There is a small shop in a town near where I live called Celtic Treasures. Yes, it’s cliché. There’s the Guinness barware that can be found many places. And they have the claddagh rings, Celtic crosses, and crystal. But what always stood out were the foodstuffs and candy sections. The day I saw they carried the same roll of sandwich cookies my friends and I would get for our lunches I was transported back to Ireland, to being on the train, traveling to some new town, seeing the lush scenery, and feeling downright blissful. This store became my connection to that feeling, that culture.
Returning home and figuring out how to reconcile the two worlds you live in (it’s probably more like three: the world you left at home, the world you encountered away, and the world you thought you were returning to only to find it has been replaced by a world that is a mix of the old you knew and something unknown) to create an entirely new (4th) world can seem daunting, frustrating, joyous, and liberating. It is definitely worth the effort.
There are many ways to go about this. Below are just some of the ways I stay connected through things and language – the outer stuff. This is the easy part. (The real challenge is reconciling your new attitudes, opinions, and viewpoints – the inner stuff. But I’ll save that for another post.)
Things I learned to like while abroad that I continue to enjoy. Football is the first to come to mind, particularly with UEFA Euro 2012 going on right now. I love seeing players I watched down at my local pub while living in London. And getting to know the up-and-coming lads to continue my growing affinity for the sport. Gastronomically, I obtained a strong hankering for Indian cuisine. Also, lest I forget about mayo with fries – yum! To wash down any food, I learned to savor the taste of a well pulled pint of Guinness.
Items I don’t know how I ever did without. Duvets, people. They are a genius way to go for bedding. Why? Because they eliminate the need for multiple layers. Making your bed is a breeze when you have just one layer to pull up and straighten. Plus, with duvet covers (which are sheet-like) you can change up your look while one is in the dirty laundry pile. Initially, I had trouble finding exactly what I was looking for, but the increased prevalence of Ikea has made this issue rather moot. Also, scarves are the number one fashion accessory I took from being aboard. I have a rainbow of colors and am still trying to perfect the different ways to wear them.
The linguistic reminders. I curse in British-English and German. I say little phrases in my head in Dutch and Spanish. I overuse the words ‘indeed’ and ‘quite’ when I’m speaking. In response to asking a friend why she was looking at me oddly, she said, “You just said car park.” For the life of me I didn’t understand why this was “wrong” and my brain couldn’t come up with the American word (parking lot or parking garage).