Lost in Translation: The Dichotomy of Expat Life

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Lost in Translation: The Dichotomy of Expat Life

malaysia-batu-caves-monkeys expat living abroad

Got milk? I don’t! As I linger in the dairy section of a Swiss grocery store I quickly realize that shopping is going to be trickier than initially anticipated. Sure, buying milk should be straight forward enough, until you’re faced with 17 different types of milk, all in French or German, with packaging of little blonde children who are clearly mocking me with their beady blue eyes (stay back you scary Children of the Dairy!).

Living abroad can be the most exciting, terrifying, entertaining, frustrating, and awe-inspiring choice a person can make. It comes in handy when trying to impress people at your high school reunion, but then completely backfires when you have to resort to charades to explain what you need at a foreign store (ever tried to act out a mouse trap purchase? I have!). Lost in translation? Oh, the irony of my life!

Here’s the ying and yang of being an expat:

  • Hearing someone with your accent immediately leads you to assume that you’ll be the best of friends who are alike in every way; whereas back home you only get along with .0001% of the people that sound like you (you celebrate July 4th?! ME TOO! It’s like we’re twins).
  • Exposure to eastern medicine that isn’t accepted in your western home country; that sinking fear that going to the doctor will result in your kidney being sold on the black market (I feel 5lbs lighter!…but not in a good way).
expat sri lanka medicine abroad
  • New approaches to beauty, fashion, and skincare; the foreign waxing mishap that leaves you with one eyebrow raised as if you were the devious villain in the game of Clue (Miss Rae did it in the bedroom with a diaper!).
  • Conveniently knowing your passport number by heart; having no clue what your phone number is (867-5309…wait, that’s Jenny’s number).
  • Surrounding yourself with the unique art and souvenirs you’ve collected throughout your journeys; a sneaky suspicion that your house is starting to resemble Aladdin’s cave of treasures (they should really think about renaming the Diaper Genie if they don’t want people to rub it and make wishes).
  • The satisfaction of conversing with a local in their native language with the 10 words you know; only to know the defeat of that 11th word, that might as well be gibberish for all you know (I swear it’s actually gibberish and they’re just messing with me…I mean can you blame them?).
  • Strengthening your relationship with your partner as you bond together (it’s us against the world!); the unfortunate awareness that if you kill them, you’ll be the obvious first suspect.
  • Trying exotic new tastes and foods that you never even knew existed; missing Mexican food so badly that you seek out Mexican restaurants abroad purely to look down on their sad imitation (Ay dios mio!).
vietnam streetfood expat living abroad
malaysia-klebang-coconut-shake eating abroad expat
  • Making friends from all around the world with different backgrounds and perspectives; the awkwardness of new friendships, “How many days should I wait until I call her?!”
  • Singing the praises of your goddess Google maps, for without her you’d never get to where you’re going; knowing that you’ve pissed her off when she routes you through the bad part of town (I’m sorry! I’ll never make you reroute again!).

The pros and cons of living outside your comfort zone are addictive. Where else could you have such profound realizations in front of the dairy section of a grocery store?!

Why not?!

By |2016-11-02T21:38:29+00:00April 5th, 2016|Expat, Travel Tips|


  1. Marianne April 5, 2016 at 9:26 PM - Reply

    Love it!!!!

  2. Ilene April 5, 2016 at 10:24 PM - Reply

    This one hits it on the head! Question is, did you ever buy that gallon of milk that you were shopping for??

    • The Worldwide Webers April 5, 2016 at 11:47 PM - Reply

      We have succeeded in the purchasing of dairy products, just don’t ask me what kind of milk it is, because I have no clue.

  3. mark April 5, 2016 at 10:59 PM - Reply

    So… have you been to the local MCDONALD’S yet?
    What is taking you so long?
    What does Geneva’s Happy Meal toys look like?
    These are the important questions you McDad wants to know

    • The Worldwide Webers April 5, 2016 at 11:51 PM - Reply

      I’m waiting for McMark to visit before I venture into the Swiss McDonalds. Thank goodness McD’s numbers everything, no translation required! But I think I should get extra points if I manage to act out a French Fry while ordering.

  4. Harriet Guttenberg April 6, 2016 at 12:33 AM - Reply

    Great blog! It makes such easy reading as it’s so natural and so you!

  5. Laura Maderal April 6, 2016 at 3:30 PM - Reply

    I think these pictures require some captions and further explanation…

    • The Worldwide Webers April 6, 2016 at 5:44 PM - Reply

      I’ll add those just for you Mads 😉

  6. Jessica Munaker April 6, 2016 at 9:30 PM - Reply

    Love this, Erica!!! Living vicariously through you. 🙂

    • The Worldwide Webers April 9, 2016 at 11:42 AM - Reply

      Thanks Jessi! Looking forward to crossing paths in Chicago one day so I can meet your adorable pup!!

  7. Cindy Levine April 9, 2016 at 2:09 PM - Reply

    So inspired by your journey, I always have been? I enjoy each and every word you write. Thanks for sharing? GM

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