I cannot express the excitement I feel when I meet other Australians in Japan. I believe it stems from my need to cling to everything and anything about my home country, no matter how small or inconsequential.
As an expat, we make that decision to leave home, to leave what feels normal and comfortable in order to experience the new and unexpected. We crave excitement, new situations and new people the way pregnant women crave cookie dough. Whether it be the challenge of a new language, a new culture or a new job, moving abroad is the ultimate test of our resilience and adaptability.
On a personal level, I feel that living in Japan has opened my eyes to qualities in myself that I never thought I possessed. The ability to put myself out in the world instead of sitting at home watching endless amounts of American television. The ability to sign up for a phone plan, order pizza or change my address all in a foreign language. The ability to say ‘yes’ to going anywhere, with anyone (except to strangers with candy, don’t worry Mum, I haven’t forgotten). But most of all the ability to accept a new culture, even assimilate it somewhat, but to never forget the way my own culture lives within me.
Talking to other expats I know, they fall into either one of two categories. The “This place is awesome and I would never go back home” group or the “This place is cool but damn I miss my own country more”. For me, I fall into the latter category. I love certain things about Japan – the convenience of vending machines, the subway, yakiniku and karaoke to name a few – but I feel that living here has made me appreciate my home more. I miss the awesome sandy beaches with clear, blue water, barbeque sausages with tomato sauce (not ketchup), road trips with friends and $10 steaks at the pub.
So in order to keep my sanity, there are certain things that I do to help me hold on, even if ever so slightly, to the lifestyle of the land down under.
I am constantly on either Facebook, Skype or Whatsapp
This is mostly to stay connected to the people I miss from home. I’ll admit I’m a pretty fastidious Facebook user, often logging on multiple times a day. Add to that the weekly Skype calls to family and the constant messaging to friends and it can seem as if there is no great distance separating us. I often wonder how expats of ten years ago survived without these technologies. The being able to keep even this simple, technological link to my former home does wonders for my homesickness.
I try to find and cook my favorite foods
I’m a big fan of Japanese food but I believe there is only so much sushi one can eat before really needing a huge steak. And not the kind of tiny steaks one gets at yakiniku either. I mean a full on steak for one, with chips, salad and gravy on the side. I was so desperate for a chicken schnitzel dinner that I got my mother to bring bread crumbs over to Japan when she visited. I’m also a regular customer at Yamaya (the foreign foods supermarket) in JR Namba station – and not only because it sells the cheapest booze around.
I got a subscription to NRL live for my television
So as not to miss any of the Rugby League action back home, I spent around $100 on a sports subscription that I can stream through my computer. Now I get to watch even more football than I was able to back home (Pay TV is especially expensive in AUS). I love the fact that I can watch the Sunday afternoon game live-to-air, a game that is delayed by an hour on regular television back home.
I love talking to other Aussies.
Whenever I meet other Australians it’s like something pops inside my brain and my accent comes out in full force. Suddenly references like “Please Explain” and “I’m Excited” make sense and I don’t feel like a complete idiot for using words like “Capsicum”, Chips” and “Tomato Sauce”
I wear my flip flops EVERYWHERE
Even when it’s ridiculously inappropriate, there is still enough of the Aussie in me to not care and wear them anyway. I even wore them in the Typhoon the other day. Not even horrid weather patterns can stop me.
Of course I’m sure there are many other ways that I’m not aware of that connect me to my home. But it’s these small comforts and reminders that help me get through those times when I wonder if moving away was a mistake.
What kinds of things do you do to stay connected to your home?