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January 18, 2005


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Doug in Alabama

Interesting post. As one who has for some time dreamed about trying the expat life, it made me stop and think.

For several years, we lived in New Orleans, 500 miles from my wife's family, and much farther from mine. But, New Orleans being what it is, we never knew we had so many friends! We had company all the time, and it was great. However, I guess that heading to N'Awlins is a different beast than traveling to Europe. With aging parents, and a close circle of family and friends, it's tough to think about expat-ing.

Now, I'm very unhappy with the political situation here. We have a 16 year old son, we feel a draft coming, and so we've started thinking again about........... something different.

I've also enjoyed your links to Eric Gordy's blog, and to The Glory of Carniola.


Doug, don't despair. On the whole, we think there are more good than bad sides to the expat life -- that's why we're living it, after all. I grew up a so-called Third Culture Kid and to me it seems very normal. It's just not all honey and cream, is all.

I'd be happy to answer any questions you want to shoot my way. I also have some book recommendations on the expat life (and raising expat kids) if you like. Let me make a suggestion: Read the whole series (it will take me about 3 or 4 more posts, I think), and then ask away.

Best wishes!


Stupid time difference. -- Natalie


The first comment wasn't exactly clear. I meant stupid 7-hour time difference between here and there. Not an excuse, just an observation. :-)

BTW, the Schott book arrived. Larry and I were reading parts aloud and trying to stump the other one.

a long-distance email friend

Bernard Guerrero

"They understand $600 phone bills."

Speaking of which, we just signed up with Vonage. Don't suppose anybody's doing VOIP over there yet?

Gareth Wilson

"We have a 16 year old son, we feel a draft coming"

I don't mean to mock or belittle your worries, but I have to say that a draft is extremely unlikely. Draftees wouldn't help at all in the conflicts the US is now involved in, and voting for a draft bill would be instant electoral suicide.

Doug in Alabama


I hope you're right, but I worried that you're not.

Common wisdom always held that Social Security was the "third rail" of politics, i.e. you touch it, you die. Yet here we are with our president pushing for radical changes to a program that is, IMHO, the most successful govt program of all time. Are letters to the editor flooding in to local newspapers? Are people up in arms? Apparently not.

So the paradigm of what people will accept without complaint seems to have shifted. Add to that the ambitious military plans that we seem to have. How will we staff that? I'm very concerned.

Mike Ralls

Nice post on the ex-pat life. I'm a recovering ex-pat myself, having lived two years in Japan (one of those rare English teachers who were not impoverished) and have been thinking about going back. At times I miss it, but then I read posts like this and I remember that it wasn't all honey and cream. But man, what I wouldn't give to go to an onsen, walk around Fukuoka (best-Japanese-city-EVER), and be *special* for a while.

The point about keeping in touch with ex-pats friends really got to me though. It's been months since I talked with my Japanese buddies. I really should give them a heads up.

I e-mailed my Japanese ex-girlfriend just the other day though. Odd that, as when I left Japan I would have thought it would be the other way around.

Are you guys planning on living the ex-pat life indefinitly?

Best wishes,
Mike Ralls


I've been an expat more than a few times. I was better at keeping in touch with folks back home during the first couple of years, even without e-mail. Now that I'm actually going to be living in the US I'm planning to be much better at keeping touch with my family.


I understand all of the issues in the post. When I was an ex-pat I hated the word "ex-pat," and with one exception I didn't have much contact with other ex-pats. Speaking the language made a critical difference in this respect. Being an American in a country that speaks a good American language is a whole different experience than being an American in someplace like Japan or England. Although English is relatively easy to learn, I admit.

The ex-pat experience slices on a second dimension: between those who are living abroad for a set period and a set purpose, and those who are in it for the duration. After five years abroad I had an epiphany --- I had no planned exit date. Did that make me an immigrant instead of an ex-pat?

I didn't want to become an immigrant. I just felt too many ties with the U.S. of A., as increasingly insane a place as it was. I missed having the guy in the street really care who won the World Series. I missed bars with video shoot-'em-ups and jukeboxes with rap-rock. I missed the Daily Show, strong coffee, and No-Doz. And I cared, I really cared about the Big Picture stuff that happened in or to the U.S. of A. in a way that I just didn't for Mexico.

Within a year of beginning to contemplate whether "permanent expatriate" was an oxymoron or just obnoxious, I was back in the U.S. of A.

It was a quite deliberate choice.

Admittedly, I do miss the video music channels back in Mexico, and the D.F. bar scene. But ni modo. It's all worth it when the Pats beat the Colts and I'm *in* Boston. I also miss Botts Dots and I hate HATE real weather, but I'm not going back to Cali anytime soon either.

Of course, if I understand it correctly, you and Doug are in a third category: migratory expats. With the additional caveat that you can't both simultaneously decide to stop and go live at home.




"The ex-pat experience slices on a second dimension: between those who are living abroad for a set period and a set purpose, and those who are in it for the duration. After five years abroad I had an epiphany --- I had no planned exit date. Did that make me an immigrant instead of an ex-pat?"

Thanx, Noel, that's what I was just thinking. I booked the return ticket when I left my country for the first time. The second time I didn't. I can imagine anything: Staying here, going back, going to a third country.

I have international friends here, but my closest friends were born and raised in Vienna. And it's they whey I am still here.

When I go home I don't visit everybody anymore. I refuse to and pick somebody different each time I ago. That way we all enjoy it more.

John Furnari

Pound for pound - more honey and cream than stateside.

If this post's author is married to a guy who actually knows what "Hafa dai" means, then I can confirm the existence of a silver lining to the cloud that hangs over the lives of Ex Pats as they so often must part from communities and friends they treasure. You see, I too am an Ex Pat -formerly of Saipan - who every once in while unexpectedly runs into long lost friends that I once broke bread with in an entirely different part of the world. There is something very Kismet about the experience.

Here's hoping that my instincts are correct and it is about to happen again.


John Furnari

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