This just in from a friend who has moved to the Orient:
5 Things You Experience While Living in Another Culture:
1. You constantly learn and unlearn language. Doorways in the brain are opening and closing due to the words you are hearing and using. We have lots of awkward moments when we can’t say what we want to say in Chinese, but much more disconcerting is when we can’t say something in English! We often have bizarre moments when one of us turns to the other, wide eyed, and asks, “How do you say 地瓜in English?”
2. The lines between normal and strange behaviour get blurred. Trying to adapt between cultures can get confusing when you shift back and forth. For example, the etiquette of giving/receiving gifts in China is very different. You might make a major faux pas if you act Canadian while giving a gift here. Then, when you finally master the nuances of how to give a gift the right way here and you mistakenly act that way back in Canada, you are being a weirdo.
3. You measure the value of material possessions in a different way. Stuff is no longer just a price tag or how much you like it. Whether something is going to make the short list of being worthy to drag around the world means undergoing rigorous scrutiny. Things are appraised with the all-important A: Can it fit in my suitcase? B: Can I get that in China? C: Can I do without that? For example, do they sell women’s shoes in giant sizes in China? No. Thus, my shoes are on the short list. Are all the shoes I want on the short list? No, not even close. See A. Do I need both black and brown shoes? See C.
4. You surprise yourself with your own flexibility and inflexibility. You can get used to a lot things you would never have thought/said/done/eaten before. I was thinking about that the other day when I found myself sipping Earl Grey tea and eating kimchi (spicy fermented cabbage). You can learn to roll with a lot of punches while living cross culturally. But you might also find small strange things have unwittingly become a safety net for you. For example, I am unreasonably attached to my Nalgene water bottles. It’s not just a water bottle. It’s also my cool pack, hot water bottle, sunglasses protector, extra storage area, and travel buddy. It was with me through experience XYZ. Can you borrow it? No. No you can’t. It’s not just a water bottle.
5. Weird things can make you sentimental. Small things can pop up out of nowhere and make you miss home. A smell, a sound, a word. Sometimes it isn’t the things you usually romanticize about home like Nana’s cooking, or the smell of wood smoke, or an old hymn. Sometimes you are walking past a barrel of meat parts and a Celine Dion song comes over the speakers. You don’t even like Celine Dion. But you heard that song at home the summer your youngest brother was born. And suddenly you find you are staring misty eyed into a pile of gizzards, thinking of home.