Home for the Summer – How will Friends and Family Respond to Tales of Overseas Adventures?

Last time I was home, my friends and family hardly showed any interest in conversations about climbing ancient pyramids, exploring temples in Cambodia or eating from push-carts in the streets of Bangkok. I’ve been overseas for a few years now and my daily life is far different from the folks back home. I don’t want to alienate the people closest to me and so  I’m thinking to make this homecoming a “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” scenario. Any experiences  or advice to share?

38 Responses to Home for the Summer – How will Friends and Family Respond to Tales of Overseas Adventures?

  1. Miss P says:

    Agree … The reality is the folks at home will not relate; some will listen politely, for a little while! Others will feel resentful or envious and those who love you will be happy to listen for a little while but as they are not really in expat mindset , they will probably look a bit anxious or confused at times.mYour best bet is teacgers who want an os job too abd will pump you for info!

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  2. S says:

    I don’t have anything significantly new to add to this thread other than to say that I’ve also experienced that isolated feeling upon returning home.

    I have a question, though. What’s a TCK?

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  3. Birdman says:

    I agree with Trav45 for the most part. One must work on the smug problem.

    Also, I feel that US Television Culture has something to do with it; people might show more natural interest if they didn’t spend so much time having their little vicarious video experiences that seem to replace so much.

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  4. dirkgently says:

    Whenever we return home for a holiday, if we try to talk about our travels to relatives, they are almost never interested. We have brought photo albums with us in the past, they seldom got more than a cursory inspecion – even some of the really spectacular trips to the great wall of china, ankor wat in cambodia and ha long bay in vietnam. They will happily talk for hours about their holiday, so it is not fear of travel. I do not think vwe are the only people this happens to.

    These days we only show people who are interested.

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  5. Alia says:

    When I call home from Iraq infrequently, my mother keeps me hanging while she goes and turns on her coffee, etc then goes on about some petty problem without a single question. I think this is more a function of her narcisstic character than anything else.

    Other people are fascinated, but the fact is that I cannot imagine a more boring life than the one I have lived here for two years, and my experiences in China were briefer and again, not terribly interesting. Teaching ESL anywhere is boring and I have to think up things not to disappoint my listeners. But then, I started travelling for pleasure when I was 16 (and am now 60), so maybe I was jaded to begin with!

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  6. to nervous to wander says:

    I agree with you Duras, very well said! I already find that friends and family are leading such different lives from me and I am not even overseas yet! It’s not always easy to try and relate as best we can to people who are experiencing much different situations in their life.I do believe that some will be interested in your experiences and others will stare at you like you are insane, but such is life. Sometimes insanity can be a positive thing, lol!

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  7. Duras says:

    To Everyone who disagrees with me…🙂

    I understand your point of view, but what I understand and continue to read is that people cannot relate to our experiences. However, this is not unique to people who live overseas.

    I am single with no children. People with children who are married (or maybe not ) cannot relate to situations in my life at times. And I cannot always relate to them. Their lives center on their children. In my life I only have me to worry about. Okay, so we don’t relate. Who cares? One day, maybe I’ll understand, but I’m not going to judge them for not understanding me.

    I am black. Several, if not all, of the white foreigners who work with me definitely cannot relate to my experiences as a black person in Latin America. If I do vent to them, they look at me like “what”?

    So, is this disappointing to me? No, but everyone reacts differently to different situations.

    But let’s be honest with ourselves. Don’t many people who live overseas feel a little too proud when they return home? I sense it from expatriates often.

    I’m sorry for the disappointment that you feel. Blogs, chat rooms, and your fellow co-workers may have to be your comforting source. Any if your friends and family are not interested, what more can you do?

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    • Trav45 says:

      You’re right that there is a certain smugness among most ex-pats. I certainly see it in myself. Even overseas, you see a sort of “competition” to have the most exotic vacations–it’s like every time you have more than a week off, people take pity on you if you’re not going somewhere. I stayed home a couple Christmases to just putz and co-workers looked at me like I was nuts. Hello! I’m living in CAIRO, I think that’s plenty exotic!

      Having said that, I also understand the undercurrent of feeling slightly superior when relating to stay-at-home friends. The value systems are different: it’s no big deal to me to own a house, have kids, etc. It’s human nature to think whatever you value is a better way of looking at the world.

