Wine and Cheese (Definitions): Expat Edition

I still never found out a good place for threading...
I still never found out a good place for threading…

Amazing Race, The (noun): The act of trying to squeeze in everything you want to do before you leave a posting. As in: We’ve been here for three years and still haven’t done this, bought that or been there! See also: Bucket List

Black Sheep (noun): The lone expat who shuns his or her countrymen. As in: Wanda doesn’t hang out with the other Americans…

Bucket List (noun): The list you make upon arriving at a new post containing all the things you want to do while you’re there. As in: While we’re here we need to make sure we do X, Y, and Z.

Calendar Girl (noun): The expert expat who is able to plan a year’s worth of holidays 18 months in advance. As in: Easy Jet is having a sale for summer 2016, let’s book now!

Charlie Brown (adjective): What locals hear when you attempt to speak their language. As in: When I tried to say “Where is the bathroom?” in Danish, all they hear is wa wa wa wa wa wa.

Converters (noun, plural): Those who can convert currency three to four ways without the use of an app or calculator. As in: 1000 Danish Kroner is 100 pounds sterling which is 150 dollars…in The States

Cultural Adaptation (verb): The act of finding adapters for all your electrical appliances. As in: Why can’t there be a universal voltage initiative?

Culture Club (noun): Groupings of same country expats. As in: Those benches are reserved for the Dutch moms, sit there at your own risk.

Dipping (verb, from the Danish custom of ‘dipping’ in the sea, naked, year round): The act of dipping a toe or another small body part into local custom to get a taste for it. As in: I suppose I could get used to curried herring…

Dog years (adjective): A way of describing the quick intensity of expat friendships which seem to compress time. As in: We’ve only been friends for a few months, but that’s like a decade in expat years.

Emotional Jet-Lag (noun): What you feel upon returning home from a trip home, when your heart is in two places at once. As in: I can’t wait to get home but I miss home as well.

ETA or Estimated Time of Acclimation (noun): The time it takes to fully adjust to a new move, usually one year. As in: Don’t worry, you won’t cry every day after you’ve been here a year or so!

Expat Ennui (noun): Feeling like you’ve done the sights, sampled the cuisine, toured the museums and are posted out. As in: Oh God, Tivoli again. See also: Tourist Trap

Expedit-ion (noun): The first trip to the local Ikea to purchase the same units you sold before you moved the last time. As in: Damn it!

I'll miss you souvlaki! Not much you curried herring!
I’ll miss you souvlaki! Not much you curried herring!

Godfather, The  (noun): The person who’s been here the longest and has all the info, the scoop, etc.. As in: You’d better be nice to Greta or she won’t tell you the best place to get your eyebrows threaded.

Going Native (verb): Going out of your away to erase any expat stigma when hanging out with the locals. As in: They resisted the lure of the extortionately priced private school and opted to send their kid to a local one instead.

Half-term Envy (noun): What those left behind feel when their expat counterparts are jetting off to more temperate climes. As in: I can’t believe we’re stuck here not doing anything. Again.

Last Supper (noun): The final meal you have in a place you’ve called home, eaten with mixed emotions. As in: I sure won’t miss the driving but you can’t beat a good souvlaki.

Movers and Shakers (noun, plural): Serial expats, those who move every two years. As in: Sasha’s two years are almost up, they must be moving soon.

Multiple Personality Disorder (noun): The act of being able to navigate between your expat life and your regular life, putting one personality on hold or the act of adapting to your new surroundings with a wholesale change of routine/wardrobe etc. As in: Driving on the wrong side of the road, pretending you like pickled herring or keeping mum about the highs and lows of expat life when you’re visiting home

Rooted (adjective): Having lived in the same place for more than five years, having put down roots and with plans to stay. As in: they’ve bought a house and the kids go to local school, they’re pretty rooted.

Sari Envy (noun): The act of bemoaning your own country’s lack of coolness in terms of costume or cuisine. As in: Jeans and a tee-shirt is really boring, oh for lederhosen.

Sea-sickness (noun): The almost nauseating feeling of joy you get in the pit of your stomach when you finally get your stuff after living out of suitcases for a whole fiscal quarter. As in: When the truck pulled up with our sea shipment I almost threw up from excitement.

