Wednesday, May 26, 2010

What I've Learned from Living Abroad

Similar to the story of The Lost Girls, at the age of 28, I took a scary life leap that involved quitting my hard-earned copywriting job, selling my house and car, leaving family and friends, and consuming lots of high fructose corn syrup to help me deal with equal doses of doubt: Was I throwing away everything I was supposed to want in life just to live in country where stores weren’t even open on Sundays?

Thankfully, I can safely say that no, it was all worth it. Living abroad has given me the space I needed to redefine myself without the pressure to keep up with the Joneses, to live the American dream.

Four years after moving to Switzerland, here are a few other things I’ve learned:

I’ve learned that it's ok to take an hour for lunch.

I’ve learned that I’m really good at smiling and nodding.

I’ve learned that no matter how long I live here I’m still going to crave Kraft Mac and Cheese.

I’ve learned that a velour suit is street wear in America and sleepwear in Switzerland.

I’ve learned that footwear is a great way to determine where someone is from.

And I’ve learned that I’m not 25% Italian, 25% Polish, 20% English, 12.5% Danish, 10.5% Swedish, and 7% German. I’m 100% American. My Nikes prove it.

If you are living or have lived abroad, what has the experience taught you?


  1. Great post. I love the bit about velour clothing. So true.

  2. Thanks.

    Yeah, I was pretty bummed about the whole velour thing. I bought a velour outfit thinking I'd finally look decent for once in Europe and then I saw one hanging in a Swiss department store next to the pajamas.

    Now I just wear it to do laundry. Oh well.

  3. Yes - how skilled I am at smiling and nodding and doing it for hours sometimes at a party! But you should come here - it is fine to take THREE hours for lunch and to lie down afterwards on the couch!

  4. Oh, yes. That would make smiling and nodding so much easier if I could lie down on a couch afterwards. I used to do it for hours at a company party too. Talk about pain.

  5. "I’ve learned that I’m not 25% Italian, 25% Polish, 20% English, 12.5% Danish, 10.5% Swedish, and 7% German. I’m 100% American. My Nikes prove it."-- SO true!!

  6. Sadly, I tried to look European by wearing uncomfortable shoes, but in the end, I couldn't do it.

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