I think the most unexpected thing in my life to come out of being an expat is the amount I have changed. Not only have I grown into a
winging it responsible adult but there are a lot of things I do now that can solely be put down to being an expat. Things that I don’t even realise I am doing, that is, until I go home.
Whenever I go home, there is always something new that people point out is different about me. The same can be said for if I have a Skype call with friends or family, they are always laughing at me for saying weird things or confused about why I do things a certain way now. Every time this happens, it gets me thinking or talking with them about other things that have changed and I thought I’d share a few today.
I am happy.
It’s not that I wasn’t happy in England… Screw the sugar-coating here, I was miserable in England. The knock on effect of that to my personality was that I was always negative and angry, something which people came to know as a personality trait. I was the girl who was guaranteed to tear you a new one if you pissed me off or known for being pessimistic about a situation. But now, a combination of being surrounded by positive people and enjoying my life has meant I have softened into a (generally… sometimes I slip up!) optimistic and happy person.
I don’t care about money. This one isn’t so much being an expat as it is being an au pair (read: unqualified nanny and english teacher) because the money we get is pretty lousy. Don’t get me wrong, I am not bashing my job because I actually thoroughly enjoy it and work for a fantastic family, but because the family provides food & accommodation, your salary takes a bit of a nose dive. Every month I live on roughly €250, maybe €300 if I strike lucky with a babysitting job. But I don’t care anymore. I’ll go out and sit by the river with a €3 bottle of wine, I’m that girl.
I can’t speak English anymore. Not only has my English become pretty Americanised (however, not spelling!) because of all my expat American friends, but being surrounded by non-native speakers means I am constantly picking up bad habits. Germans misplace simple words like “also” in a sentence and this week I legitimately found myself saying “And she would like also to come.” – yes, it’s comprehensible, but it’s just not the done thing is it? I am also constantly forgetting words to never be remembered again, which is pretty embarrassing when you are trying to teach kids English and most of your answers are “yknow, I don’t know”. Thank god for Google translate!
I dress weird. Ok, in my opinion, it’s not weird but it is different so I forgive anyone’s faux pas of calling my dress sense weird. When I was in France, I began wearing a lot of grey and black, as they do in Paris. When I went home in March this year for a visit, all people could do was comment on how I “dressed French”, which was pretty funny because I stuck out like a sore thumb in France (not chic enough!), then went home and stuck out there too. Now, in Germany, I tend to always have something brightly coloured or eye-catching (read: shiny) in my outfit because Germans just… actually I don’t even have words to describe Germany’s fashion sense. Just last week I saw a woman in denim leggings and a denim crop top… what on earth?
I understand the necessity for a bum bag. For anyone who doesn’t know what a bum bag is, it’s a “fanny pack” in other cultures, but “fanny” means something entirely different in England so we call it a bum bag. Before I became an expat, I would only find bum bags acceptable on children or old women, anyone else was making a huge error in judgement and needed to get it together. Now, I can totally understand the necessity and in Germany they are actually pretty popular, so I’ve definitely had to become used to seeing them everywhere. Which also means I’ve seen how convenient they are…
DON’T WORRY. I am not going to start sporting a bum bag, I can’t bring myself to do it. Just because I understand the practicality behind it does not mean I can go out and buy, or worse, wear one. I guess as much as being an expat has changed me, there are some things that will always stay the same. Thing such as using the word indeed, replacing ‘th’ with ‘f’ (it’s an Essex thing) and my extreme distaste for bum bags.