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.


  1. I can understand what you must be going through...the continent feels "different" to me...

    Aloha from Honolulu :)

    Comfort Spiral

  2. I know how you feel -- like a foreigner in your own country. I hail from the Netherlands but haven't lived there for decades. I visit regularly, but I am not familiar with lots of things related to culture or politics or the various "systems" and how things are done.

    I speak the language perfectly so I'm expected to be a normal Dutch person, but then in the store or bank or where ever, something will be said or expected of me and I have no clue what they'e talking about. They look at me as if I am an alien, and well, guess what, I am. Sort of. So I always tell them, sorry, but I've lived abroad forever and I don't understand what you mean. Makes me feel like a foreigner all right!

  3. Can't wait for more of your fresh corky stories!

    As a European living in the States I totally relate... every day is an adventure : )



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