I came across this blog post recently titled, “5 Things to Remember When Your Expat Family Comes Home for the Summer”.
Really, it’s a nicely written blog.
So, as I get ready to go home, I’d like to echo some of the author’s thoughts and share my own:
- Let Me Drive
…But don’t make me drive.
I haven’t driven since I was home at Christmas time. I have been taking public transportation or have been driven around by my local friends. I will want to drive nowhere in particular just for a taste of freedom, but if we are out and about together, I will likely want to be chauffeured around town.
- Let Me Eat
There are things that I just can’t eat in Turkey. As the original author stated, I live in a Muslim country. Let me eat all things pork. If I want Mexican food, Chicago style deep dish, or Oberweis ice cream everyday, don’t calorie count for me. I’ll try to spread out my gluttony, but I can’t make any promises. Also, don’t judge me when I pack two suitcases full of baking ingredients that I can’t find or refuse to pay that much for in Turkey.
I will also want Ollie’s, Garrett’s, and LOTS of BBQ…
- Ask Questions
…But don’t overload me with questions. When you ask me to tell you about my adventure, don’t forget that we’ve Skyped and/or Facebooked all year. You probably know most of my good stories already. If you just say, “Tell me EVERYTHING,” I won’t know where to start. Is there something specific you want to know? Ask me those questions. M y stories will naturally flow into our conversations as they become relevant. Just don’t forget that since I’ve been away for so long, I want to know what’s new with YOU and what’s going on at home.
- “Don’t Hate Us Because…”
“Don’t Hate Us Because…” is about avoiding jealousy as the expat in your family answers your questions and describes their new lifestyle.
Yes, I have exciting adventures to share, but please don’t forget that I face a lot of challenges as I live abroad. I left behind everything familiar. As I express these challenges, please don’t sarcastically say, “Oh, poor you…” I realize that what sticks out to you is my travel pictures (I only took two trips this year, by the way). What you don’t remember is that I DO work. I DO have a job with a brutal commute. I DO struggle to meet the locals and learn the language. My day-to-day life is still much like yours.
- “Try to Remember…”
“Try to Remember” is primarily about being sensitive to the children that have missed out on hugs and kisses and memories with extended family because Mom and Dad took them overseas. It’s about being sensitive when planning family reunions because if possible, they DO want to be there.
I have missed out on a lot of family moments this year, like when my mother finished her cancer treatments. I missed out on my high school band director’s retirement. He was honored with an alumni band and I was devastated I couldn’t be in the clarinet section for that (Congratulations, Mr. Strombres!). Yes, I made the choice to live far away, but rather than discussing all the things that I missed, let’s plan some wonderful things to do together while we can be together.
Additionally, if possible, I’d love to see groups of friends together at once so that I don’t spend a fortune on lunch dates (I’m still just a teacher. I’m not rich). This will also help me maximize my family time that I desperately need. Please, and thank you.
In addition to the outline above, I’d like to add a few more points:
- Allow me the comfort of discussing my reverse culture shock:
When I returned from my year in Austria, I had trouble readjusting. I have not been away as long this time and because my Turkish language skills have not progressed as much as my German language skills did, I may not experience AS much reverse culture shock. Just as I notice things are different abroad, I will notice (or re-notice) that things are “different” at home. You have already forgotten that something new was built that I have yet to see. Try not to be too annoyed if I point something out.
- Give me some alone time.
As frustrating as it has been to learn Turkish slower than I thought I would, it’s nice that I don’t always understand everything happening around me. As crowded as Istanbul is, it doesn’t always feel that way since I can’t understand everything. I get to spend a lot of time in my own head.
I had this revelation when I moved home from Austria; Even if home is less crowded, when everything is in your mother tongue, everything seems louder. This is EXHAUSTING. I will need some quiet time.
And after all, I always needed a little Hannah-Time before. That hasn’t changed.
- Prepare yourself now… I might be a little different.
I may not notice a lot of changes in myself, but you might. That was DEFINITELY the case when I came home from Austria. It’s okay to point those things out to me. When I came home from Austria, everyone told me I was more assertive, I followed through with my commitments better, I was more opinionated, I was in a different stage of my faith, and so on. Just be gentle.
My experiences in Turkey have been much different. I’m surrounded by refugees more, for instance. My hope is that I am more sensitive and better educated on the world news than I was before. You can be the judge of that and much more, I’m sure.
And if I happen to throw in a Turkish phrase here or there, I’m not trying to show off. It’s just habit.
I love you all and I can’t wait to hug each and every one of you! I miss you terribly.
Fellow expats, anything to add?