It’s the plague of the “TCK” isn’t it. Kids growing up cross-culturally have been branded with a scarlet letter R.
I get it. It’s an understandable, tangible way to illustrate some of the challenges that come with this life and on one level it makes tremendous sense. It goes hand in hand with all of the other bullet points in the “downsides” column.
I can’t answer the question “where are you from?”
I don’t know where “home” is.
I move a lot.
Even when I stay everyone else moves a lot.
I say goodbye way too much.
I see my grandparents like once every two years.
I MUST BE ROOTLESS.
I get it . . . but I hate it and I actually couldn’t disagree more. Maybe it’s a matter of semantics but if that is the case could we please reconsider the wording?
Let’s deconstruct it a bit.
ROOTLESS means “without roots.” Agreed?
So the metaphor presumes that we are talking about something that NEEDS roots and DOES NOT have them. We’re comparing TCK’s to a tree not a car . . . or a cow . . . or a crescent wrench.
That’s how metaphors work.
SO . . . if we are calling my kid rootless we are insinuating that they NEED some roots (I have no argument with that part of the point). But IF we are metaphoring about a tree which is rootless we have to stay true to the metaphor all the way through.
A tree without roots . . . dies. Period.
It shrivels up.
Falls down when the wind blows.
That, my friends, is where the metaphor breaks down. Why you ask? Take a look around. There are TCK’s all over the globe who are the polar opposite of shriveled. Not all of them thrive but MANY do. There are also LOADS of monocultural kids whose homebase has never once changed and are about as dried out and shriveled up as you can get.
There is so much more to having roots than staying in one place.
To be rootless means you have been cut off from what gives you nourishment, connection and strength. That’s the function of a root (you can look it up).
I would agree that my kids have been cut off from SOME of the things that CAN bring them nourishment, connection and strength . . . but not ALL. Not by a long shot. Not even close.
In fact I think they are tapped into sources that I never dreamed about in my monocultural childhood. Beyond that they are FAR MORE transplantable than I ever was. You could pick them up and drop them anywhere and they will thrive.
THAT IS NOT ROOTLESS.
My kids (and TCK’s everywhere) are ROOTFUL. Filled with roots. Lot’s of them. Fast growing, healthy roots. So much so that they will never dry out moving from one spot to another. There will be challenges to be sure, but that’s the thing about roots . . . challenges make them stronger.
They still need to be tapped into the things that feed them . . . AND THEY ARE.
A family that looks and acts the same in any living space, airport, hotel or hemisphere.
Routines and traditions that don’t change and can travel anywhere.
Solid friends that they have met along the way and stay connected to.
Core values that drive every decision.
A deeper grasp of fluid community than they ever would have picked up elsewhere.
I love geographical stability (being planted in one spot and never moving). It can and does produce some really solid lives. In fact some of my greatest nourishment, connection and strength has come as a direct result of being tapped into people who have barely moved in their lifetime.
It’s a good way to do things well . . . BUT IT’S NOT THE ONLY WAY.
Living cross-culturally CAN be every bit as rootful.
We’re ramping up for the annual reminder that expats say “goodbye” an awful lot — Some because they are leaving and others because they are not.
It feels different this time though. All of the same old repatriation dynamics apply but there is a LOT going on in the world right now. Current events are screaming (even more so than usual) for the attention of the masses who are in turn screaming for the attention of the current events.
Homegoings are bound to be impacted.
One quick clarification: I’m not a political commentator nor do I desire to be. There are plenty. Regardless, though, of where you are from, where you are going and what you feel like screaming about . . .
Here are 10 Tips for going home when everything has changed:
ONE: Brace for impact
Re-entry can be kind of like when you’ve been sitting by the pool in the hot sun for a while and all of your friends are saying, “come on, the water is perfect”. Then you dive in and . . . PHUUUAWWW!!!
Instantaneous hypothermic shock.
There are multiple variables but one of the most significant is that you expected something different.
