The obvious reality of expat living is, life is not always on autopilot mode. Simple things such as getting in a car on the correct side can sometimes take more brainpower than necessary (who moved the steering wheel?).
Naturally, expats get comfortable with subtle disruptions, and we go about our day feeling life is good, albeit a bit different, but everything is good. As the universe would have it, that’s when unexpected moments happen. A sudden change of direction in the wind, can quickly divert our thoughts to, Hold up! What’s going on here (and why is no one else freaking out)?
Expats are on a constant learning curve, and we find ourselves exposed to situations that we wouldn’t back home.
Revealing first-hand experiences in countries such as Germany, Vietnam, South Korea, Turkey, and China is the Expat Dream Team panel 13#.
This team is answering the question: What are some (silly) mishaps that have occurred in your expat life that wouldn’t happen in your home country?
”I currently live in Guangzhou, China. Previously lived in Taipei, Taiwan Xiamen, China and Beijing China. I’m originally from the Bay Area, California. Fun fact…. I still squirm like a little kid when it comes to needles.”
IG: Wuwulife Website: www.wuwulife.com
”There are so many in China.”
”Once I had an air condition guy come to our apartment to fix our AC. To get outside, he really just hooked on a rope and went outside our 26th floor building to inspect the Ac unit.”
”Driving down one way lanes is quite common. It’s mostly for suggestions that there will be oncoming cars, so the driver driving in the opposite direction must hurry.”
”This last one is by far the most common one in China. If a child needs to use the restroom and there’s none around, the parents will help them alleviate anywhere. Anywhere meaning just next to a tree on the sidewalk, or just grabbing a plastic bag at a grocery store and letting them go there right in the store.”
‘‘I am originally from Texas and now I live in Wiesbaden, Germany. After growing up in a small town in Texas I moved to Colorado for 3 years. After our time in Colorado we took the leap and moved to Wiesbaden in the Spring of 2020. Since 2017, I have been teaching in various levels to include middle and elementary schools. I have been married for 5 years and we have two dogs, Norman & Willie.”
‘‘Many of the roads in Germany are very small and cars are often parked on the side making them even smaller. While driving one day I found myself and a railroad crossing for the first time since moving here. I pulled up to where I thought I should wait for the arms to go up after the train passed.”
”After sitting for a minute or two, the train was gone and it was almost time to go over the tracks. To my surprise, about 8 cars behind me, which I thought were parked on the street, restarted their cars to also go over the tracks.”
”I had driven around the line of cars waiting at the tracks because all of their European cars turn off when waiting and it looked like they were just parked on the street. I can only imagine the comments I was getting as I drove to the front of the line. I still cringe to this day.”
”Kristen currently lives in her hometown of Kansas City, but previously called Seoul, Philadelphia & Seattle home too. Traveling and living abroad with her young family has been a big pleasant surprise, and incredibly rewarding. She typically spends a lot of her time chasing down her three sweet and energetic kids. She can also be found baking in her kitchen, reading a good book, or enjoying the outdoors with friends & family.”
”When we first moved to Korea, the realtor assured us that the apartment we would be renting came with a fridge. We assumed this would be a large, standard fridge, since this is what we saw in the pictures! Unfortunately, the previous renter took that large fridge with them. The fridge that DID come with the apartment was a KIMCHI fridge, apparently. A kimchi fridge is quite small (think hotel fridge) and intended to keep your kimchi (spicy pickled cabbage) apart from other food to contain the unique smell. Needless to say, we needed to buy a much larger fridge for every-day use. But we did store our beverages in the small kimchi fridge!”
”A point of confusion during my time in Korea dealt with: international age vs. Korean age. For the first while that we lived there, I’d tell strangers who asked that my toddler (20+ months at the time) was a 1 year old. This was consistently met with shocked faces, which seemed odd to me. I finally realized that there is a different counting system in Korea! Apparently when a baby is born in Korea they are instantly 1. Upon the new calendar year, they become 2. The following calendar year, they turn 3. No wonder we were both so confused! Everyone thought I had the world’s largest infant, as he was already considered age 3 in Korea! ”
Learn what 64 Unwritten Rules in 14 Countries are.
