So What Do You Miss?

I’m thinking of visiting the US soon, (It’s been 2 years…) and so I thought I’d answer a question I get asked a lot: What do you miss about back home?

First of all, the concept of back home is kind of difficult for me. Which home do you mean? Do you mean my birth state of New Mexico? The happy childhood years I spent in Colorado? All of my moves in Texas? Perhaps my high school years in Kuwait? What about that adventure in Costa Rica? Or my husband’s home in Spain? I spent 3 years in Toronto, too, does that count? How about my grandparent’s place in Utah? My parents’ house? What about where I am right now? Where exactly is home?

For our purposes today, I am gonna say that home is Texas, where my parents live, where I attended college and where I had my first job. But in a general sense, I also mean the United States. For instance, (and you’re gonna think I am soooo weird) I really miss cottage cheese. That is not just a Texas thing. I’m pretty sure cottage cheese is a standard issue supermarket staple across the US. (It is not, however, across the globe.)

When I ask myself, “what do you miss?” I immediately think of food. What else matters, right?

The truth is that I’m not your typical American, and that goes for my food choices, too. Among the things I most desperately miss are: V8 juice, cottage cheese, all-natural sugar-free plain yogurt, buttermilk, Perrier water and my indulgence, Ben & Jerry’s ice cream.

What a sicko, you are probably thinking. All the great food available and she misses sour milk and pureed vegetables? Yeah, okay. But I also miss Mexican food and kolaches and Texas barbecue and Jolly Rancher candies. So I’m not a complete nut. Mmmm nuts. I miss pecans, too.

As far as non-food items go, I think I most miss the absolute ease of getting things done in the US, where there is very little baeurocracy (How in the *** do you spell that word?) and things like mailing a package or getting a driver’s license are pretty straightforward. Also, I kind of sort of miss the ability to converse freely in my own language any time I want. Like if I am at a clothing store, how great would it be to be able to get assistance without having to mime “No, I need a bigger size. Go ahead and laugh at the enormity of the foreigner.”?

I don’t really miss too much. Life can be lived no matter where you are. I remember before we moved to Kuwait, my mom went to Sam’s and bought all these giant sized items to ship over. Like, what if there is no Windex in Kuwait? Some of those things came in handy, some didn’t. I’ve made that mistake in my own moves, too. When I went to Costa Rica, I tried to bring a year supply of the beauty products I loved the most, only to find I could buy almost anything there. Now that I live out of one suitcase, I like to just stick with necessary items. (And if you’re planning a move to China anytime soon, that list should contain deodorant! ☺) You live and you learn. Mostly I’ve learned not to get too attached to any one kind of shampoo.

That being said, the moment I made the decision to go back for a visit, the first thing I did was put in an order to Sephora and Drugstore.com for all the products I’ve been craving. One thing is being able to survive and another thing is being spoiled.

So if you are an expat, what do you miss? And if not, what do you think you would miss?

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4 Responses to “So What Do You Miss?”

  1. Ryan Vavra Says:

    I lived in the Japanese city of Osaka for half a decade.
    When I first arrived I couldn’t read any Japanese so at the supermarket I bought things based solely on appearance. I was surprised by realities many times. One time in the early days I was eating lunch at my desk. I was enjoying a soaked ‘plum-like’ fruit when a co-worker pointed out it was alcoholic. Come to think of it a dozen or so ‘Ume-shu’ seemed to stunt reality so slightly…
    In the early days people from my company would take me out to eat often to introduce me to the abundance great local favorites in this food oriented city. I enjoyed many great meals and when I got home hungry I’d have to eat again.
    Over time I developed my personal favorites including sushi, okonomiyaki, and like so many Japanese I ate at least 300 bentos (Japanese boxed lunch) each year. With all of the walking, healthy food, and realistic portions both at restaurant and supermarket I lost about ten pounds and moved down a belt notch. I found it last fall after a few months back in the states and the wear around belt notch 3 a distant memory as I latch the snug 2 position currently.
    I do love my home country’s food: deli meats and cheeses, salted-in-the-shell peanuts, cut washed bagged spinach, WHOLE GRAIN BREAD, hummus, and nibs licorice (red and black).
    Yes, great foods are available in the USA to suit a variety of tastes. And if you’re shopping for a medium to large size family training for the Tour de France, the American supermarket has bargains for you –such as twelve frozen pizzas for five dollars.