Repatting is most challenging when it is a surprise. Do your best to know what you are jumping into.
THEN jump in.
Bonus tip: Know yourself — Are you a diver-inner or a toes firster? Plan accordingly.
TWO: Anticipate the Eclipse
You’ve got stories to tell. Exciting ones. Grand adventures of far away lands, awkward moments and likely something that involves a toilet.
On a regular day one of the most commonly shared frustrations among repats is the sense that no one is listening. Add to that a dominating narrative or news event (local, national or global) and it’s probably a safe expectation that your stories could get trumped (no pun intended).
Be patient. Eclipses don’t last forever.
Bonus tip: Superlatives lie. Just because a lot of people aren’t as interested as you thought they might be does NOT mean that NO ONE is.
THREE: Find Your Safe People
Every repat needs a place to be understood.
You’ve got some catching up to do but that is not going to make sense to everyone. You need someone who gets it and will stand as a buffer between you and the rest of the well-meaning welcome homers who can’t fathom why you have broken down crying in the cereal aisle. Someone who has been there and felt that is a great option but don’t shut the door on someone who hasn’t.
If they get it — they get it.
More than anything look for someone who lets you be ignorant without making you feel stupid. The right safe person can help you make sense of the things that just don’t.
Bonus tip: Let people who “get it” help you engage (not hide from) people who don’t.
FOUR: Lay it on the table
Repats are a strange breed. So are expats but at least their strangeness makes sense. When you were a foreigner you had your foreignness to fall back on. There was little question as to WHY you were such a bumbling mess and you weren’t expected to be completely caught up on politics and pop culture.
Not so for the returnee. You’re supposed to be normal, up to speed and happy to be “home”.
However, it is unfair to expect anyone who has not experienced what you are going through to miraculously presume that you feel more like a foreigner than you ever did abroad. Give them the benefit of vulnerability and let them know what’s going on inside.
Bonus tip: Repatriation is not a disability. Don’t confuse being vulnerable with making excuses for bad behavior.
FIVE: Become a Master Asker
Asking questions is an art form on so many levels. Not everyone is gifted at shutting up, listening and probing for deeper understanding but it is a skill that can be honed.
Of course you have an opinion and something to say. Look around. EVERYONE has something to say and they are all saying it (loudly) at the same time. Being intentional and genuine about asking questions first will give you a MUCH deeper grasp on what is really happening AND earn you the right to be heard.
Bonus tip: Asking questions can also be a science (if you are more inclined in that direction). Develop a formula and ask away.
SIX: Flip the coin
Know what makes me mad? When someone rips on my host country.
I’ve lived in China for the better part of ten years so the “chingy changy” jokes or the cracks about dog meat strike a nerve especially when they are followed by the elbow of presumed agreement.
You’re talking about my friends. They are actual people.
Know what I forget? There are two sides to every coin and my home country is full of real people too.
I generally stick my foot in my mouth at least three times before I remember that life abroad doesn’t make me an expert on all things domestic. My “home friends” deserve the same respect that I insist they give my “far away friends”.
Bonus tip: Respect does not equal agreement.
SEVEN: Adjust the volume
Repatriating can also be like when the sound is not good on the Travel Channel. You crank the volume up to 85, put the subtitles on and scoot closer to the television.
Then you flip back to the news and nearly blow your eardrums out.
It’s ok if home feels loud at first. Sensory overload happens when you suddenly hit the switch and simultaneously understand more AND less than you have in years. There is no shame in pacing yourself.
Unplug when you can and even if you can’t, do your best to lower the volume.
Bonus tip: Scheduling things that you have never scheduled before could help. Start the timer on news intake, social media and binge-watching. When the buzzer buzzes . . . walk away.
EIGHT: Don’t lean on your ability to unpop balloons
A perfect storm is brewing. If you are going home, you have some wonderful things to look forward to but transition comes naturally with tension.
If you are stacking the typical repatriation tensions on top of an extra set of transitional tensions (for example your friends are adjusting to a new job or a new leader of the free world) the odds of conflict go up.
They just do.
People say stuff. People that you have known and loved for your entire life might even say things that make you think, “who ARE you?”
This is important: No one is the best version of themselves in transition.
When emotions are flaring and core values are being challenged from every angle people do and say whatever they can to make their voice heard.
Take a deep breath. Work hard to NOT say what can’t be unsaid or do what can’t be undone. You will still love these people when the dust of current events has settled.
Bonus tip: There is a world of difference between disagreement and personal attack.
NINE: Study Yourself
Living abroad changed you. You knew that already but have you considered HOW it changed you? Specifically.
This is a great time for you to become a student of you. The more you know about yourself the less confusing the tensions of re-engaging will be. Knowing yourself won’t alleviate challenges but it may shed some light on why they frustrate you so much.
Here are some questions to think through:
How has my view of my own country changed?
How has my view of my host country changed?
How has my view of the world changed?
How have my politics changed?
How has my faith been strengthened, stretched or challenged?
How has my perspective on wealth/poverty been effected?
What has changed in me that I wish had not?
What is different in me now that I hope never goes away?
Get alone with a piece of paper and figure yourself out. Better yet, have this conversation with your family, or your safe people.
Bonus tip: Physically writing is a powerful way to discover things that you may not have even known existed . . . in your own brain.
TEN: GIVE GRACE ALL AROUND
Count on this as you prepare to go “home.”
• There WILL be moments that make no sense at all.
• There WILL be people who say stupid, stupid things.
• There WILL be days when you feel incompetent, irrelevant and marginal.
There will also be great moments of joy and celebration. Your transition does not need to be defined by the tensions or the rough bits BUT . . .
When they happen and you’ve run out of options, patience and steam, consider giving grace like you have never given grace before.
When your brand new friend says, “you lived WHERE?” . . . “WHY?!” give him some grace.
When your best childhood friend says, “You must just be glad to be away from there” . . . give her some grace.
When your second cousin makes an ignorant stereotype joke about your host country . . . grace.
When your dad forgets which country was your host country . . . grace.
When your favorite people say painful things.
When the noise is deafening.
When the news is depressing.
When every conversation comes back to the exact same topic and none of them are about you . . .
GRACE. GRACE. GRACE.
Not because it is the best weapon but because it leads to a better place.
And here’s a bonus tip: When you fall apart in the cereal aisle — take some grace for yourself. Lot’s of it.
Transition is temporary.
Know someone who is headed “home”? Pass this on.
Are you a “home-goer” yourself?Share your thoughts . What excites you and makes you afraid?
Been there and lived to tell about it? Give us your wisdom. Comment below.
Life abroad is a trade off isn’t it? You give some things up. You get some things back.
Some would call it a sacrifice which is perfectly accurate for so many. I prefer the term investment for myself. Both start with letting go of something but a sacrifice let’s go with no expectation or hope for return.
Truly and entirely selfless. Those people are my heros.
I’m getting way too much out of this to think that I have genuinely sacrificed anything (especially in comparison to those people). I’ve given things up but I’m an investor and frankly the returns are phenomenal.
To be clear — I’m not talking money here.
My investment has been comfort, connection and confidence.
I’ve given up things like a room full of power tools, a bathroom that doesn’t smell like raw sewage and literacy. Those are trivial compared to the relational investments — sure would be nice to drop the kids at Grandma and Grandpa’s for the day.
I’m whining a bit but I’m not complaining. The returns are not lost on me — I’m getting a bottomless adventure, a network of close friends from every continent (except Antarctica), kids who will never be held back by words like, “that’s too far to travel”, free language lessons with every taxi ride, fabulous family selfies, street food that would make your head spin and a chance to live out my calling every single day.
Seriously — not complaining — but I do miss my family. Especially this time of year.
The holiday season has me thinking about traditions. Are they an investment or a sacrifice?
