Precious friends of ours live on the other side of the lake from us, over in neighboring Switzerland. We had them over on one of those delightful summer evenings where you eat outside, lighting candles to talk deep into the night. It’s a special relationship with kindred souls, rekindled each time we see them. On that one evening our friends were visiting, we got chatting about their adjustment to life in Switzerland after the thrill of NYC life, as well as their recent trip back to the States.
“What are the types of the things you bring back from the US when you go back?” we asked them. To our surprise they said “Nothing at all.” “Ok, how about chocolate chips, maple syrup, jeans?” we asked. “Nope. There is absolutely nothing we want from America. And, if there was, we could get it here”. I don’t think I have ever heard an expat answer this question that way. I love it and it stayed with me for a long time. I interpreted their answer as a striking marker in how far they have come in their cross-cultural adjustment.
We all know those friends who travel to far flung places and post their razzle-dazzle adventures on social media. But really, they hide behind their familiar peanut butter and Dr Pepper soda hidden in their suitcase, not wanting to engage too much locally. The peanut butter and soda are comfort items, maybe like my daughter’s little rabbit “doudou” she brings to school. We feel a little uncomfortable in our new environment, so we need to bring something from home. It’s not only the occasional traveler who does that. I filled my cases with food stuff from home when I went to university because British food was so scary at the time. And expats often talk about their “stash” they keep to live comfortably away from “home”.
For the record, we’re the first ones guilty of the stash thing. Last October, we flew over a full case of Whole Foods 365 brand roasted Chipotle salsa. It had become our favorite salsa to have alongside a quesadilla, with a most perfect balance of strong roasted flavors and spice. The thing is, though, that salsa tastes so darn funny here. That tortilla based meal doesn’t quite taste so Mexican with bland Emmental cheese and puffy Old El Paso never-go-bad-because-the-shelf-life-is-five-years-long tortillas. And our salsa pushes the wannabee Tex-Mex into the French-Mex ridiculous. We find ourselves laughing at how out of place this salsa is and how dumb it is that about 11 jars sit idly by in our pantry. How will we use them before they go bad? It’s just that the salsa was part of our routine shopping list on the other side of the ocean. We just assumed we’d need it in France as a staple too.
I don’t think that bringing over a jar of green chilis or turtle wax is wrong. It’s just that the case of salsa misses the point of moving our family here. Of course, it’s been more than uncomfortable to give up about 70% of our well-used recipes we used in Denver, because ingredients just don’t taste the same.
Thing is, we know we’ve gotta shop like we live here, not there, to get the full experience. We can’t pour chipotle salsa on our plate every day and think we understand the flavors of the land. And so, we need new recipes for our local ingredients (an exhausting process). Because, over the past months, our shopping list regulars have switched from the salsas and tortillas to lovely liquid creams and raw butters, buffalo mozzarella and smoked bacon lardons.
This post was part of the #Write31Days challenge, on the topic: Our family in global transition.
You can read the other posts written this month, by clicking on the links below!
1 – French Preschool
2 – Making friends in a new land
3 – ‘Yes’ people in a ‘No’ culture
4 – How language affects transition
5 – Not all French people are foodies
6 – The apple juice party
7 – I’m the third-born
8 – French-Mex ridiculous
9 – Busted by the Swiss police
10 – Educational field trip
11 – Visitors: the good and the bad
12 – Christmas in October
13 – A good place to get sick
14 – C’est les vacances!
15 – Playdate anguish
16 – The five year plan
17 – The Q&A edition!
18 – Holidays are for world-schooling
19 – The Granny I want to be.