When I was asked to give some advice for living abroad last year, one of my pearls of wisdom to a future expat was to wean yourself off the stuff from home. Cut the American umbilical cord and shop local. Like learning the language, I told them, it’s one of the key differentiators between living somewhere and being on an extended visit.
I said this with certain examples in mind, people who were still so dependent on their hometown favorites as staples necessary for their daily lives. Like, the housewife from my German class who took nothing but empty suitcases when she went home so she could cram as much mac n’ cheese, hamburger helper, instant pancake mix and maple syrup into her luggage as possible. If she ran out in between trips, she would go to WalMart and pay three times the price for the luxury of keeping her life as close to ‘home’ as possible. And the Chinese co-worker of mine who refused to even try shopping in town, using business trips to Taiwan to stock up on clothes, in particular socks and underwear, and seemed to exist solely on instant noodle packets, refusing dinner invitations that might force confrontation with ‘weird’ food.
True, finding substitutes for your hometown favs is more ‘green’ these days, may help you assimilate a bit and will certainly lower anxiety levels about running out and having to get more. But as my husband walked through customs today, with a suitcase packed full of contraband from New York, I realized that I have to admit that although I often give good sound advice, that particular piece of advice was absolute total crap.
And although it may be greener to buy local, with the current exchange rate for the euro at $1.52, it’s just plain silly.