Fitting In and Fighting Homesickness as an Expat

An international couple living abroad

After a solid year of knowing that we’re moving back to Brazil, things are finally, finally moving quickly. The paperwork madness is (we hope) at an end. We have all of our documents in hand and we’re going to show up at the consulate tomorrow to submit everything. With luck, we’ll have our passports back with our shiny new visas in about a week.

We’ve given our notice on this flat and will turn in our keys at the end of the week. After one last weekend spent with friends, we’ll be in a hotel for the last few days before our flight to Sao Paulo, and then it begins again.

We’ll be leaving behind our British way of life, and will be another big step away from our America way of life. We’ll be slipping back in to the Brazilian way of doing all of those little things that make up a normal existence, and I’m sure we’ll complain about a lot of it. I’m also sure we’ll be thrilled with even more of it. There is nothing easy about living there, but at least this time we have a pretty firm grasp of the language and we know what to expect.

And I’m looking forward to those long Brazilian get-togethers with friends, when we can spend hours upon hours in conversation, laughing, telling stories, hearing jokes and smiling at all the kids while we enjoy the never ending parade of food and a few drinks.

So how do we fit in?

Do we? Can we? Will we ever?

Yes and no. As soon as we open our mouths with our foreign accents we are outed as outsiders. We do our best to participate in the culture, and we always learn something new whether it’s a birthday custom or a simple way to greet someone. We can sing the birthday song, we know what to expect for a one year old’s birthday party, we know what to bring to the BBQ and we know what to say in most situations.

But there is a lot we don’t know as well. Part of my identity is my awkwardness, so I’m fairly comfortable with feeling like I’m not wholly understanding what’s going on socially. This is a huge help when I’m actually not understanding what’s going on socially. Whether I’m in the UK, or in Brazil, there are customs, traditions and every day conversations that are outside the scope of my experience. If you want to find me in a group conversation, no matter what language, I’m the wide eyed one saying, “What now? What does that mean? Is that good or bad?”

Ask, ask, ask! That’s how I get by. I fully own my ignorance, and do my best to learn as I go.

What makes us homesick?

I can really say that I haven’t been homesick at all here in the UK. I’m loving the differences, probably because things are really good here. The cities are clean and relatively safe, I speak the language, transportation is easy and I’ve made some really good friends in a short year.

Brazil is a whole other ball game. Everything is different there, and everything is complicated. Personal safety is always on the front of our minds. There is decent public transportation but it isn’t all that safe. Driving in the insane traffic is not safe. Walking around outside is not necessarily safe. Going to the bank, jogging to the park, riding your bike, etc. Not safe.

Safe-ish. Fine most of the time. But there has to be a level of awareness in everything we do that can be exhausting.

I’ll miss good, clean grocery stores. I’ll miss decent customer service. I’ll miss not spending a fortune on everything we need. I’ll miss feeling comfortable in my own strange way of doing anything. I feel like I’m under a bigger microscope in Brazil. The fact that we’ll be just about the only foreigners in our town doesn’t help. I’ll miss drivers who stay in their lanes, who (mostly) signal when they’re going to turn, who actually stop at red lights and who (generally) won’t mow you down when you cross the street on foot.

So what now?

We have a plan.

We have classes to check out, courses to sign up for, neighbors to meet, pools to swim in and new things to learn.

We have friends to get in touch with.

We have new things to try.

We have new places to go.

We have a new life to build, and we’re excited about it.

I’m linking up with Belinda at Found Love, Now What for her Expat Q&A September. Go check out her blog, it’s lovely!

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About akil3655

A Scotsman and his American photographer wife traveling the world and writing about it. Tales, reviews, photos, interviews and crazy goings on. Because you never know what's going to happen.

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4 Responses to Fitting In and Fighting Homesickness as an Expat

  1. Bailie @ The Hemborg Wife September 17, 2013 at 11:45 am #

    Thank you so much for linking up with us! Moving to Brazil sounds like such an exciting adventure and I am looking forward to reading your posts about it!
    Bailie @ The Hemborg Wife recently posted..Expat to Expat Q&A – #5 Homesickness and Cultural AdjustmentsMy Profile

    • akil3655
      Twitter: kiltandacamera
      September 17, 2013 at 9:18 pm #

      Happy to link up! I’m looking forward to finally getting to those Brazilian adventures. ;)

  2. Emma @ Adventures of a London Kiwi September 23, 2013 at 3:35 pm #

    You’ve got a really unique view on being an expat – been there, done that, doing it again! Do you find yourself eating all the things that you’ll miss before you go?

    • akil3655
      Twitter: kiltandacamera
      September 23, 2013 at 3:57 pm #

      Emma, I used to eat it all! And I’d load my suitcase with every “home” treat I could find, but I seem to have gotten over it this time.
      Now it’s more about making the rounds to see all of our friends and family before we go. I’m hording time and memories with them, and I’m really enjoying the efficiency of all things English. That will all go away the second we arrive in Brazil. ;)