Discussion Topics

Staring at foreigners – the expat experience!

December 27, 2012


When we choose to live abroad we accept that things in our life situation will be different for us.  There will be many things that will be good changes for us and for sure there will be some things that will not be so good and might make us feel IMG_7268uncomfortable.  The amount of things that will be different for you depends on your personal background growing up and also where you end up living.  Since we all grow up in different countries (and also from different parts of that country) and have different cultural backgrounds, our perspective on what happens to us when living in our host country is definitely going to be varied and different.

One thing that might happen to you when living abroad is that you might find that the locals tend to stare at you a lot.  Mostly because you look may look different to them, surely that is what they might stare.  You would probably be staring at people that look different from yourself in your home country as well.  We don’t necessarily like to admit it maybe, but some might say that it is human nature to stare at other who look characteristically different than you.

DSC_8283But also, there might be a cultural norm difference that comes into play as well.  In some cultures it might be commonplace and even accepted to stare at another person in public.  Even if it is commonplace for them, it still might make you feel a bit uncomfortable…as it is not a culture norm for your home country.  It can be especially uncomfortable if you are getting stared at every day during your life living abroad!

You may start to miss being one of the crowd from you old life living in your home country, making you want to move back sooner than later.  You might think twice about getting onto a public bus knowing that it will be jam packed with only locals that enjoy peering and leering at you.

On the other hand, you may welcome the staring and find that you quite enjoy it…being the center of attention.  No one stares at your in your home country when you go shopping at your grocery store.  No staring might make those weekly visits more monotone and uneventful for you.

But what typically happens most of the time, is that you get used to the staring and start to not notice it so much.  It hard to ignore it though when the staring escalates into touching of your hair (if your hair is a radically different color to theirs) or them talking to their friends/family about you in front of your face while pointing at you.  The boundaries and cultural norms of how you can interact with strangers in public (that you may be used to) may not exist in your host country culture and it is something you should be aware of and be prepared to experience!

Human being all very inquisitive people, just like many other animals on our planet.  We like to figure out things and find out where we belong in a small group, a community, a city, a family, etc.  Part of that figuring out where we are and how we fit in most likely involves the staring tactic!

Feel free to leave a comment about your experience being an expat and living abroad in a foreign country.  Do the locals tend to stare at you?  If you currently live in another country, please take a moment to leave a comment about the host country locals on our website – www.internationalschoolcommunity.com

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Discussion Topics

What products do you always stock up on when you return to your home country?

August 16, 2012


“How many suitcases should you bring home?”  says an international school teacher who is traveling home for either summer vacation or winter break.  Inside though you know what you will end up doing during your trip back home, even though that you it might cost you in the end when you pay for the extra weight of your one suitcase or when you pay the extra fee for an additional suitcase on the airline you are flying on.  Too bad that many airlines are now only allowing one suitcase, 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 things that are familiar around you and in your new 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 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 project is a little bit more expensive than in her home country.  Sometimes though 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 placement.  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.  I keep on 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 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 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 Chilli 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 thing 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 and puts 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 you got them from somebody who works at the embassy of her home country.  After living abroad for awhile and meeting embassy workers, we all know one of the perks they get.  They can order home country products in bulk and the embassy will ship it over for them.  I guess this embassy worker had extra and enough to share with an international teacher!  I didn’t see all the different kind of products that were in the boxes, but I do know that I saw some box of those Duncan Hines cake boxes!  You might be able to find easy to bake cake mixes in your host country, but this just might be one of those projects that is 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 beforehand.  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 in this stand.  Sometime the risk is too great 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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