I feel like many expats buy into the idea that when you live abroad you have to check your traditions at the airport. Just put them on pause until you get back “home”. A total sacrifice on the altar of “that’s not an option here”.
I don’t buy it.
Traditions, for the expat (and the repat), are one of the great opportunities for something solid in a life which is otherwise incessantly marked by change. Adaptation is required to be sure. Adjustment is essential. You can’t do this without some tweaks and twerks and modifications but rock solid traditions are worth the investment.
My family needs that. I need that.
So I’m investing in a solid set of traditions (holiday and otherwise) that can remain constant here, there or anywhwere.
sidenote: Twerks are probably less essential to this process than tweaks and modifications. Please consult a doctor before you include twerking in your family traditions. Please also consult your family.
When you squeeze the old, stable customs through the filter of expat realities you end up with a set of TRAVELING TRADITIONS that can go with you wherever you land.
I’m working on mine and here are some things that I’m considering:
Traveling Traditions should focus on people not places.
We don’t have the luxury of going to Grandmother’s house every year let alone going over the same river or through the same woods. Our stability will likely never be a place. It is people (namely us).
Traveling Traditions should be focused on what “can always” instead of what “can here”.
Every true tradition must be held to the test . . . could we still do this if we lived in Dubai or Moscow or Bangkok or Atlantis? If not then it always runs the risk of extinction with the next move . . . or the one after that.
Traveling Traditions should be focused on small and not large.
Ornaments travel. Trees, not so much. We are mobile people. Our traditions should not be tethered to “things” that cannot move with us.
Traveling Traditions are more likely to need “translating” than simply “transplanting“.
Traditions probably won’t ever move seamlessly between spots on the planet but discovering how to convert the heart of the old into a new location or culture is worth some thought. sidenote: something is always lost in translation which does not render it unworth translating.
Traveling Traditions should be firmly flexible.
I am 100% dead set, unflinchingly convinced and resolved that our traditions will move forward according to our plan, absolutely . . . until they don’t. Then I’ll be flexible. We’re expats so we’ve already learned something about flexibility. It keeps us from breaking.
Traveling Traditions should break the time-space continuum.
20 years from now I want my kids to finish the sentence, “When I was a child my parents always made us ______________”. Then I want them to wrack their brains figuring out how they’re going to get their families to love it as much as they did.
We have a wonderfully challenging, beautifully transient life. Things change regularly and rapidly even when we don’t go anywhere. We make more friends than we ever dreamed we would, engage more cultures than we even knew existed and say more goodbyes than we ever signed on for.
Considering the fact that pretty much everything changes on a regular basis for the average expat . . . something needs to stay the same.
Traditions are worth the investment but they are certainly not without return.
What have you learned about maintaining your traditions in a constantly changing life?
A fresh start. A new leaf. A change of scenery. That’s what I need to break me out of the unhealthy rhythms and dysfunctional habits I’ve been carrying with me for years.
The people reading this are having at least three distinctly different reactions right now.
The starry-eyed “Soon-To-Be’s” are like “Exactly what I was thinking. Makes total sense.”
The half-jaded “Been-There’s” are saying, “PFFFT. Keep dreaming chump.”
And somewhere out there someone just giggled and thought, “yeah, not so much, but it gets better.”
I wish it were true. I really do. I wish that packing up and moving to a new place meant that you could leave your baggage at home.
But you can’t . . . at least not most of the time.
(just a side note to anyone who actually did discover that moving away fixed all of their issues . . . you should maybe not say anything just now . . . the rest of us don’t like you)
I call it FLIGHT INFLATION (capitalized for emphasis) and it’s a reality built on two simple principles:
• Issues can fly
• They expand when they land
The life cross-cultural can be the great inflator of personal problems. It can also be painfully deceptive, early on. The excitement, the adventure and the newness can serve as a great cover up for a good long time but rest assured . . . if it’s in there . . . it will come out.
