12 Days of Expat Life

The first week of January, I gave my kids the option of putting the Christmas tree away with me or leaving it up 2 more days, then I would put it away when they go back to school. They chose to put it away with me. It’s official: Christmas is over.

As we move on from the numerous parties and gatherings, the shopping, cooking, and sugar highs, I am both a bit sad that the celebrations are over (for the next 11 months at least) and also utterly relieved to get back into the normal rhythms of life.

But what is normal life, anyway? Moving overseas, we experience different seasons, different holidays, different work schedules (*cough* no discernible schedules), unpredictable everything. A quick way to improve my weekly rhythms before moving overseas, such as menu planning, is simply not possible in my host country. Still, there are a few things that stand out as normal in my expat life.

Thus, I now present The 12 Days of Expat Life:

12 cultural faux pas,

Rather, if I had made few enough cultural faux pas to be counted, they would probably be in this spot. Sometimes I’m not even aware of what I’ve done, but I can tell by the way everyone suddenly gets awkward that something isn’t quite right.

11 bouts of parasites,

Um…same. Despite precautions with food and water, we still end up with countless parasite infections.

10 new vocabulary words,

Each week. This is my new goal for 2019, instead of being overwhelmed by the vast amount of words and grammar that there are to learn in a new language, thus learning nothing at all. Let me just focus on 10 words each week.

9 hour time difference,

Unless it’s daylight saving time.

8 50-pound suitcases,

Or there will be once my kids carry their own bags. We never fill up our luggage allowance because of this. But one day, we will.

7 new foods to try,

And I will probably like them all!

6 care packages from home,

For me, these are crammed into people’s suitcases because when they are mailed, they don’t make it all the way here.

5 Stages of Culture Shock,

If you count reentry. Which I do because my husband is from here. He was experiencing reentry when I was in other stages of culture shock.

4 new favorite shopping spots,

Favorite place with air conditioning, favorite place to buy gifts, favorite place to buy produce, favorite place to buy imported groceries.

3 days without electricity,

I don’t know if it will be 3 days a week or 3 days a month. What I can count on is that the electricity will be off at some point for any amount of time.

2 night Velvet Ashes Retreat,

I haven’t managed to take so much time off for it yet, but I really, really want to!

And 1 big family all over the world!

People I love here. People I love there. People I love that I’ve only ever met online because we’ve not yet been in the same place at the same time. I’m feeling all the warm fuzzies right now.

Now it’s your turn! What would you include in the 12 Days of Expat Life?

Photo by Herrmann Stamm on Unsplash


  1. Sarah Hilkemann January 14, 2019

    This is so great, Rachel! Here are a few of my additions: 12 time zones, 11 straight days of rice, 10 gecko sightings, 9 pairs of shoes outside the front door, 8 pounds of cheese transported to the village, 7 days of cold showers, 6 hymns sung on Sunday, 5 trips to Thailand for checkups/vacation, 4 airplanes to get to the US, 3 meals a day made from scratch, 2 snakes by the back door, and 1 fantastic life. 😉

  2. Spring January 14, 2019

    I WISH I had taken 2 days off. Somehow I always end up with a short amount of time and don’t finish all of the retreat! I think I would somehow include number of kindle books, as that is my downfall and never was before I moved overseas!

    We have the same package issue. Someone just sent us a package via fed ex. It is now stuck at the airport, and they say we have to employ a broker, for a package of twinkies? I don’t think so.. 🙁 We are thinking we will loose the box. UG!

  3. Ashley Felder January 17, 2019

    What a fun list! Thanks for the chuckles. 🙂

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