      I will say, having been overseas for 10 years, I was really starting to feel cut off from my family and from the States. Three or four weeks every summer isn’t much for maintaining, let alone building, relationships. I came home for a year for grad school, ended up staying four. It’s been a good chance to reconnect, although I’m heading out again next year. It’s in the blood. What can I say?

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  8. Darryl says:

    To Duras!

    Umm, the point people are mentioning isn’t always that they are superior – we do listen to our friends and family talk about their lives. But the frustrating part is the isolation when our listening is not rewarded with being listened to by the people that mean the most to us! What’s wrong with telling people of our experiences and venting when we feel abandoned by the lack of interest in our tales! It is damn painful to realize that you are growing in a different direction then those you care about. Something is lost in that journey and it hits you right between the eyes when you return to the blank glazes and the shrugged shoulders. Those people cannot relate to your world, have no picture in their minds, no vivid movie to tell the story. Julia Roberts has yet to star in Eat, Pray, Love – until then, it’s all quiet on the home front..(joking). But it is painful and disappointing.

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  9. Duras says:

    M,

    I agree with you.

    I must confess. After living overseas for the past four years, I have to say that my fellow expatriates are sometimes the most annoying. At times, I feel like there’s this “better than you” attitude. Many times, I just don’t want to hear their travel stores. Many times they speak pompously.😦 (Humility, anyone?)

    Not everyone chooses this life. How many of you ask your friends back home about their marriages, children, milestones, new home, etc? Are you interested in their life as well?

    It really annoys me when people from developed countries (U.S, Canada, etc.) speak negatively of their fellow citizens. If people don’t want to travel outside the U.S, that’s fine. Many people who choose to relocate to the U.S, Canada, etc do so out of necessity, not because they want a “new experience”. And in my humble opinion, the U.S is so diverse that you really don’t have to go far to experience a different culture.

    How many of you have been to a China town in the U.S, Harlem, the Deep South to an all-black gathering, the far Southwest of Texas which is more like Mexico, or Miami which could be a country of its own with its significant Latino/Cuban? In theory, you could visit a taste of many cultures in the U.S without even leaving your backyard.

    I guess I sense an arrogance in these posts. So what if no one’s interested in your travel stories. You do it for you, not them, right?

    I don’t feel that my friends and family are any different. They ask about my life, but I also show interest in theirs. My best friend just purchased her first home, my cousin is graduating from high school, my high school classmate just received her pilot’s license!

    Life is not just centered around my living overseas experience. You all need to stop being so self-absorbed.

    I’m not trying to be harsh, but we must remember that we do this for ourselves. I feel as though we return home with some preconceived ideas of how others should respond to us.

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  10. shanghaiguy says:

    My wife and I have had the same experiences and we just shrug it off. I do feel bad for our kids however, as they head back to North America to university I worry that they will have difficulty connecting with others.

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  11. Trav45 says:

    Obviously, we can all relate to this. While it sometimes annoys me, it’s very understandable. Before I went overseas, I must admit to some jealousy when other people would tell me their stories. Also, listeners who haven’t lived overseas don’t have much frame of reference, so why should it mean anything to them? Even people who have done a couple vacations, just don’t have the same depth of experience from their 7 day package tour that we get living in a culture every day.

    What friends and family DO enjoy, though are emails, photos, etc. that they can read at their leisure. As I make this next move, I plan to set up a blog that they can check whenever they want. I’m also buying a camcorder to record quick little “snatch of life” videos to post.

    The one thing we did always enjoy talking about were the emails I had sent.

    Also, as others have mentioned, find a friend who has traveled, and save most of your stories for him/her. I have a friend I always make a point to have dinner with once I’m home, and we swap stories into the night.

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  12. Bob says:

    It tends to be a hit or miss, those who have traveled seem to be the most interested. In response to a couple of other replies, I think friends and family appreciate newsletters, e-mail updates, or blogs even if there isn’t the response you want, rest assured you do have people interested in your happenings. I post a blog about once a week with tons of pix (my readers like to see what I’m talking about). There are people waiting back home to hear more.

