I’ve found that former expats have a special bond because we’ve all gone through similar life experiences. Whether it’s discussing our amazing ability to pack a suitcase at the speed of lightning, expat woes that involve searching high and low for certain ingredients in foreign grocery stores (canned pumpkin around Thanksgiving time, anyone?), or getting way too excited for care packages filled with Goldfish crackers, Oreos and weirdly flavored Pop-Tarts, there are certain things only expats and former expats will understand — and here’s a list you can probably relate to.
1. Your storage unit triggers violent panic attacks.
Saving everything seemed like a good idea before you moved abroad, but now that you’re back in your own country, you want to burn this mother down. All of that toothpaste, mouthwash, makeup, and medicine you forced your spouse to pack away in boxes because you didn’t want to waste a single item? Expired. You should have given it away to co-workers. But would they have really wanted your extra toothpaste and acne cream? Maybe.
2. Coins everywhere. Everywhere, dammit!
You can’t find a couple of dollars for your Starbucks grande caramel macchiatto, but you have plenty of other currencies… you know, just in case. Pounds, euros, Moroccan dirham, and Czech crown litter your vehicle and you basically feel buried in tiny worldly treasures. Why are they in your vehicle after moving back to the States, you ask? Who the hell knows; it just happens. They’re also covering your night stand which is always interesting when you blindly look for your glasses in the morning.
3. Why so big, Walgreens?
You quickly remember that everything in the United States is massive — especially Walgreens — and you feel overwhelmed. The parking lot, parking spaces, and the brightly lit aisles? You need a beer (or a shot of vodka) after a trip to the pharmacy.
4. You’re too nervous to throw away travel mementos.
Train ticket stubs from Italy, castle guide books from Scotland, and cafe receipts from Morocco clutter your suitcases, handbags, and dining room table, but every time you try and throw something away, your stomach forms that familiar little knot. If you finally rid your house of annoying pieces of paper, will you forget about good times spent abroad? Maybe you should keep them a little while longer. Yeah, that’s a good idea. (hint: you’ll most likely keep them forever)
5. People think your home decor is “eclectic”.
Long story short, you have random shit from your travels strewn all over your house and it somehow works. Or at least you hope it does.
6. Almost all of your stories start out with, “When I was living abroad…”
You’re not trying to be a pretentious jerk, but almost every conversation reminds you of a travel story. Before you’re even able to stop yourself, you utter those familiar words that cause friends and family (and strangers who already hate you) to roll their eyes: “That reminds me of when I was living abroad…” Just shut up, you jerk!
7. When other people talk about creating a “travel gallery wall” in their homes, you get excited…
But then realize you’d probably need ten of those and your house just isn’t that big. Ya know, since you spend most of your money on travel. #worthit
8. A trip to World Market makes you absolutely giddy.
Paprika from Hungary? Those little waffles from The Netherlands?! Your favorite tea from England?!?! You’re basically in heaven. Time to gain a few lbs.
9. Your pets have passports.
Sometimes travel and pets don’t mix, so you’ve already taken care of everything that could be a headache in the future — and your pets now have passports. If for some reason you decide to take another assignment abroad, they’ll be set. And you’ll shake your head once you realize how many countries they’ve been to.
10. About once a month, you have no idea where you are.
You shoot up in bed in the early morning and think to yourself… Scotland, France, Phoenix, Arizona? Oh wait, you just moved back to Virginia. That’s right. Now go back to bed you little world traveler.
11. You can pack a suitcase in two minutes flat.
And you’ve seriously considered adding this to your resume because it’s that impressive.
12. You create friendships all over the globe — and then someone inevitably moves away.
You met wonderful ladies in an expat group abroad… and then you moved away. Your husband’s corporate rotation took you all over the United States and leaving those people sucked, too.
Even though it’s difficult to continue the vicious cycle of making new friends and then moving away from them, you wouldn’t change anything.
Are you an expat or former expat? Share your stories below!