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Creature comforts of an expat

May 13, 2009

Expat life can be likened to a roller-coaster ride of joy, thrills, and frustration in dealing with the unknown and unexpected.  Depending on the country and the individual, expats can settle quickly and smoothly into their new life with a few creature comforts from home. On the surface these comforts may differ, but with careful molding they can after time seem familiar.

Renegotiate the comfort standards

When you become an expat wherever that may be, it is important to relax those standards you had set earlier in your home country, because things are done differently. Sometimes it’s a matter of renegotiating your present with your past, redefining what it is that can make you happy and keep you sane. This process will be ongoing as new challenges present themselves.

Over the past years living in Asia, there have been times when I  have taken myself back to the boardroom for yet another round of negotiations. Coffee was one of them, baked goods another, fashion–sometimes.

Of course there are things I’m willing to sacrifice just because the want is not strong enough: avocados, fish and chips, lamb. Yet there are certain comforts  I am unwilling to sacrifice, that will always need negotiating. Call it aging stubbornness, but sometimes small creature comforts can dull the pain of homesickness, cultural stress, and that fish out of water feeling.

My coffee haunt

My journey in Korea (and Japan prior) has taken me into the world of coffee franchises for various reasons: non-smoking, location on every corner, and knowing that I can get a relatively good strong coffee anywhere.

by Cate

by Cate

Even if it is in a paper cup.

For me these cafes have been largely symbolic, an oasis in a dry caffeine landscape. Finding a quaint cafe is easy in Seoul, and Japan, but finding a cafe where I can breathe clean air, enjoy decent coffee, and not be deafened by loud gaggling women, is rare.

by Cate

by Cate

If I  had to choose between poor coffee and cute interior over a coffee franchise, my taste-buds would opt for the latter everytime.

As yet the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf has not made its presence known in New Zealand (thankfully).

These last few days in Korea have brought on a sense of nostalgia as I remember my entry into this country. That dreaded feeling in having to renegotiate standards again has long past and now forgotten.

Now as I move from Asia to America, I’m thinking about what comforts I will bring to my new home, not as a matter of survival but as way of keeping a part of Asia alive in me.

Caffeinated Traveller

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5 Comments
  1. Erica Johansson permalink
    May 14, 2009 10:34 pm

    This post reminded me of a quote I read some time ago. “Sacrifice is giving up something good for something better.” When you’re living as an expat you likely have to sacrifice some things, but what you get back in return is well worth that sacrifice.

  2. Bear permalink
    May 15, 2009 1:24 pm

    It is good to be flexible, is it not? One lesson travel has taught me is that there is usually more than one right way to do things.

  3. May 16, 2009 1:58 am

    Well said, Cate. I can completely relate

    When I moved to Shanghai, I told myself that I would become a committed tea drinker. I am not ashamed to say that I gave that up about 3 months in and haven’t looked back. Its not that I don’t like a nice cup of tea every now and again, but that cup of coffee is something I need in order to feel … whole. So it is that I have come to know my new friends at ‘Jamaica Blue’ coffee shop

  4. May 16, 2009 9:43 pm

    Cate if you want to keep Asia alive inside you, then you will. I can tell. People like us who are visual (i.e. your nice photos) are already so aware of the landscape that we move within, we naturally incorporate some of it into our chemistry as we move through life. I believe you will bring some of Asia with you wherever you go, because it already is a part of you.

    Travel safely my blogging photographer coffee drinker friend.

  5. May 19, 2009 2:35 pm

    Great quote from Erica. It truly is a series of exchanges isn’t it? We have to let go of one thing to fully enjoy another. You seem quite capable of finding the best elements of wherever you are, Cate. That gift will always make wherever you are the best place to be.

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