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  13. Jude says:

    I have been overseas for 25 years and know exactely what you are feeling. The most important thing to remember is that you want to keep these old friends close and personal as you will eventually return home to live and old friends who have known you all of these years will help with that adjustment. When you return in the summer concentrate on the relationship growing and changing as you both have had a year of experiences and you are the exciting one and sometimes that is hard for the folks back home to handle so the more you settle into a routine with them the more they will look forward to seeing you every year and eventually coming to visit you hopefully. Its more about your relationship with them continuting then it is about you telling stories.

    Ex-Pat Lifecoach-Judy Barrett

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    • Shane says:

      “keep these old friends close and personal as you will eventually retuen home to live”

      That’s a bit of a sweeping assumption, isn’t it?

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  14. KG says:

    Agree with everyone else. I found, after coming back from these amazing experiences, most conversations went like this.

    “I bet [fill in country] is pretty different than here?”
    “Yes, it is. For example-”
    “-Cool.”

    And that was about all they wanted to know. It bugged me a first, but now I just let it go. For the people who really do want to know, they will ask.

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  15. Debbie says:

    I agree with the comments that not everybody ‘back home’ understands or is able to share your excitement of overseas experiences. After 40 years of intermittent adventures, I soooo know those blank stares and polite nods. But please – I passionately implore all — do not run silent! The minute you step foot out of your home country you become, by default, ambassadors of a vital social change – worldmindedness. You become the bridge over ignorance and blaze the trail for the curios.

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  16. Thomas says:

    I have lived/worked abroad for much of the last 20 years. I would agree with most of the comments from my fellow ex-pats. For most of my US friends and family, my life/experiences are just too far outside their understanding. They are still friends and family of course, only I’ve come to realize that my world and theirs seem to be very different in many respects. That said, I am fortunate in having a handful of good friends/family who genuinely care and are interested in the goings on of my life. It does take an effort on their part, and similarly it takes an effort on my part to stay up with them. But then, that’s what being a good friend is all about…even if that friend is also family!

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  17. Aardy Willow says:

    Those people ‘back home’ are still the wonderful people they always were ‘back then’ but they just haven’t changed as much as we have as we nomad Planet Earth. I have experienced their lack of ability to relate to my lifestyle long ago and consciously decided to keep up with their worlds through skype and take an active interest in what they are doing and experiencing. Notice that they love the attention, interest, and chance to tell me what is important to them. I don’t need the same from them because I have lots of like-minded travelers to talk about my life with outside of that back-home scene. I left ’em but still love ’em dearly. I don’t even try to show pictures and never send postcards. I’m overseas for myself; not them. They have white picket fences with climbing roses growing up the trellis and you can’t have it both ways!

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  18. Maree Dirou says:

    I am an Australian teacher who has travelled and worked in Europe, Japan and North America, including an adventurous experience on an Indian Reserve in Ontario, Canada. I have certainly experienced the same thing from both family and friends each time I return home, and I have learned to just accept that and not get frustrated or upset about it.
    My advice and view on this is pretty simple. Most people are simply just too involved in their own lives and what’s going on around them and aren’t genuinely all that interested in yours most of the time, it’s just human nature. I know that sounds harsh but I feel it’s the truth. Also, people that haven’t travelled abroard often just can’t relate to what you’ve experienced. You come home a changed person with all these amazing experiences and new things that you’ve seen with this temendous feeling of personal growth, but nothing’s changed for them, they are probably still where they were, plodding along doing the same thing. You’ve changed you see, but they haven’t.
    Often I have also found a little envy and sour grapes can creep in. I have unfortunately at times found this the case with friends. There’s always that touch of competitiveness whether we like to admit that or not, with syblings also. But even with my parents! I’d be all psyched up to tell my Dad about my amazing experiences in this country or that city, and he would often only half believe me, saying what he’d read in a book or seen on a documentary said different! LOL. So I gave up.
    So ultimately my advice to you is just to let it go, and do these travels and experiences for yourself and no-one else. Don’t worry about impressing or pleasing others it gets you nowhere. Travelling, and especially living and working in another country is an invaluable experience that expands your horizons and mind in a way that books (and TV) never can, and I think it’s something everyone should do once in their lifetime. Trouble is once that travel bug bites you that’s it, you’re addicted! Just enjoy yourself and the people you’re with no matter where you are and accept that some people are just the way the are and you can’t change them. Each of us had our own journey, life goes on and the world continues to turn, that’s a lesson I’ve had to gradually learn over the years. But it won’t stop me travelling oh no, it’s in my blood now!