Let’s get blunt for just a minute so there’s no mistaking what we’re talking about here:
If addiction is your thing — drugs, booze, porn, attention, name it — an international move is not a substitute for recovery. You can expect that your triggers and temptations will be stronger than ever. Even if your vice seems non-available in your new home, addicts are masters at finding what they crave.
If your marriage is in the toilet —you may very well need some time away with your spouse and a trip abroad could be just what the therapist ordered . . . but LIFE abroad is NOT a break from reality to gather your thoughts and talk things out . . . it is a NEW reality altogether. It’s a reality that mixes all of your past frustrations with a whole new set of frustrations. That’s dangerous chemistry.
If you have anger issues — That’s one thing when your life is compartmental. Blow up at work and no one at church will ever know. Kick the dog and he’ll keep it a secret. Life abroad is (and I generalize here) more community driven — less prone to personal space and segmented social spheres. Who you really are is harder to keep secret in a bubble when everyone you know is all up in your business.
Whatever it is — Withdrawal. Gossip. Anxiety. Depression. Control issues. Procrastination. Doubt. Shame. Laziness. Misphonia (that thing where mouth sounds make you crazy . . . what? . . . it’s a real thing . . . stop judging).
Seriously — whatever it is — life abroad doesn’t fix it.
Anonymity, isolation, lack of support, cultural stress, feeling out of control (this list goes on for a while) are all factors in the swelling of our issues abroad. Consider the fact that you are often expected to complete high stakes tasks with other anonymous, isolated, unsupported, highly stressed, out of control people and FLIGHT INFLATION starts to make sense.
This is not a doomsday post (could have fooled me, right?)
If you’re a starry-eyed “Soon-To-Be” don’t freak out
Everyone has issues . . . for real . . . everyone.
Do everything you can to address them before you go — and set a plan to keep addressing them.
Don’t be naive — Going in with your eyes open sets you up to do this right.
sidenote — if your issues are actually going to crush you abroad it is MUCH better to discover that before you go
If you’re a half-jaded “Been There”
Good news — you’re also half unjaded. Resolve not to go the other half.
Say it with me — “Life abroad does not get to rob me of my _______” (marriage, sanity, sobriety, dog)
Become a master of seeking wisdom.
sidenote — if your issues are already crushing you finish this sentence, “It would be better for me to ______ than to lose my ________.” Do whatever it takes.
If you’ve been there, come through it and learned something along the way
Share your wisdom. Humbly and with great empathy. Please.
Don’t get cocky. Issues come back.
Be an advocate for people with issues. They could use someone who understands.
sidenote: Consider that people are NEVER the best version of themselves in transition. Help them navigate.
Whoever you are and whatever your issues, add to the conversation and comment below.
Life abroad can be incredible . . . and challenging . . . and wonderful . . . and horrible.
Transition from one space, one place, one system and one normal to another is an ongoing process.
Even after the initial settling in, “culture shock” and newby bumblings, life abroad remains more fluid, more changing and more filled up with shaky uncertainties than monocultural life back on the farm.
Another angle that we often miss (in our sweet little expat bubble) is the fact that we have also imported copious amounts of transition into our host culture. They were normal before we got here — or at least they knew what normal looked like. Now their lives are filled with a constant stream of incoming and outgoing foreigners who talk funny, act weird, eat wrong and complain a lot.
You can’t write stuff this good.
Wide-eyed, hyper-optimistic, fresh off the boat Newpats (new expats) getting initiated and inundated by multi-varying degrees of seasoned or disgruntled or savvy or battle-weary Vetpats (veteran expats) who introduce them to the ways of the Locals with wise, wise words of expat genius like . . . ” you can’t get that here.”
It’s a wild mix of people who don’t understand the least bit about each other but feel the pressure to act as if they do. It’s like a gigantic petri dish for toxic assumptions to go crazy.
It’s not always fatal but it is never healthy.
Here is a short (and very abridged) guide to cross-cultural assumptions:
The assumption of direct correlation:The false assumption that every new experience is fully grasped and understood based on previous exposure to a completely unrelated and equally misunderstood foreign culture. Generally accompanied by the words, “That’s just like” or “When I was” or both.
