Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

“I’m Not Japanese Anymore”

she said, and we dissolved into gales of giggles. We struggled to regain control over ourselves. She was the Japanese ambassador’s wife, my dear friend, and we would hide out and have coffee together whenever our busy schedules would allow. We always sought out the quietest time of day, the most remote tables, so we could have complete and utter privacy as we shared our week, our worries about our kids, our lives.


Our topic was a recurring one in our conversations – that once you have left your native country and lived elsewhere, you aren’t the same anymore. Your eyes change, and you see things differently, your taste buds change and the unfamiliar becomes familiar. Unacceptable color combinations become acceptable, the cacaphonous and discordant become music to your ears. Once you have lived in a foreign country, you can never be truly the person you were before you left.

“I’m not so patient with ceremony any more,” she continued, and we dissolved into laugher again, because her life was full of endless ceremonial events. The great blessing in all this for both of us, is that we are both married to men who are at the same time traditional and ceremonial, and secret iconoclasts. Every now and then we could even get together, all four of us, and share an evening of relaxation and laughter, mostly laughing at ourselves and the difference between how others perceived us, and how we really are.

We treasure these friends. They are the kind that could call us late in the day and say “We are unexpectedly free tonight – can you meet us?” and if there was any way we could, we would. They were our playmates; when we were together we were free to be totally ourselves.

Sometimes in life we are handed roles to play, and if we are honorable people, we play them as best we can. The secret is to keep a very clear idea of where the role ends and we begin. We show respect where respect is due, we carry out the rituals that give richness and tradition to our lives, and heritage to our children.

But glory and honors are transient. Roles and job titles come and go. Good friends and those who keep your worst secrets – they are worth more than gold and diamonds.

September 23, 2006 - Posted by | Cross Cultural, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Friends & Friendship, Qatar, Relationships, Uncategorized, Women's Issues


  1. so true.

    i’ve been an expat all my life, to point where even when i go home i’m an expat.

    you hear things like “oh he/shes not japanese anymore” when you go home.

    the great thing about it is you can get away with “ceremonial” murder and no one blames you 😀

    it gets to the point where you feel sorry for those that have never lived abroad, cos they’ll never see and feel what you have.

    when one lives a global life, the only thing that really does matter is being around people “that get you”, be they your own, other expats, or complete strangers from the otherside of the world 😀

    Comment by sknk | September 23, 2006 | Reply

  2. Sknk – you totally got it, brother.

    Have you ever noticed that where ever you go, locals have some variation of “He must not be from around here?” It totally cracks me up. In my little home town, it is people who would dare to cross the street against the signal light, even if no cars are coming from miles in any direction. There is such a high value on obeying the law that there is no sense of humor at all about when the law might not make sense – like when no cars are coming, why would you wait (walking that is, in a car, like a sheep, I wait, too) to walk???

    Comment by intlxpatr | September 24, 2006 | Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: