on before moving abroad that end up drastically different in practice. Here's just a sample of the things I told myself were true before I moved abroad."Stay-at-home parents don't hire house help." – Since I list "homemaker" as my occupation, I feel like the house is my domain. I'm in charge of all the things. I get uncomfortable with someone else in my space, doing what I feel is my job. Depending on where you live abroad, though, having a housekeeper or cook is normal, very affordable, and/or helpful to the local economy. So I ended up hiring a housekeeper for the first time two years ago. While it took me several months (okay, almost a year) before I was able to feel less awkward about having her around, now I am simply grateful for the work she does in our home."I won't live somewhere without learning the language."– I studied languages in college, and actually, love language learning (for the most part). But with the pace that our family moves around the globe, we only have a couple of years in each place. With lots of young kids around the house and the knowledge that we're moving on soon, taking the time to study the local language in-depth doesn't always happen. I sometimes end up with just a handful of words and phrases and simply make d"I don't use food past its expiration date." – I hate to keep items past their best-by dates. As my mom can attest, I have been the expiration police since high school, pointing out anything past its prime. But living overseas has changed that for me. Not only do I use food past its expiration date, sometimes I have even (knowingly!) bought food past the expiration date. When you see a bag of Tostitos with Lime appear on a market shelf, you just need to grab it!"I don't make that out of a box." – While I often end up making things from scratch that I never considered making before, I expected that part of life overseas. What surprises me is that I also make things from a box that I usually never would back home, like cake, pancakes, or muffins. Any type of convenience food abroad is rare, so if someone sends me a box of cake mix, I'll use it! I'm not too proud of that."We will find a church and get involved." – I've always been a church girl, and I expected that to continue no matter where we live. When we arrived here, though, there was just one option for English speakers, and let's just say it wasn't a fit for our family. We ended up hosting a small group Bible study instead, and found that others felt the same way we did—they want to stay involved with the faith community but didn't have a place to do so. Though unexpected, our little "home church" has been a significant part of our lives here."Living abroad means a slower pace of life." Expat life has its own pace. You have people in at least two countries to keep up with, and so you schedule phone dates in the evenings and afternoons are rushed so you can pick up kids from school, Skype with the grandparents, and make dinner. As an expat in a new country, you have to learn quickly what others have taken their lifetimes to learn, like where to shop, how to speak, history, cultural clues, and transportation systems. You host gatherings to build friendships. It can get very busy!"I won't miss…" DC traffic. Having to drive everywhere. Overscheduled kids' activities. Keeping up with the Joneses. Raunchy TV shows. And really, I don't miss those things. However, I do find myself longing for the amenities and conveniences that come with them, like how well-maintained the infrastructure is in DC compared to here, or the availability of activities for kids, or being able to turn on HGTV once in a while. Just as there are things I won't miss about my current host country (yes, I've made that list in my head too), but so many things I will miss that go hand-in-hand with the difficulties.Often, when I try to tell myself "who I am," or what "I do" or "don't do," I end up eating my words. I've learned it's fine to have a plan, but I have to hold everything loosely. Instead, I use phrases like "in this season" or "currently, I am…" because I don't know what my life looks like from place to place. As we gear up to move along again this summer, I am making tentative plans and sketching rough ideas of what this new life will be like. Just as I can't judge anyone in a different situation, I can't pre-judge my own choices in different seasons and situations. That just ends up in a guilt-inducing spiral, and I don't need to add feeling guilty to all the heightened emotions that come with moving to a new country.