Example:“Oh they eat with chopsticks?! That’s just like when I was in India . . . and they ate with their hands.”
Nope. It’s actually not.
The assumption of overestimated relational capital: The misguided perception that ones influence in his or her new community is stronger than than it actually is. Often accompanied by expectations for broad paradigm shifts based on personal recommendations, followed by confusion when said paradigm shifts don’t occur immediately.
Example: “Wow, you guys are way too introverted. It wasn’t like that where I come from. Let’s start a street corner karaoke night every Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday. Here’s a sign up sheet.”
Slow down. People need to trust you before they can trust you (read that twice).
The assumption of different is wrong: The premature deduction that cultural characteristics, customs, traditions or actions are automatically faulty solely by nature of their deviation from the Newpats preferred alternative. Often accompanied by phrases such as, “did you see that?!” followed by some sort of question, mockery or expletive.
Example: “Did you see that toilet?!! It’s a hole in the floor. How do they even do that?”
Different does not equal wrong. If it does, you are in trouble. Look around — you are the different one.
The assumption of time standing still: The notion that virtually nothing has changed between the entry points of the Vetpat and the Newpat. Often accompanied by phrases like, “Yeah, you can’t get that here” or “you can’t do that here.”
Vetpat: “Soap? No we bring that from home.”
Newpat: “Really? I thought I saw some at the market.”
Vetpat: “No that’s probably Tofu.”
Newpat: “Ah. Ok. Do you think I could find it online?”
Vetpat: “On what?”
You don’t have to stay up on everything but don’t put the Newpats in your box.
The assumption of identical issues: The idea that the Newpat will experience the exact same gut reactions and frustrations that the Vetpat experienced. Accompanied by phrases like, “You’re going to . . . ” or “You’ll probably . . . ”
Example: “You’re going to love the food. You’re going to hate the smell. You’re going to get really frustrated when they stare at you so much so that you’ll probably snap at some point, put on a Spiderman costume and start screaming, “TAKE A PICTURE IT WILL LAST LONGER.”
“It’s ok if you do.”
Newpats will develop their own biases. Don’t insist they share yours.
The assumption of golden words:The ill-conceived impression that Newpats are hanging on every wise and wonderful nugget of advice and guidance offered by the Vetpat. Often accompanied by one sided conversations, long explanations, presumptuous opinions (stated as fact) and a deep sense of satisfaction for the Vetpat.
Newpat: “Hey where’s the bathroom.”
Vetpat: “Well, son let me tell you, there are actually three different types of (finger quotes) ‘bath rooms’ in this country. The first is an actual (finger quotes) ‘room for bathing’. Historically, you see, this is a much more collective culture than . . . (30 minutes later) . . . so the third one, or as the locals would call it the (finger quotes again) ‘room of the toilet’ is down the hall to the left. I’ll take you there.”
Newpat: “Nah. Thanks. I’m good.”
Your wisdom is so wise . . . really, it is . . . so stop talking and listen for a while so someone will hear it.
The assumption that ignorance equals stupidity:The misconception that ones intellect, intelligence or complexity is directly reflected in his or her capacity to express them in the context of a foreign language or culture. Generally accompanied by speaking louder, slower and offering disproportionate praise for the simplest accomplishments.
Local: “HELLO! WHAT . . . IS . . . YOUR . . . . . . . . . . . NAME?!!”
Foreigner: “Um . . . Bob”
Local: “WAAAHHH BOB. YOUR LANGUAGE IS SOOOOO GOOOD!!”
Foreigner: “Really? I just said my name”
Local: “WHAT . . . IS . . . YOUR . . . JOB?”
Foreigner: “Um . . . Astrophysicist”
Local: “WAAAH. YOU ARE SOOOO SMART. YES YOU ARE.”
Examples can vary drastically from location to location but the same assumption shows up universally. Just because the foreigner can’t say it, doesn’t mean they don’t know it.
