“Yo….uh….me….gusta….tu lengua!” I spat out in a slow unsure rhythm. I think I said that the right way. Yo means I, gusta means like and tu lengua means your tomatoes right? Oh no!!! Lengua means tongue! Crap. I just said that I like his tongue. Awkward.
I peer around the room and a few people laugh, while others look unaffected. I meant to say that I liked the tomatoes, but I definitely said the wrong thing. Sweat is dripping down the back of my neck and my right leg involuntarily shakes.
“Uh, what I meant was…”
“I think we know you meant,” Josito retorts while wiggling his eyebrows.
With a chug of warm San Miguel, the embarrassment quickly goes away and we resume our broken Spanglish conversation. Around midnight we grow tired and head to our prospective houses.
I sit outside on the terrace, put my bags down and reflect on the day. Today I complimented a guy on his tongue, bought the wrong size shoes, agreed to go to a wedding that I thought was a party and gave the wrong directions to a tourist.
What a day.
Living as an expat in a different country is an adventure in itself.
An expatriate (sometimes shortened to expat) is a person temporarily or permanently residing in a country other than that of the person’s upbringing.
Even for the most adaptable person, the early months of being an expat can prove to be difficult. If your new location is a place like London, or Berlin with a more multicultural makeup, adapting to your new city can be easy. But you move to a more homogeneous place, like I did one year ago, adaptation can be tedious. Just being yourself is ¨weird¨ in your new land.
Scrambled eggs? Weird.
You will quickly become the local ambassador of your home country, constantly having to answer questions like “In America, do people know about history?” or “In America, do people eat healthy?”
It is possible to find a community of Americans who haven’t yet adapted to the new culture as well. With them, you will be comfortable speaking your native language, and will have someone to talk about pop culture with, but you won’t get the full experience of living as a local in your foreign land.
If you choose to assimilate to your new culture, you will find yourself changing many things about yourself, which you never thought twice about. I’ve swapped the skin tight leggings which every young American woman pairs with a shirt or jacket for a looser Thailand style Harem pants that fit in with the Spanish style.
I even had a Spanish woman stare me down in awe as I made eggs one morning. Apparently my eggs were incredibly fascinating because she had only seen scrambled eggs in movies.
Despite all of the difficulties, being an expat is a priceless experience, because every day feels like an adventure.
This story was curated by Jelisa Mone.