Saturday, November 28, 2009

Charity, and The Somewhat Bitter Truth About Life Abroad

We smile a lot. We photograph everything. We write about our journeys. But do those photos and musings really reflect how we feel as expatriates in a "strange" country? How honest are they?

Here's what we may write:
Being overseas at Thanksgiving is fabulous. We love sharing our traditions with the locals, and are adopting a few new ones along the way!

Meanwhile, here's what we're actually thinking:
Man, I really miss my family at this time of year, and wish I could go home but can't afford it. Yet, while being away is killing me, I'll have to do my best to share traditions with my child/children in an environment that's not at all conducive to American traditions. (In fact, it kind of feels like an uphill battle at times to celebrate something that less than 1% of the population is interested in. So forced!).

So why put on a front? Are we misleading readers? There are three reasons:
1) 75% of the time we probably are loving our life, so it's not all lies.
2) When we're not enjoying life abroad, we figure, "Who wants to read about my depression?" and "How popular would my blog be if all I did was write negatively about this country?" and,
3) Writing positively actually improves your outlook and well-being. Kind of like smiling can make you feel better, even if you're in a real funk. So sometimes you write about the sun shining, even if it only happened for 15 minutes three hours ago. It was there. You saw it. And chances are you'll see it again.

I guess what I'm saying is, the holidays may not be quite as "happy" as they appear, because the bitter truth of the matter is that living "abroad" is (often) much less glamorous than one expects it to be.

But just what can you do about it? Well, this holiday season, why not do a different kind of "good" deed? Reach out to your neighborhood "foreigner" and do your best to make them feel at home. At times it may be uncomfortable and awkward, but chances are they're homesick and longing for a bit of family, and you might just make their stay one of the most memorable time of their life (and learn something about their culture along the way!).

Wonder how I know this? The answer is, it's happened to us. And perhaps that's what's really meant by 'charity begins at home'. Honestly, I know of no better tradition or lesson to share with my children.


Mom said...

Dearest Elise,
Among your many loveable qualities is your honesty and ability to always strive to look for the silver lining, even when you are feeling homesick. We all look forward to your visit in February!
Love and hugs,

Anonymous said...

nice post. thanks.