There’s a Facebook group for expat women living in Singapore that I follow that frequently has “what should I bring from my home country?” type questions. Within seconds multiple responses will pop up from the opening poster’s fellow countrymen on all the goodies that should fill their container. The responses vary according to nationality but most things are convenience foods and pharmaceuticals. I occasionally join in if it’s an Australian asking, but at the end of the day you can survive here without these luxuries and, to be frank, you’ll probably adjust faster if you don’t bring everything from home with you. Sure, the first bit will be rough but it’ll get you out and about through necessity.
The same day one of these posts appeared on Facebook my friend Kirsty wrote a post about her re-entry into her life in Doha after a long holiday back in Australia, and the bit where she outlines the guards vagueness about why her complex pool was shut caused me to hit upon the one thing I truly miss about home:
The casual chat or small talk that you have with the cashier at the supermarket or the service station or just about anywhere. The sort that usually go:
“How’s your day been?”
That. I miss that. I miss the casual, meaningless interactions with people I meet in my day-to-day life.
I never appreciated how ‘small talk’ can add warmth to your day nor did I know that this wasn’t something that every country did automatically. We have recently had a months-long airconditioning saga (that may or may not be finished) that meant men who (possibly) know about air conditioning were here at least twenty times, and on one occasion were here for almost 8 hours straight. The most I ever got out of them was “Morning, ma’am” and “Ok, ma’am”. At home, by now I would’ve known their mother’s maiden name, the name of their childhood stuffed toy and what they really thought about the australian government but I don’t even know the first name of ‘my’ aircon men! (The upside is that I never heard them swear, they never called me ‘love’ and they never asked me to make them a cuppa!)
For the first year or so here when I was suffering from quite bad culture shock I followed the lead of the people around me and didn’t chat. As time has gone on, though, I’ve decided to exert a bit of my own culture into my new culture and I now instigate the chat. If I’m out walking I nod or smile or say ‘hi’ to every single person I pass. They are often very busy avoiding eye contact with me but i feel better for having tried. At my local supermarket I now start the chat with the cashier and slowly, but surely, Mary is starting to get used to my overly-friendly Australian way!
What do you miss about your home country?