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  19. Roberto says:

    “I am not an Athenian or a Greek, but a citizen of the world.”
    Socrates, from Plutarch, Of Banishment

    Expatriates, when returning home to their nations of origin, often discover to their astonishment and occasionally dismay, that their domestically based countrymen are unable to understand their newly acquired culturally alien perspectives.

    Our non-traveling or domestically based countrymen may even appear disinterested in the nuances of the tales we attempt to share with them, yet we must forgive their blank looks. After all, how could they possibly relate to the extraordinary events of our lives, particularly when we ourselves are so often flummoxed by the international miscues we experience abroad in our host countries?

    Instead, we typically vent our tales to those who can relate, our fellow expatriates whose gentle nods of understanding and/or occasional raucous laughter reminds us that like Alice, we have merely stepped through an “international” looking glass.

    Typically, the awkward encounters between expatriates and our domestically based countrymen occur under unexpected circumstances, and cause uncomfortable lapses in dialogue for both parties. Usually, it is the expatriate who recognizes the true nature of why the conversation feels stilted, but is unable or perhaps unwilling to explain or adjust to remedy the awkwardness of the situation.

    One recent example of this sort of event occurred just prior to my own departure for India as I sat waiting for the first of the multitude of immunizations necessary for my journey. The aged white haired attending doctor with whom I was discussing my forthcoming journey inquired, “So you’re going to India? What on earth for?” When I replied that the move offered a variety of rewards, professional, educational, and personal; the doctor’s response, reflecting the depth of his true befuddlement was “But everything that you need for advancement is here.”

    As an educator, my initial visceral instinct was to immediately correct what I perceived as his lack of vision as though he were a student of mine. However, a lack of time and more importantly an acute awareness that I had never formulated a truly well defined or supported argument inhibited me from uttering a glib response.

    A short while later, as I “red-lined” out of Washington D.C., pondering the nature of the doctor’s confusion, I realized that it stemmed from a cross generational cultural conflict. In the doctor’s office, traditional American cultural, professional and familial expectations had collided head-on with the expectations of America’s newer, younger, broader, global generation. Furthermore, because I believe that wisdom requires assessing ones own possible culpability when conflicts do arise, I felt obliged to at least ponder the possibility that my own cultural prejudices had initiated this awkward misunderstanding.

    As such, I took into consideration my international upbringing as the dependent of a U.S. Foreign Service officer. It occurred to me that my experiences had colored my perspectives at an early age, possibly indoctrinating me into a cultural bias that inhibited my understanding of the physician’s traditional perspectives, just as his traditional American upbringing prohibited him from understanding my global ones.

    As my thoughts raced along subterraneously, linked in tandem with the metro I was riding, it occurred to me that the third culture kids or (TCK’s) of my generation, had without anyone noticing, become the very professionals that now occupied or wielded power in positions in government, business and education. And yet, the TCK’s of my generation did not appear to have begun effecting the global changes that we had often joked we would “someday, when we are in charge.”

    Takoma metro station zipped past the window as I realized that the “someday” is now here. Unlike our domestically based counterparts, we who are multilingual, multicultural and possess vast understanding of cultural nuance possess greater responsibility then they because increased awareness demands increased responsibility. I realized that it is we who must step forward to play an active role or represent our particular nations in the fields of government, business, military and educational service. Primarily, because it is we, who possess the skills, talents, and global networks that allow us the means to elicit the changes our world so desperately requires.

    Both first generation expatriates and TCK’s, must assume the mantle of responsibility to guide governments, businesses, and entrepreneurship in the international arena by leading from the front. It is simply not enough to attempt to explain the need to members of previous and future generations, nor is it enough to verbally joust with our domestically educated peers. Instead, we must demonstrate adult responsibility through action. We must give back to the cultures that enriched our childhoods in so many ways. After all, who other than expatriates and TCK’s who possess innate understanding of fragile conditions on the ground, complete with cultural skills, languages, friendships and bonds, can bridge the gaps between otherwise unwieldy cultures?

