When your own culture catches you off guard

reverse culture shock

When you face a cultural quirk in your adopted home it’s easy to chock it up to the fact that it’s a funny (or irritating or charming) part of life abroad. However, it’s bewildering when those shocks are coming from things that used to be second nature. Robin Pascoe, writer and expert in all things expat, likens repatriation to wearing your contacts in the wrong eyes: everything looks almost right.

I’m no stranger to reverse culture shock. This blog has been an important place where I can talk about my changing ideas of home, of adopting aspects of a new culture or having a hard time going back to the U.S. 

But, like regular culture shock, no matter how easily you move between worlds you still experience it to some degree. I’ve learned to stop expecting things to be the same when I return to San Diego. The thing that always gets me though are the unexpected ways I’ve changed.

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Expat advice for the short-term assignment

short term expat assignment

When I heard about the three month time frame on Cody’s assignment in Madrid, I knew there would be a completely different set of challenges. But when searching for advice, I found zero blogs or articles discussing this particular type of experience and the accompanying spouse.  With assignments like these, it makes sense for the working partner to go it alone because people have families, homes, and all the other things that go along with roots. However, I had no home and an expiring Colombian visa, so I packed my bags and got ready for adventure.

Heading into our summer in Madrid, most of my worry centered on finding a balance between playing tourist, having some semblance of routine and maybe an acquaintance or two. If you read my post last week about emotional jet lag, then you know I didn’t find my feet as gracefully as expected.

Read on for my thoughts about where I did well and where I fell flat.

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The emotional lag of leaving


As far as the whole expat lifestyle goes, I can deal with the regular change in scenery. Packing up and settling down in a new place is easy because all the logistics and planning propel you forward. One thing I’m not so sure of is how expats deal with the emotional turnover that comes with consistently changing places.

I’m proud of myself for never looking at Bogotá as just the place I’d be living the next two years. I made it my home because I didn’t see how being happy was possible if I continued to look over my shoulder at the U.S. But when we left Bogotá this past June and it was time to open my heart to the next place, it wasn’t so easy to stop looking back.

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Hello again from No Longer Native!


Last we spoke Cody and I were headed to Madrid for a few months while he was working on a short-term assignment. The past few months had been so busy and our scheduled time in Spain was so short that I decided to take a break from blogging.

If you thought I spent this summer in Cervecería Alemana, sitting under a picture of Ernest Hemingway and drinking sangria, you wouldn’t exactly be wrong. But I did other things too, including a lot of thinking about where I’m going with No Longer Native.

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A Summer Siesta

Today marks two weeks I’ve been in Madrid and I’m still pinching myself at the gorgeous weather, scenery, food and museums this city has to offer. After catching my breath and settling in, I realized how frantic things have been the past three months!

That said, NoLongerNative will be taking a little break over the summer so I can take full advantage of this lovely city. I’ll be back to blogging again in the fall, once we’ve settled somewhere more long term.

Even though I won’t be active on NoLongerNative, I’ll never be far from email. So to those of you with questions about Bogotá or expat life in general, don’t hesitate to use the contact form to drop me a line!

Happy summer and see you soon!

NoLongerNative is moving…kind of

I’ve mentioned here and there over the past six months that our assignment is drawing to a close and because that time is here, I’ve spent the past week wrapping up things in our Bogotá apartment, saying goodbye to friends and trying to soak up my last moments in this lovely city.

I know I haven’t yet mentioned where we’re going, so I’m thrilled to say that this afternoon I’ll be heading to Madrid, Spain!

This is a temporary jaunt (it’s a three month assignment) so we’re still waiting for news on a more permanent location. Nonetheless we’re excited for a new adventure and for a summer exploring not only Spain but Europe as well!

Looking forward to living in the land of ham

Expat advice: The key to a happy expat life

Just because your body is here, doesn’t mean your mind is…

The two years I’ve spent living abroad have been a crash course in the emotional ups and downs that come with uprooting your life and starting again somewhere new, all with the lurking expectation of doing it again in a couple of years. This week I was compiling all my little tips about how to have a happy life as an expat no matter what your circumstance, when I realized my advice was rooted in the same practice: mindfulness.

Though originally a tenet of Buddhism, the practice of mindfulness—much like yoga—has become much more mainstream. In its essence mindfulness is focusing your attention on the present, which allows you to observe your thoughts and feelings without judging them as good or bad. If new age-y terms freak you out, just think of it as being in the moment or living in the here and now. If you’ve read articles about disconnecting from technology, staying in the moment with your kids, or listening to your body to avoid overeating, then you’re familiar with mindfulness.

Because life abroad doesn’t necessarily come with a built-in support system, expats in particular can benefit from using this tool to refocus their thoughts. Keep reading to see four particular areas where mindfulness has helped me manage expat life.

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The truth behind an expat’s social media.


So you’re at work, tapping away at your keyboard and—taking a minute to let your mind wander—you innocently scroll though Instagram or FaceBook.

Ugh, again? There’s so-and-so, hiking some far-flung mountain, cheers-ing in front of a tropical sunset, or arms akimbo with some group of laughing weirdos. Cue rolling eyeballs and a silent promise to unfriend/unfollow/un-whatever at the next gratuitous display of glorious life-abroad fun.

Well, thank goodness you stumbled upon this article because there are so many myths to dispel when it comes to the ‘glamourous’ life we expats lead. You can make anything look good from the outside and when it comes down to it, expats are just as good as everyone else at curating a perfect life on social media.

Of course white sand beaches look amazing from a cubicle, but let’s take a moment and pull back the curtain on a lifestyle that is so often idealized, to see that the grass isn’t always greener. Below are a few ideas at what’s happening behind the scenes of those perfectly cropped and captioned photos.

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Is expatting better than long-term travel?


If you are related to us, a good friend or just happened to have dinner with Cody and I anywhere between 2008 and 2014, then you know it was a dream of ours to somehow live overseas.  As we talked through the ways to do this, it seemed like the best option would be to quit our jobs and travel for a year. When we stumbled into an international assignment it seemed like a great way to have the best of both worlds—the security of a job with the excitement of living overseas.

But in the moment, I wondered if we were settling for something short of our full fledged dream. We were afraid to leave our jobs behind, so wasn’t what we were doing kind of a cop-out?

Now that we’re wrapping up our first assignment, I realize that long term travel and expat life are two completely different animals, each with their own set of benefits. Keep reading to see how I think we got the better end of the deal.

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