My Expat Life: On Making Comparisons (Guest Post)

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Hello everyone! My family and I are away someplace sunny for the week, and so today I have a friend guest posting here for you. Diane is an expat friend currently living in Germany, and she writes at Fairytale Hausfrau. I asked her to share with us about something she has learned lately through her expat experience. I hope you enjoy this reflection, and be sure to go check out her blog!

When you live as an expat for any length of time, you often long for things, people, and situations from your past. If you’re anything like me, you inevitably find yourself comparing all the cool things from the past with the perceived annoyances in your new location.

Anyone who knows me or follows my blog is aware that I now live in Europe, but I occasionally write about the six years my family spent in western Japan before moving to Germany.

Honestly, we had a bit of a tough first year in Germany. We bought a house, which immediately had an enormous plumbing issue. Adjusting to the gray skies of Central Europe was surprisingly difficult, and our first winter here was the longest and toughest this region had experienced for many years. Our daughter, who would eat just about any Japanese food put in front of her, found that she thoroughly disliked most German cuisine. The winding country roads were scary, and we felt isolated from a central community.

Because of these things and more, I dwelled (for a longer time than I care to admit) on the things I missed from Japan. Not so incidentally, we moved to Germany by choice, which caused me to have a number of face-palm moments.

What did I miss from Japan? Drivers bowing in traffic, machines dispensing hot bottled green tea, 100-Yen shops, hot springs, bikes everywhere, ramen on a cold night, the mist over the mountains, cheap sushi…oh, the list could go on—and on. And yes, I still miss all of those things.

Bu those were also just really good years, and naturally we didn’t entirely comprehend that at the time. Our children were young but not babies, we were renting a great Japanese house, my husband’s coworkers were supportive and fun, and family members in the States were doing well. Our lives were pretty uncomplicated.

After moving, it took me a couple of years to realize what may be obvious to you now: I was grieving not only for Japan but for that particular time in our lives.

The fact is, we’re all products of a certain place and time. Moving to a new place also means moving into a new phase of life. There will be growing pains, but even for nostalgic types like me, the future can be as enriching and fulfilling, just in a different way.

To bring me into reality, it took my husband’s occasional reminders of things I definitely did not miss about living in Japan, such as stinging centipedes, earthquakes, sweltering summers, an overabundance of concrete, and a major written language barrier.
Also, after my family was on House Hunters International in 2011, we heard from various people who used to live in this area. Most of them spoke glowingly of their time here and about all the things they dearly loved and now miss. Light bulb moment, anyone?

It’s all too easy to whine, complain, and compare, but the reality is that our lives are pretty darned good. I appreciate what we have and know that it won’t always be like this–living in this place, at this time.

I do have to tell you, I get irritated by those Pollyanna types who go around insisting that “everything is what you make of it.” They’re annoyingly right on some level, but I think you have to acknowledge what you have lost before you can really move on. Somewhere in between dwelling and ignoring is a happy medium, surely.

Now that I have one child in college and another in high school, I’m coming to terms with the idea of settling down somewhere, eventually. My husband and I will have to make a choice about where we want to be and why, and that’s daunting. And when we do move back to the States, I know that I’ll compile a list of Things I Miss, which will surely include safe walking paths, Christmas markets, geranium-filled window boxes, meticulous sidewalk-sweeping grandmothers, and unspoiled countryside. But for now, we’ll keep living and appreciating this cozy, crazy European time of life.

Diane of Fairytale Hausfrau
Diane Clark is a world-traveling expat wife and mother living in the German countryside. She considers herself a lapsed pianist, book lover, burgeoning gardener, creative idler, cook, aesthete, Japan fan, Anglophile, and daughter of the American South. She blogs at

Thanks so much for sharing with us today, Diane!

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8 Responses to My Expat Life: On Making Comparisons (Guest Post)

  1. fairytalehausfrau February 12, 2014 at 1:33 pm #

    Thank you so much for allowing me to post here–I really appreciate it, Ariana!

  2. Tricia February 12, 2014 at 2:40 pm #

    This really resonated with me not as an expat, but as a mother of a certain age who has taken risks and relocated cities twice in the past 4 years. I have a lot of issues working in a stressful industry and I always look back at my last position and idealize the situation and even the location. This really put into words the pining I have done in the last year for the past. Like you, I’ve really tried to take an inventory of both the good things and the bad to give myself perspective. I have a two year old son who is the most amazing little guy to watch grow and develop. It’s a work in progress for me to learn to enjoy this moment and the wonderful things I have in it without dwelling and bringing myself and my support system down in the process. Thank you for the great post!

    • fairytalehausfrau February 13, 2014 at 10:15 am #

      Thank you very much, Tricia! It’s a work in progress for us all, isn’t it? It’s all too easy to idealize what “was,” and end up missing opportunities to enjoy the “now,” regardless of our situation. My best to you and your little guy as you grow together!

  3. Joanna February 12, 2014 at 7:51 pm #

    Thanks for the post. I have moved around a bit too and now settled in Latvia. I am from the UK and have lived in Denmark and Colorado too. I stopped comparing things and just accepted it was the way things were. I learnt after a move from the city to a lovely little village in the UK, that you had to give yourself time to grieve for things that you miss. I still managed to get caught out though when I had a bit of a sad moment for my time in Colorado after my move to Latvia. Colorado was okay, but not a place I fell in love with and I found the US lifestyle uncomfortable at times, so was rather shocked to having flashes of nostalgia. Hope you find your readjustment when you make it is as smooth as possible though.

    • fairytalehausfrau February 13, 2014 at 10:11 am #

      Thank you, Joanna! It’s nice to hear about experiences like yours. I think that sharing in this way helps us to put our expat difficulties (and rewards) in perspective.

  4. Susan Gaines February 13, 2014 at 5:58 am #

    Hi Diane, before reading your post here I first visited your blog and very much enjoyed your husband’s post. I’m in a transition phase of life and your post resonated with me. Thanks for visiting. Your blog is charming.

    • fairytalehausfrau February 13, 2014 at 10:06 am #

      I’m so glad you enjoyed your visit to my blog, Susan! I will let my husband know that you liked his post. Hope you will find this transition phase in your life to be positive and meaningful.


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