Reblogging this from an expat blog I just discovered via the WordPress.com Reader category feed. We’re self-hosted, not at WordPress.com, but we integrate with them. I was scanning their “Expat Life” blogs topic stream, and came across a blog named I Was an Expat Wife. Now normally I wouldn’t read that kind of expat blog, because A) We don’t really cater here to the “Trailing Spouse” expat type, we’re more the DIY low-budget expat/immersion audience, and B) usually I find that type of title is from a bloggy whiner about how she misses her washing machine from back in the UK or Australia, or everything in Uruguay is crap except for Punta del Este. Or both.
But that’s not the case with Maria Foley’s blog – it’s quite self-aware, helpful, non-home-culture-centric, and a fun, informative read. Her post I’m sharing is aptly titled, The illusion of the “similar culture”. I recommend anybody thinking about expatriation, emigration to a new land as a immigrant, or immersion travel, give it a read.
Great examination of the culture shock of expatriation, even if to a same-language culture. Or from your home “Western” culture to another, hey, how hard could it be? Former “expat wife” Maria gives examples of exactly how hard it can be. As do her commenters, be sure to read them!
I’ll add a handful of Uruguay culture examples in case you are a USA person, Canadian or Brit, who is primary Spanish-speaking or fully bilingual, and thinks “hey how hard could it be?”: Milk comes in bags. You pay your health insurance bill at the supermarket. In the actual checkout line, not the booth where you pay your electric, water, and phone bills. All medicines come in boxes of blister pack pills. What we call a “prescription drug” is very likely truly “over the counter”. What we call an “over the counter” drug in the States or Canada (and I think UK as I recall from colds in Scotland and England) are actually “in front of the counter”, but here are truly “over the counter” – you have to ask for them from the pharmacist or clerk. Yes, even for things like aspirin, ibuprofen, acetaminophen (paracetemol). Eggs are not refrigerated, nor are many cheeses.
Oh, ketchup and mayonnaise often come in bags too. As does pre-made pasta sauce. Tomato sauce comes in boxes. Be sure the box of tomato sauce doesn’t puncture your bag of milk!