    Over the loudspeaker I heard “Next stop, Silver Spring, Maryland, this train is now out of service, please exit to the right.” As I climbed to my feet, I realized that I had finally figured out my full response to the immunologist who had been so perplexed by my decision to emigrate to India. I had determined that although some of my domestically based countrymen had indeed become caught up in or lost in the routines of their daily professional responsibilities, a great many of them, and I am proud to include my parents in this category, had recognized that they too could effect greater change in the world, and were or had “seized the day.”

    Confidently, I now share my answer that I choose an international lifestyle precisely because it is not identical to what I have or had back home. I believe that human awareness grows when faced with challenges, and by challenging my perspectives, my educational training, and my passions I will discover greater opportunities to give back and effect change in the world. I will give back through my teaching, my writing, my story telling, and my photographs. I will give back by sharing my time, my energy, and my knowledge. These are the rewards that will spur me onward, despite the occasional lack of understanding from my domestically based countrymen and one aged white haired doctor.

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    • M says:

      Perhaps the reason people have so much trouble relating with us or talking with us when we are home is because so many of us have this “I’m better than you” attitude which you clearly describe here. Saying that TCKs and other such people are the only ones who can effect meaningful change in the world is extremely biased, and it is likely that people with that same attitude put off their friends and family who remain in their home countries. Just because your particular beliefs and attitudes have led you to work overseas does not mean that people who have chosen to remain home are somehow inferior. Both ideas and ways of living are fine, and we should work to be accepting of both.

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      • Trav45 says:

        I agree. My first response was “Geesh, full of yourself, much?” I LOVE swapping overseas stories, but I’m not sure I’d want to listen to Roberto’s. However, he does make a point. Don’t we all, secretly, feel a bit superior to our stay-at-home friends because we’ve had these experiences? I may deny it to their face, but deep down, I suspect I do.

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      • B says:

        Well said. Our US President is a TCK and I don’t see the less-traveled masses embracing his ideas for meaningful change. In fact, many are frightened by it, resulting in the whole “tea party” movement. I think a sensitivity to one’s surroundings, whether abroad or at home, is sometimes the best course.

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        • me says:

          He is a TCK, so am, I but I disagree with the tea party comment. They don’t want taxes that come with the programs. I don’t think they are “haters”. Being a TCK has opened my eyes in so many ways, but I am also more appreciative of the fact in the US people I disagree with can feel safe to complain.

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  20. Emmanuel says:

    Me experience is different. For one, my mother took us three kids on a sailboat and sailed the globe for a nearly a decade. I was six months when the trip started, my brother was born on board.

    While she can’t relate to my love of South East Asia, she can appreciate that I love what I do. She makes great comparisons to what she saw traveling too. For her, I think, the bigger issue is not realizing what an International school is. Only recently has she realized it’s afull carreer.

    As for my friends, well, they are all climbers. That is what our common interest is. I don’t have friends who don;t share my interest, so I don’t have aproblem talking about my adventure and travel. As my wife said at the end of school party last year, “We don’t go on vacation, we go on climbing trips.”

    I haven’t not kept up with most of my high school classmates. Even in HS I was spending most of my free time climbing or hiking. I couldn’t relate to them, nor could they relate to me.

    When I have summer break, I don’t often visit the same place twice. Instead, I find a vacation rental near a place my wife and I want to spend the summer climbing and we let our friends and family know where we are. Every summer, family and friends come to where we are for a week or two. We enjoy ourselves.

    I think people don’t want to listen because they are busy living their life. Let’s face it, unless they are teachers, they don’t have the summer off, so they have to make time to see you. For those who are teachers, their life doesn’t stop every summer like ours, they still have local commitments and are not truly on holiday with nothing to do. Soccer clubs, function, yard to mow, and all the other day to day life. On top of that,they are in the same community and doing their thing. This is the reason I make people come to me. It forces them away from their everyday life into a vacation mode, which is where I am.

    If my friends don’t enjoy the conversation I provide, or I don’t enjoy the conversation they provide, then we move on. I don’t have many people I call friends, I have many acquaintances instead. My close friends share a passion for life, climbing, and travel. I have a hard time relating to those who don’t.