  2. global gal Says:

    Thanks for you comments. I really love hearing from other expats (or former expats) and their experiences.

    I can really relate to the problem of not knowing what you are actually buying or eating. This happens all the time to me. I’m intrigued by the multitudes of Chinese snack foods, whether it is dried seaweed (a favorite), nuts, dried fruits, meat flavored candies (yes! you read that right.), dried seafood (my sis-in-law refers to this as dried squid bits), and a whole host of other unknowns. Pictures on the labels helps, but you never know for sure about the flavorings or spices. Drinkable soups is another snack I have yet to tackle, but I spend a good 15 minutes on every trip to the supermarket just marveling at them.

    I also buy a lot of green vegetables off the farmers in front of my apartment. I don’t know what a lot of it is, but it’s all good! When I ask my English speaking friends, no one knows how to say them in English. I have been at some wonderful dinners where we had the best food and of course, I will inevitably forget to ask for the dish names. With my limited Chinese it is impossible to re-order some of these great dishes.

    I’ve been reading quite a lot about the Japanese diet. I’ve always enjoyed Japanese foods. It really is an incredibly healthy and satisfying diet. Luckily, some Korean & Japanese foods are available here in China. (Though not enough!)

    You mentioned whole wheat bread, which reminded me that I forgot to add that to my list. Non-sweet, whole wheat bread is something I have extreme difficulty locating here, although I know it is available in the bigger cities.

    My one fear in returning to the US is the inevitable overwhelming feeling I will have about the food portions. I’m not sure I am ready for Sam’s Wholesale either. Twelve frozen pizzas for five dollars, indeed. These days, I’m not sure I’d bother paying for ONE frozen pizza!

  3. superkimbo Says:

    Ah, the comforts of home. I am fortunate in the fact that my parents have lived in the same house since I was 8 years old. I have a pretty well-defined sense of home in the US – although I do feel that wherever I live, as long as I’m with my husband, is my home. Malaysia feels like home. Germany felt like home. I’m sure Thailand will be the same.

    Anyway, the things I miss:
    – Driving. Oh the pleasure of being able to get behind the wheel and go wherever I want. No waiting for public transport or taxis – what a luxury.
    – Shock Tarts. I don’t know why, but I just love those sour candies and you can never get them outside of the US.
    – Italian food. This was no problem in Germany, but I’m seriously going through bread/pasta/cheese withdrawal here in Asia.
    – Sales. In places where clothes fit my (as you so eloquently put it) enormity. Oh, factory outlet stores, my credit cards are primed and ready for my return in June.
    – The comfort of knowing “how things work.” I love how stepping back onto US soil means that I know how to get anything and everything, I know how to deal with people, how to interact, where to find things, what to look for. Everything just happens, without that concerted effort that living abroad constantly requires.

    Having said all that, I think I would be totally bored if I lived in the States. It’s a fun relief to go home for the summer and have all these things, but after a month or two, I’m ready for the challenge of the foreign life again 😉

    And btw, I love cottage cheese too 🙂

  4. global gal Says:

    You’ll see if you read on in the blog that I am not much of a fan of driving – but I definitely agree with you on the “how things work” thing. That is what I was trying to say in the post. So simple, so intuitive, for us Americans!

    I’ve got one week to go and then I am Houston-bound. About 15 boxes are waiting for me at my parents’ house – If you can’t go to the sales, at least you can shop them online!

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