Whenever I travel overseas, I always pack a stack of postcards from North Carolina and my hometown, Asheville, located in the heart of the Great Smoky Mountains.
The postcards show beautiful scenery, and they pinpoint a location some non-Americans might be unfamiliar with. By sharing my postcards, anyone can start a generic conversation (e.g., “This is where I live…”) and go from there.
Bonus: by giving someone a postcard, it becomes a souvenir from our meeting. Add your contact info on the back, and you can always stay connected.
There’s the adage “you can’t go home again” that does bear merit, particularly if one has been gone from home for years. Perhaps you traveled back to your hometown for Thanksgiving and have a mental checklist for just how much the town has changed.
Certainly you noticed changes in yourself. Or maybe you noticed that even though you’ve changed, your trip back home was an indication that some things never change–family dynamics, perhaps? But let’s not go there. In the case of this post, let’s expand home past a person’s hometown to a person’s country.
I’ve moved out of the United States four different times for a variety of time periods. The first was on a study abroad program to Denmark for four months. The last was for four years that were split between Taiwan and India. Each time I was gone, I needed to readjust to life back in the United States. As I discovered, readjusting to ones own country can be more difficult than getting used to living in another one. Even after a short period of time of traveling, we change. Once you’ve made another country home for awhile, there is a disconnect between how you’ve changed and what your expectations are for life back home.
This disconnect is wonderfully highlighted in “Some Indians Find it Tough to Go Home Again” in the New York Times. The article looks at what happens to Indians who grew up in the U.S. and moved back to India several years later with the notion of helping out their home country. In general, what people find out is that who they have become and how they do business does not match up with India’s culture. What they expect is not at all what they get.
Interestingly, as the article points out, expats who are not from India often have an easier time fitting into Indian business culture because they are able to adjust to the Indian system more easily.
This phenomenon is not only common to India, I would guess–or to people who have lived in the United States. I have friends who have lived overseas for years who I can’t see living in the U.S. again because they have become absorbed by the cadence of living elsewhere. The U.S. would not be a great fit.