    Eman

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  21. Meg says:

    I’m so glad to hear from all of you that it’s not just me!!! I am in my second year of teaching abroad, and in only this short amount of time I have begun to experience these same things from my family. Throughout high school and college I used to travel for short times to various places (from 2 weeks to 2 months) and it was always so exciting to come home and tell everyone about my experiences. They were so interested! But now that I’ve been away for a more extended time it’s like people just don’t care anymore, and I am getting really used to the glassy-eyed stare that everyone keeps mentioning. I expect my friends and family to be more interested, especially friends who have traveled a bit, but I do understand that living somewhere and traveling there are very different things.

    When I first moved overseas (I currently live in Ecuador) I sent monthly emails to a LARGE number of people. I am very bad about keeping up with things like that though and so I stopped after only a few months. No one said anything about it so I figured it didn’t matter, but when I went home last summer a number of people said how much they loved reading my emails and that I should keep doing them. I think that maybe it is true that people just don’t know what to ask or how to respond. I am moving to Romania in August and I think I will try keeping a blog this time around. We’ll see how it goes.🙂

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  22. OSMarsupial says:

    A difficult one. I participated in a study authorized by the government and undertaken by my university about the experiences of expats who return to Australia. One thing they identified was this alienation felt by many well traveled Aussies when they return home. A good mate of mine felt this when one of her good mates asked ‘where did you get that scarf/dress etc’ and of course replying that she picked it up in a fab little boutique in Milan meant glazed eyes by the questioner. Whenever I get asked about life OS when I return to my adopted home (UK) I give a quick sanitized reply. If I am asked further then I’ll elaborate. If not, then that’s OK too. I’ve only returned home home (Aus) once and found that most people were pretty curious, but I do come from a family of globetrotters. So I guess that if you are asked about your travels and you give a quick reply and then if you are asked further then elaborate. Dunno what else to suggest…

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  23. Garnet says:

    I’ve been teaching overseas for a very long time — so long, in fact, that ‘home’ to me is no longer where I grew up or where my family lives (on the other hand, I move so often that I don’t think I can call anywhere home, really!)

    Anyway, many of my old school friends still live in my ‘hometown’, though, and when I go to visit my parents (who also still live there) we meet up for drinks and a catch-up.

    However, I never really say anything at these get-togethers myself, because my life is so different from everyone else’s that I get nothing but blank stares from everyone when I mention anything remotely different from what they’re used to in their day-to-day lives.

    No one seems to be able to relate — not even with the daily routines of my life — and I feel like I’m in some sort of time warp circa 1980.

    So, I spend my evening listening to their stories and save mine for when I get back to the friends who live abroad as well.

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  24. Abu Dhabi says:

    I kinda got used to it now. If someone asks I will tell them and sometimes the funny stories can be the best ones to impart. Humour unites and it is easy to share. After all, If you haven’t stood in Angkor or felt the warmth of a stranger’s smile in the middle of a desert, how can you really explan that?
    What going home means to me is that I touch base with the people that make me, me and supported my leaving in the begining. I become grounded again. I go to the pub with my brother on Friday, drink wine and shop with the girls on Saturday, walk on Sunday or help my father with the weekend cryptic! I value the short trips I have to travel across the UK, treat my nephews and nieces, go swimming with them to see how much they have improved and not least of all, I eat the best Yorkshire puddings and gravy in the world washed down with a bucket of wine! Now they don’t serve that at Vertigo do they? Enjoy your holidays home🙂

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  25. Penny says:

    im from a small town in tx and have been teaching in germany the last 5 yrs and i know just how u feel….sometimes i feel like a hothouse flower in a field of daisies…..i think the local reaction is a mixture of envy and total not understanding…..one person in my hometown actually told me i “couldnt” go to germany coz it was (gasp) full of germans….lol…um…well yes…and uh…exactly what does THAT mean? lol….hang in there and climb those pyramids and try to tone it down i guess when u go home or they see u as a damn feriner lol….(thats a southern accent if u didnt get it)….Penny

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  26. gypsy says:

    I’ve had this same experience most of my life, since I also was a TCK and found that I had to be very low-key about my travels and experiences because I was trying to look and act ‘normal’ in order to fit in. I found out quickly that nobody was interested anyway, especially close friends and relations. Now tat i work abroad I usually only share my experiences overseas on Facebook, where I’m very brief and show lots of cool pictures. Those who desire to can read there about some of what our lives are like overseas and can look at the pictures. Not so much a travel-log, but phtos about our housing, furniture, cars, neighborhoods, school, friends. Rarely, after having a look, friends and relatives want to know more, maybe because they’ve then got a better idea of how and where we live and can visualize it. I think that part of the problem is that they have no idea of what we’re talking about, have no frame of reference and cannot visualize what we’re describing. Only when they’ve seen a movie, read a book or looked on Facebook at our pictures, we get: “What was it like there when…” and “Did you live through …..?” The reason we love to hear other expats’ stories is because we can relate to them and we can even plan or hope to go to some of the places they describe. Others know that it’s most likely that they’ll never get there and they don’t even have the faintest idea of how we live. I get sometimes questions like, how is the food, did you get used to it? ……… as if nothing else but local food was available. Do you have shops? Can you take the heat (can you take the heat in Texas? we have ACs overseas, too!) it’s amazing how people perceive that we might live in 3rd world countries, thinking we’re really roughing it!! Don’t your kids miss hamburgers? No, they have them EVERYWHERE and we’re trying to avoid the chains!

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  27. You can never go home says:

    I’ve lived away (29 yrs)for longer than I lived in Canada but I still go back to see my mother and sister & family. My overseas life is not that exciting to me but it seems so to the folks back at “home”. That, however is on a very superficial level. The question is often, “How’s Africa?” My answer is “Africa’s big.” No more questions. Like somebody said, if they were curious, they would go themselves. They’re not so they don’t. I have learned to keep my mouth shut too and now I can see Saudi Arabia from my roof!

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  28. Judy Allen says:

    I noticed the same thing when I returned from overseas for the summer. My two brothers have never looked at any of my pictures, but I am expected to look at all of theirs…taken at various places that I have visited in the U.S. A few friends were interested, but not many. I have been home for three years now and rarely talk about my experiences overseas. If someone new asks where I moved from and I say, “Egypt,” some inquire further and act really interested. Many, however, look at me as if I had horns. I have noticed, though, over these three years, that there is very little international news read or heard in the U.S. Unless there’s an earthquake, volcanic eruption, or some other major catastrophe, it’s as if the rest of the world does not exist. It is no wonder, then, that our citizenry knows so little about other countries and their cultures.

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  29. Ben Morris says:

    What I’ve been doing for the past ten years is writing a newsletter home each month that I’m away. My newsletter (currently entitled, “Danube Diaries”, as I live and teach in Bratislava, Slovakia) is not even very elaborate … I send photos with it only occasionally … but I have over 500 readers. I think the main reason why people show enough interest to read what I send them is that the details are recent and fresh whenever I send the newsletter out. I include my foibles and well as my triumphs, and I inject humor into the stories whenever possible. I get enough positive replies on a regular basis to keep me writing them.

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  30. Reggie says:

    You are experiencing what many TCK experience when we’ve gone back home for college/school. I’d also say that sometimes spouses don’t ask about your experiences. I think that sometimes they don’t know what to ask, or how to respond to experiences you’ve had.

    How’s it sound when your contemporaries went on a Senior Trip to the local lake for day, and you went to Bali for a week? Or what about when you bring up that Saudi beheading you got talked into, and regretted. Kind of kills any other stories. I once heard the term ‘topper’ used in a somewhat derogatory term used to describe someone who has a better story than anyone else at the table.

    I don’t know how many times I bit my lip when I knew I had a story or experience that might be interesting, but didn’t want to be a topper in social situations. There’s probably an SNL skit about this somewhere.

    When in college I ended up basically lying when asked where I was from. What’s someone supposed to say when you turn around and tell them about that time your family was evacuated from Damascus, or the riots in Jakarta, or whatever.

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  31. Roundtrip says:

    I know what you mean, but if you think about it, did these same people ever show an interest in things you talked about before you traveled acrosss the oceans? When I was growing up, I marched to a different drummer. My father and I hiked the Appalachian Trail and I backpacked across 8 countries in Europe alone when I was 21. Not many women did this then. No one seemed to want to hear about it, and at times, they could be even critical. Many people are afraid of the unknown, and they have no curiosity. Try not to judge them. They’ve found their nests and are settled in. You and I and thousands like us are not really comfortable in a “nest”. We seek adventure and love the knowledge acquired during our travels. I would suggest you seek out people like us to share your experiences with. Come to think of it, I need to do the same thing. Think I’ll go hang out at a travel office.

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