”Hi, I’m Cass! Prior to moving abroad, I was living in the capital of Canada – Ottawa. And yes. It’s freezing! Like many, I was feeling completely lost on what to do after graduation. Combine that with being housebound for 6 weeks with a broken ankle, and I knew it was time for a big change. One night, I had a dream that I was living in Thailand and I woke up determined to make that dream my reality! I’ve now been living and working as a teacher in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam for over 3 years and have had the adventure of a lifetime. I love the 3 t’s – tacos, travel, and Taylor Swift.”
”There are many, especially in a country that is so different to Canada!”
”The first and probably funniest story that comes to mind happened at a restaurant. I had been living here for about 6 months already and my mom came to visit me. We had an amazing time! One evening, we went out for dinner at a restaurant close to my apartment. At the time I was living in a very Vietnamese neighbourhood and my language skills were still sub-par. I ordered some food for the table. Out comes delicious stir-fried morning glory with garlic, eggplant and… chicken feet??? Looking back at the menu I realized I had incorrectly translated the dish as chicken thigh instead of chicken feet. I tried my best to eat the chicken feet but it was not something I enjoyed! Glad I could give my mom a laugh though.”
”I was traveling from where I live to the cute beach town of Mui Ne, roughly a 5 hour journey by bus. I was so excited to finally get away for the weekend after not being able to travel due for months due to COVID. The bus routes here stop every few hours at these large rest stops. I got off the bus to stretch my legs and go to the bathroom. Upon returning to the parking area about 10 minutes later, my bus was no longer the only one there. There were now about 8-10 busses and I had no idea which one was mine! Okay. Don’t panic. Ask someone for help. Well, my Vietnamese is still terrible after all this time. No one could understand me or speak English. Uh oh. Panic now setting in. I quickly went into each bus looking for my belongings, desperately praying that my bus hadn’t left yet. The relief I felt when I found the right one!! I now make sure to always mentally note down the bus number or license plate. Will not make that mistake again!”
Meet Stacey and EunSung
”We are Stacey and EunSung Kang. We are expats living in Istanbul, Turkey. EunSung grew up as a TCK and has lived all over the world, but we previously lived together in China and Thailand. We are teachers, writers, and with our Master’s degrees in Intercultural Studies, we love to observe and research culture while being in an intercultural marriage. We have two little boys and a fun fact about our family is that each person in our family was born in a different country: South Korea, USA, China, and Thailand.”
”When we were living in China, I (Stacey) would practice speaking Chinese with my local friend. One day she said, “Stacey, I need to tell you something. Last week, you were cussing a lot!” I said, “What do you mean? I don’t know any cuss words in Chinese!” She responded, “Your tones must have been all wrong. You said a lot of the f-word.” I went on to ask her why she hadn’t told me while it was happening and she said she was too embarrassed! Ah! My attention to tones quickly improved.”
‘‘On a plane ride back to the Mainland from Hong Kong, we sat next to a Chinese man who was eager to talk with us. We had only been living in China for a few months and our Chinese was beginner, at best! With our phones turned off for the plane ride, we were on our own for communication. The man told us about his daughter-in-law, who was a 外国人 (foreigner) like us. This much we understood. But he told us where she was from and we both said, “We don’t know that country.” He grinned and repeated himself. We once again said, “We don’t know this word!” He began laughing so hard and telling other people on the plane, all in Chinese: “They don’t know 俄罗斯! They don’t know 俄罗斯!” We shrugged and the conversation found an end since our limited vocabulary had clearly been exhausted. When the plane landed we looked up the word. The word we didn’t know? It was Russia. We laughed realizing that he thought it was insane that we had never heard of Russia!”
”Last week, we were at a nice restaurant here in Istanbul. Stacey had a lot of food leftover because the appetizers had been plentiful so we got a to go bag for the rest of her food. Dessert came and to make room on the table, EunSung put the bag with the food inside of it on the ground next to his chair. The waiter quickly came up and said, “Don’t put the bag on the ground!” We put it back on the table and decided to ask more about why. Our friends said that because the bag had bread inside, it was considered disrespectful to put it on the ground. Similarly, you will find leftover bread all over Istanbul, but for the purpose of passing on to the poor or needy. It is never to be thrown away!”
Expat life can be so telling and while we do our best to prevent committing any cultural faux pas. We sometimes get more out of sudden, unexpected situations, by allowing ourselves to be fully immersed.