Spanish Flu (noun): What you pretend the whole family has in order to take them out of school a few days early to avoid the 200% air fare increase that is tacked onto school holiday times. As in: We’re flying to Barcelona two days before school breaks up. Cough, cough.

States, The (noun): What Americans abroad calling the US. As in: we’re going home to The States, where the gas is cheap, the goods are plenty and the hamburgers are legend.

Stockpiling (verb): The act of stocking up on essentials when you return home, ranging from shoes to beauty products to Goya black beans. As in: Did you make sure we have an extra bag?

Oh goodie, The Empire State Building again!
Oh goodie, The Empire State Building again!

Supermarket Sweep (noun): The act of going up and down the aisle of a foreign supermarket numerous times looking for something and then finding it the place you’d least expect. As in: Why on Earth would the peanut butter be with the pasta products?

Three Year Itch (noun): The feeling you get that you are ready to move on. As in: Oh God, Tivoli again.

Tourist Trap (noun): The act of showing new visitors, family members, or friends the same tourist attractions over and over again. As in: Tivoli? Sure, let’s go to Tivoli!. See also: Expat ennui and Three year itch.

Wing or a prayer (noun): Not knowing what cut of chicken you’re buying, relying on buying kosher or halal simply to know you’re at least buying a certain animal. As in: Is this chicken? goat? some sort of beef?











20 thoughts on “Wine and Cheese (Definitions): Expat Edition

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  1. This is great! And funny, in that my family and I are planning to be expats for a year starting this July. We have our house rented out in the States and we’re moving to Germany with my mom. Now figuring out the visa/residence permit/Schwengen thing. So expect some fun posts on that in the coming months, oh my.


    1. OOH! You’ll love it. Well, first you’ll curse your decision, but then you’ll love it. And hate it. But mostly love it. How exciting. I think when you have a beginning and an end point it is nice and tidy. You have a better idea of what you are capable of and what you can do in that time (a lot). Whatever bugs you (in Denmark it’s how close people are to me in line at the supermarket), you know you can live with for a year. I can’t wait to read about your experiences. I’ve been in DK for 3 years and I have no real idea of how the Schwengen thing works other than you don’t have to show your passport when you’re flying in and out of Schipol ;-).


  2. The rubbing alcohol sold in the Netherlands isn’t anything like the isopropyl sold in THE STATES. My husband was in THE STATES a few weeks ago and it was the one item I asked him to pick up for me. He left the bottle in the rental car at the Baltimore airport. Waiting for someone else to cross the pond so I can get my alcohol fix!

    And, yes, every time I’m back in my home country, THE STATES, I fill a suitcase with everything from Pepperidge Farm Double Choco Milano cookies and Snack Factory pretzel chips, to Band Aid brand band aids. It’s the little things that count when you’re an expat.

    Tomorrow I’m hosting my son’s friends in Amsterdam. I’ve encouraged them to take a canal tour, visit the Van Gogh Museum, and try to get into the Anne Frank Huis. Those are my Tivoli spots.

    Agree on trying to explain traveling in Europe to friends in the U.S. Saying that I’m taking the train to Paris (2.5 hours) sounds a bit pretentious, when it’s really cheaper and easier than flying state-to-state. I usually stay mum. It’s best.

    Keep writing!

    Tot ziens from Den Haag


    1. It’s funny what you miss, isn’t it? This is an older piece, so there is a lot ‘less’ that I find myself missing, though many of them are still firmly in place. Last night I made yellow Spanish rice with Goya black beans…heaven.

      As for staying mum re: travel? You’re right, usually it’s best to stay mum. We did a small (for the US) road trip with the kids and they were dying. They’re just not used to being in the car for that long anymore. 7 hours they’re used to being on a different continent, not a few states away!


    1. Yes. Sometimes when you have to attend regular cultural festivities, I feel a bit culturally bereft in terms of colorful national dress/food. I mean, I like baked mac and cheese as much as the next person, and jeans and flag tee shirts are comfy, but there is something old and beautiful about food and national dress that have been around for thousands of years.

      Liked by 1 person

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