Starting in a new location is always hard and requires some time, as you can read in my past post. But after a while, you will finally realize you settled in your new place. I think there are some recurring funny facts that show you have found a new home away from home. I found 5 of those signs, do you know more?
You are actually using the local language more than you thought
The first signal that you settled in your new place comes from the language. If you speak the local one, you will one day find yourself thinking or dreaming in it. The first time it happens makes you feel really powerful and ready to rule the world. If you don’t speak it, you will still pick some expressions and start using them. And the same for your friends, so you almost create a new language with those few words you know.
When I arrived in Chile I hadn’t being practicing Spanish for several years. So, honestly, at first I was very shy showing my language skills and I felt like if I had forgotten everything. It was also quite hard to understand the people because I had studied in Spain and the accent in Chile is very different. But I still remember the morning when I woke up and found myself thinking in Chilean. I also realized this is how I had dreamt that night. It was a great confidence boost and from that point I started speaking only Spanish to all the South Americans.
When in Rome…
You know you now feel at home in a new place when after a certain time, you find yourself acting like the locals. Without even noticing it, something that looked so impossible and far from you, becomes usual and normal. You will just find yourself doing it. This feels weird but in a positive way, as you basically overcame your own limitation.
I learned to ride a scooter here in Bali. At first I was really scared: the traffic is bad, the rules are different, the drivers are crazy and the riders are so reckless. I thought I would only go very slow and respect all the rules like if I was in Europe. But this was only for the first days. It didn’t take me too long to realize I needed to do like the locals in order to survive. So, I now zigzag between the cars and go even on the pavement. Sorry mum, I know you don’t want to hear this!
Sooner or later, you will try to cook local food
After a couple of months in a place, you have adjusted to so many things, that you almost feel like a local. So, you think you are ready to cook some local food. It’s the ultimate sign that you are not a visitor anymore. Unless your friend’s grandmother taught you the tricks of their cuisine, your experiments will miserably fail. No matter how hard you try and how much effort you put, there will always be a little secret you need to know to make it really authentic.
When I was in Miami for my semester abroad, I had friends from all over the world. We wanted to celebrate Thanks Giving with a traditional dinner, since no one had family there. We decided it would be at a friend’s place and we all prepared something. The host was in charge of the turkey, of course, and I helped her because I love cooking. Neither of us had ever made a roasted turkey nor saw anyone doing it, but we thought we would just follow the recipe. Despite our really hard work, the outcome was not as good as expected: it was so dry we could barely eat it…
You buy something local at the supermarket that is actually not what you expected
In the first weeks when you are in a new place, you would go to the supermarket and buy food and brands you know. At least when you eat at home, you want to have something that makes you feel comfortable. But once you feel settled you think it’s time for you to try something new. You walk out the grocery store feeling really cool and can’t wait to try that local food that looked so amazing. What usually happens when you try it, is that you realize you bought something completely different and that what seemed like a dessert, is actually something more similar to a sausage roll…
I wanted to buy very simple crackers here in Bali. I don’t speak Bahasa and found a package that had a writing and a picture that made me think it contained wholegrain crackers. So, I got home, prepared a guacamole and was very happy to eat it with my crackers. Too bad they were cookies with a mix of sugar and some spice on them. Definitely not the best match for my dip! Lesson learned: always translate the writing on a package of a brand you don’t know. No matter how settled in a culture you feel, you’re still a foreigner who doesn’t know everything.
The way you dress changes
When you feel at home in a new location, you also realize the way you dress has changed. According to your packing style, you brought fewer or more of the cloths you would usually wear, but every place has a different unofficial dress code. It doesn’t mean you will completely change your wardrobe, you will just adapt it to where you leave.
For Italian people, for instance, flip flops are just for the beach. You don’t wear them in a city and you especially don’t wear them at work. And I nestle thought I would never use them anywhere else. However, here in Bali everybody wears them all the time. Also, the co-working space I work from, is by the beach and I really like walking there when I take a break. The first days I used my nice shoes and sandals, but they turned out not to be the best option for sandy feet. Plus, the wet season is approaching and it’s raining very heavily almost every day. So, I felt defeated and started using flip flops to go to work. At my biggest surprise. I think this is the sign that I really settled in. When in Rome…