Photo: Anna Kraynova/Shutterstock

The Biggest Lie You Tell Yourself When You Live Abroad

by Jen Legra Mar 13, 2015

There is no doubt that when you move to a foreign country, shit gets hard. In fact, a friend, just today, was joking (in that not-at-all-joking way) that she asked her Spanish teacher to cover a class on ordering takeout. Imagine? One of the most simple and comforting luxuries becoming an ordeal? Imagine ordering Chinese food in Chinese…when you don’t know Chinese (and saying “Peking duck” doesn’t count). And then having to give them directions to your place? Hey, it’s happened. Let’s just call it a success if your food arrives without feathers and a face in under two hours.

Calling a cab isn’t much different. Even I, a Spanish speaker, had trouble understanding taxis here in the beginning. I have never heard such fast-talking, dismembered words. And when I’d ask them to repeat themselves, I could actually see their degree of pissed-off face just by the tone of their voice. I’d have to talk back all snappy and rude-like so that they’d respect me enough to not hang up on me. This too has happened.

Speaking of cars, they aren’t really expected to get inspected so traffic is ugly and dirty and loud. Beat up cars, held together by duct tape and hope, dust the streets with a Lost-like black smoke fog. Motorcycles backfire so loudly that you duck for cover. People cut you in line if you leave too much space in front of you, and by too much space I mean mere centimeters. The supermarket doesn’t carry everything all the time and it especially won’t carry what you want when you’re craving it. The power will go out as soon as you turn on your coffeemaker and it will come back on as soon as you’ve moved the coffeemaker to an outlet backed up by the generator. The day will be sunny until you’ve left the and then a downpour will hit fast and hard like a Spartan you never saw coming. Club music will pound through giant speakers mounted on truck beds that shake your building just when you sit down to enjoy a quiet night in with a movie. Again, this has happened and it will all piss you off.

But you’ll get used to it, this new way of life that screams adventure (or, well, that sometimes just screams). I mean, that’s what people tell you, right? That you’ll get used to it.

And you will.

Ahem…most of you will.

Buuuut some of you? Ehhhh, some of you won’t.

Time helps, yes. Being optimistic too. But one of the greatest lies we abroaders tell is that you’ll get used to it, that we all get used to it. Lies. All lies. There is a reason we have a term for people who bolt. They’re called runners and they exist because this isn’t for everyone.

Hoping for the best out of your Chinese delivery and getting an unknown sauce is not for everyone. Getting screwed out of your spot in line because you weren’t pressed tightly against the person in front of you, essentially sniffing their hair, also not for everyone. Gunshot motorcycles, giant speakers, and the loss of language, culture, and familiarity, again, not for all. So if you are a so-called runner or a potential bolt risk, here’s my advice… ready for it? Screw it. Go. Just Go. No looking back. No regret. No second-guessing. Of course you can get used to it, but maybe you just don’t want to.

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