I have lived for the last 10.5 years abroad. First I moved to Belfast, Ireland, then near Oxford in the UK, then stayed for a brief spell in London and Cambridge. Finally, the majority of my time was spent living in Colorado with my now-husband.
We have recently moved back to my home country of Australia, though one would never know it, I’m so inept at functioning here. My first issue is a frighteningly simple one. Walking. Yes, really.
In Australia, as far as I remembered people walked on the left. Moving people walkers, or escalators go up and down the left. Cars drive on the left. I am left handed for Gods sake! Left, left, left.
This seems so simple, take what I have been doing for the past 9 years and reverse it, but I am seemingly incapable of this simple task. I start out OK, yet a few minutes into my walking I seem to be bumping into people or simply getting in their way…. I do a lot of dodging people and saying things like; “pardon me”, “I’m sorry” , “excuse me” and the ever cheery “my fault, whoops!” on my excursions out to the pavement.
Sadly, it doesn’t stop there. I was in the grocery store the other day and looking for some Tylenol (or Panadol as its known here). For the life of me I couldn’t find it and after a lot of frustration I started second guessing my knowledge of my country….’do they even carry Panadol in a grocery store in this country? Is it perhaps something that is only available in pharmacies here, like a prescription in the USA? Have been gone so long I’ve forgotten what the simple staples at the grocery store should be?? ‘
My quandary was finally solved when I took a deep breath and asked a lady with a baby (hoping that her brain cells were also fried and she wouldn’t judge me) “Excuse me, I cant seem to find the Panadol, I’m not from this country (lie!) so I wasn’t sure if they carry it in a grocery store here?”
Her look was total judgement as she pointed to the 15 foot long display of panadol-style tablets in the aisle I had just come from. It wasn’t until I was leaving that I realized that saying I wasn’t from this country probably doesn’t really come across as plausible when I say it with a perfect Australian accent. My bad.
My final and most humiliating example (yes it really does get worse) was this sad little display:
I wore Ugg Boots on the beach. I may as well have worn a sign over my head saying; “I have lived inland in a cold and wintry climate all my life and know nothing about beach etiquette, or common sense for that matter.”
Now in my own defense we live super close to the beach right now, so it wasn’t as though I was getting ready for a day at the beach and packed up my bag; ‘Sunglasses? Check. Sunscreen? Check. Towel? Check. Ugg Boots? …’
I literally was in shorts and just went down for a few minutes and the Uggs were closest to the door, but still.
To add to my defense, as soon as I stepped into calf-high sand and it started pouring into the top of my boot I realized my mistake and took them off. See? I’m not a complete idiot, despite what you’re thinking of me right now.
Needless to say, top of my schedule today is to get to the local bookstore to find the book titled; “how to fit in like a local and not look like a complete moron in a newish country even though you spent 26 of your formative years here.”
I’m hoping they aren’t all out of that title.