Ex-Expat Life with a Side of Ketchup

When I talk, I sound just like everyone else. Nobody stares at me in the produce aisle. Taxi drivers don’t ask me where I’m from.

To everyone else, I appear like I belong here. After all, I’m an American in America. The majority of my life has been spent here. So why is it that not being an outsider makes me feel more like I don’t belong? Why is it harder to adjust to living here than it was to leave everything familiar behind?

Just the other day I was eating something with ketchup. Except after the first bite I almost spit out my food. The ketchup didn’t taste at all like what I was expecting. It wasn’t as sweet as what I would find in Asia. Although I had enjoyed ketchup many times before in the US, I was disgusted with what I had just put in my mouth. This must have gone bad, I thought to myself.

In reality, there was nothing wrong with the ketchup. It was exactly the same as the ketchup I used to eat. The only real difference was me. It’s been 15 weeks since I left China (and about 14 since returning to the US). Yet somehow I still find myself struggling to adapt to certain things. Some days I am taken aback by a bottle of ketchup. Some days life just has a different flavor than I’ve been accustomed to.

When I talk, I sound just like everyone else. (Was my accent always this horrible?)

Nobody stares at me in the produce aisle. (I’m the one staring at everyone else.)

Taxi drivers don’t ask me where I’m from. (But I’m expected to drive myself everywhere anyways.)