Friday, August 6, 2010
Masquerading as Americans: Post-Ex-pat Beginnings
I'm not sure how many of you are aware of this, but two weeks ago my family and I moved to Portland Oregon from Tahiti, French Polynesia. I've been living away from the US for 17 years, my husband Josh has been away for 18 years and my kids have never lived in the US.
The trouble is that while we look and sound American, we have all these weird ticks: my 14 year old daughter is afraid of escalators, my 12 year old son has to ask lots of language question like "what's a hippy?" Josh pretty much goes everywhere shirtless and shoeless (all of us feel confined and uncomfortable in shoes) and I stumble on credit card slide machines, keep trying to bag my own groceries and just generally feel lost.
The pleasant thing about Portland though is that it's OK to be weird. In most cases I just explain to people: "Hey, I'm sorry, I have no idea what I'm doing. I know I seem like an American but I've been living abroad for a long time and a lot has changed."
In most cases people just ask where I've been and then explain whatever it is that I'm lost about whether it's how public libraries work in the Internet age or what Netflicks is - then they ask why I look so cold when it's 75 degrees outside.