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“How many suitcases should I bring home???” thinks an international school teacher who is traveling home for summer vacation. Inside though this teacher knows what they will end up doing during their trip back home. Even though it might cost them in the end when they pay for the extra weight of one or more of their suitcases or when they pay the extra fee for an additional suitcase on the airline they are flying on. It’s a pity that many airlines are now only allowing one free suitcase for an economy ticket, even on international flights!
The allure of home products is too strong though. When living abroad as an expat, it is almost vitally important to have some things around you that are familiar in your home abroad. Sometimes I open up one of my kitchen cabinets and because of the many home products that I see, it could be me opening a cupboard in my old home in my home country. Surely the first and second year abroad you might do this, stocking your cupboards full of home products, but doing this in your third or fourth (or tenth or more) year…. is it time to “let go?”
I heard one international teacher say that after eight years of living abroad she now refuses to buy products at home when she can find the exact same thing or something comparable in her host country. That would most likely save her in the long run on baggage fees, even if the product is a little bit more expensive than in her home country. However, sometimes we just want to have our favorite brand that we were using all the time when we lived in our home country, even if we can find something exactly the same (minus the brand name that we have “grown to trust”) in our current country. This is the dilemma then, to buy or not to buy??!
This year I personally decided to only take one suitcase back home for the summer. Well if I am being completely honest, I still did bring a carry-on travel backpack…in the hopes that I could squeeze in a few more of my favorite things to take with me on my flight back home. It was very difficult to limit myself. The mantra that I kept repeating in my head “Can I get this where I live now?” If the answer was yes, I reluctantly didn’t buy it.
It is fun to shop in other countries. Exploring grocery stores in other countries is one of my most favorite things to do actually (though I find it equally enjoyable to shop in my old grocery stores at home, too)! You never know what you will find. Well actually you do end up seeing some products from your home country in foreign grocery stores, but countries obviously have many of their own products as well. As you try new products, you are bound to find new favorites.
Sometimes if you see products that look familiar, they have a different language on the packages. Some even try and display messages in English that seem a bit funny to you. I’m not for sure the Lays company would put the same phrase “best with cold drinks” on their United States packages…maybe though. Also, foreign countries have people with different tastes, so you might find potato chip flavors like Chili Chinese with Schezwan Sauce and Seaweed Pringles….probably wouldn’t be popular flavors in United States. One thing that is hard to find living abroad is proper potato or tortilla chips; that aisle in a United States grocery store is a long one with many different brands and options!
Another factor to consider when buying foreign products is when you are trying to read the ingredients; this is where many international school teachers draw the line. Many, many people nowadays need to know exactly each ingredient that is in a product. And when you have to do this in a second language (in which you likely only know a few words in total), you might find yourself being drawn to bring back more of your home country’s products. Knowing the ingredients is very important. Sometimes even on imported products in your host country, the country itself covers up the English ingredients list by putting a sticker over it listing the ingredients in the host language. It is can be frustrating for sure!
Interesting story….I just witnessed an international school teacher lug up three boxes of home country goods to her apartment. When I asked her where did she get these boxes, she said that she got them from somebody who works at the embassy of her home country. After living abroad for a while and meeting embassy workers, we maybe don’t all know one of the perks they get. They can order home country products in bulk and the embassy will ship them over to you. I guess this embassy worker had extra and enough to share with an international teacher friend! I didn’t see all the different kinds of products that were in the boxes, but I do know that I saw some boxes of Duncan Hines cake boxes from the USA! You might be able to find easy-to-bake cake mixes in your host country, but this just might be one of those products that are only available at grocery stores in the United States.
Go ahead…continue to go home and stock up on all your favorite things. However, don’t forget to keep your eye out in the local grocery stores where you are living. Try a few new things every 1-2 weeks. There are most likely some amazing products that you didn’t know about. Some things though you just might want to pass on, like whatever kind of meat this is in the display case and what ever kind of product that is on a certain shelf. Sometime the risk is too great on your wallet to try out new (and strange) products and foods!
If you are an international school teacher, please share what you stock up on when you return to your home country! How many suitcases do you bring home?
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