Soak it in while you can for soon it will all be mundane

So nine months into our time here in South Africa and something occurred to me today. As I was taking our now pretty lively puppy Cooper for a walk, a flock of startled mousebirds flew out of a tree. I love mousebirds, they have cute tails and make a funny noise and I was reminiscing about our observations of these birds when we first arrived in Pretoria. It was nostalgic. Ahh, the early days, I thought. I miss them.

And then I realised that so much time has now passed since our arrival that things aren’t new or exciting any more. Life has basically returned to being mundane.

It isn’t really of course – see my recent post about a holiday in Mauritius. Plus how could life POSSIBLY be mundane with a four month old Miniature Schnauzer in the house whose main mission in life is to steal our laundry.

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But what has happened is that I have been through the expat cycle to the point where life here has become normal. It is hectic, a constant round of swimming and horseriding and sleepovers and play-dates. When I am not working or writing blogs I am booking flights, hotels and car hire (there is a LOT of that here), running to the shops, trying to top up my phone AGAIN, chasing some workman or another, attempting to register to vote in the UK elections, taking the dog to the vet, filling out a school form….you get the idea, it’s a normal, busy family life. That happens to be in South Africa now and not a town in the west of England.

So how does this make me feel? In a way a little sad as I loved the early days when every bird was interesting, seeing the zebras on the way to horseriding was something to put on Facebook. Eating out was always a treat, discovering new coffee shops and trying new wines was something that made me happy. It still does, but these things happen less often and aren’t quite so unique. As I am sure happens with everyone, eventually your new expat life returns to some form of normality and in my case seems even busier than it used to be (possibly thanks to the addition of lively puppy).

My message thus to new expats is to enjoy it, soak it up, because before long it won’t seem special or new or exciting any more. But with a word of caution – just like those annoying people who tell you to enjoy every second of your new baby because before you know it they will be all grown up, this advice probably isn’t terribly welcome if you are struggling in your new home. So to these people I would say just wait, get through this bit, perhaps try and find something interesting or new or even just different as often as you can and make a note of it. It may not mean much now, it might not bring any light into your life. But when you are ready it or they will be there waiting.

Just like my mousebirds in the tree.

My Expat Family

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7 thoughts on “Soak it in while you can for soon it will all be mundane

  1. …and yet the weird thing is, you’ll go home for a holiday and notice and question all sorts of things there, like when everybody is tapping their cards instead of chip and pinning and it’s confusing, because you missed the change or you’ll wait at the checkout wondering stupidly why nobody is packing your grocery bag for you, or you’ll wait and wait for somebody to come and fill you petrol tank…and then you’ll come back here and have another stint of things being new and unfathomable and fantastic and irritating, you’ll notice more subtle things that you missed the first time around or you’ll almost run over a car guard, because you have forgotten that there are car guards and that they like to stand in your blind spot when you are reversing.

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    • Oh god I’m glad it’s not just me and the car guards! I do wonder if I could pay them NOT to stand behind me and try to guide me out 🙂 But yes I agree, I’m sure I will find many things confusing when I go back to the UK. The card tapping thing was just coming in when I left, will be interesting to see how far it’s come. I’m going to feel like the gormless tourist aren’t I lol?

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  2. Funnily enough I was thinking just this the other day as I was writing a post about how different life is in our new posting, the fact that what is new now will seem normal in such short order. expatorama’s comment struck home too, I remember standing like an idiot at the check out waiting for the clerk to pack my shopping. They must have thought I was very strange, and entitled. Your pup is beautiful by the way.

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  3. The way you wrote this perfectly expresses what it’s like to be an expat around the 1 year mark. Life becomes normal without actually being normal. It’s so true!

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  4. Hi Clara, although it doesn’t feel ‘new’ anymore (it can’t as I’ve been here for 18 years!) I still sometimes get surprised by stuff and do double takes when things are culturally different. Especially when we go to different parts of the UK. We went to Wales last summer and that was amazing and felt like my expat life in Britain was just starting again. I also get surprised by my kids’ observations too and ponder on why they are so completely British. My ‘new’ time in England was mostly horrible and seemed to last for years – much longer than in my previous two expat countries (where that ‘new’ feeling was exactly as you’ve described) and I really struggled to see the upside of living here. Great post. #MyExpatFamily

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    • It’s funny you should mention Wales as I hardly knew it at all until we moved to a town in the west of the UK and we started going there on holiday – first Pembrokeshire and then Snowdonia and now I love it! I am sorry your early days in England were so awful – can you put a finger on why it is so hard (apart from the obvious things like the weather, high prices and grumpy Londoners!)? Sometimes I think the places we believe should be “easy” often because we share a language and mistakedly think we have similar cultures can be the hardest. I know Brit friends who have moved to the States have also found that really tough…

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  5. This is SO true Clara!! This can sometimes make blogging about expat life very difficult when it all just feels normal haha! I found that our last trip to the UK was a good way to reset and then coming back to the Seychelles felt new again, we’ve got a trip coming up at the end of July, which I’m so ready for!! Its weird how quickly life becomes ‘normal’ when it is so different to everything we knew! Thanks for sharing with #myexpatfamily

    p.s little Cooper is SO cute (apart from laundry stealing haha!)

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