The assumption of cookie cutter foreigners:The mistaken conclusion that all foreign people share a single set of opinions, ideas, understandings and temperaments. Accompanied by words like, “They”, “always” and “because.”
Example: “You’re feeding your foreign friend what?!! No don’t do that. THEY hate spicy food. They always start sweating and crying because they only eat cheese and vegetables.”
Special note: The assumption of cookie cutter LOCALS could be added to both the Newpat and the Vetpat lists.
The assumption of weird foreigners: The unfortunate deduction that all foreigners are strange, odd or different.
Actually this one is probably spot on. We can own it.
The only tragedy of oddness is when it becomes an insurmountable obstacle to relationship. Weird is worth working through.
If assumptions are poison then QUESTIONS are the antidote. Good questions. Lots of questions.
Starting with “I don’t know, but I want to” instead of “yeah, that’s just like” changes absolutely everything.
So how do you ask good questions?
That’s another post entirely.
How about you? Which assumptions have poisoned you or your community the most? What other assumptions have you seen (or used)?
Part of my job is to prepare people for toilets in China.
Don’t be jealous.
Many a Western style traveler now have a killer party story to tell because they were caught off guard in an Eastern style bathroom.
The odors alone are generally enough but that is never the end of the tale (no pun intended). There is also the issue of the missing toilet paper in most public restrooms. My absolute favorite bumbling foreigner stories of all time involve grown men who went into a stall wearing socks and came out wearing none.
(pause here until that last sentence makes sense)
The most crucial bit of forewarning, though, is that sometime . . . somewhere . . . you’ll be out and have no choice . . .
You’re gonna’ have to use a squatty.
I’ve even worked up a helpful training tool to help newbies remember the key steps.
1. Pause — don’t rush into this. Do you have tissue?
2. Observe — Scan the stall. Is there cleanup that should happen before this begins? Is there a hook to hang your jacket on?
3. Only Halfway — Which (without intending to be crude) has to do with your trousers and the distance between your waist and your shoes. Simply put, don’t drop em’ to the floor. It never ends well (no pun intended).
Pause — Observe — Only Halfway. It’s a bit of an acronym for easy remembering.
You’re welcome for that.
A foreigner’s first time using a squatty is a rite of passage — it’s a magical moment when you prove that you didn’t just come here for the stuff they put in the brochure. No, no — you are a mover and a shaker (no pun intended).
HOWEVER — The standard Western reaction to the experience of the Eastern toilet is typically handled tongue in cheek (pun intended a little bit). We’ll squat if we must but in the back of our minds it’s ridiculous and frankly uncivilized. There is smirking and joking and (at the very least) light hearted mocking because THESE PEOPLE haven’t yet figured out the right way . . . the proper way . . . the Queen’s way of doing their business.
It’s little more than a glorified, porcelainized version of pooping in the woods.
Confession time — I still snort laugh a little every time I go into a Chinese Starbucks bathroom and see the sign that says
“For your safety, please refrain from squatting on the toilet seat.”
That’s just funny.
Mostly because Starbucks is the poster child for all things Western and yet someone in the top office had to concede that they needed to take quick action, presumably because some poor soul had slipped and broken his collarbone complaining that there was no sign warning of the dangers of squatting on a Western toilet.
It’s all fun and games until someone gets hurt.
Here’s the thing. We joke. We laugh. We even question the sophistication and development of cultures who do things differently from us . . .
Until we realize that they are right.
One of the hottest new products in the Western world right now is the “squatty potty.” Not the ground level Asian sort but the pooping unicorn, as seen on Shark Tank sort that brings your knees up and converts your Westie to a squatty instantly.
(if you’re one of the eight Westerners who haven’t seen this video yet, give it a click)
Someone from our side of the globe has finally argued both convincingly and hilariously that squatting is best practice.
I mean except for the rest of world.
It’s a complex cultural phenomenon isn’t it? When THEY (whoever they are) say it, it sounds ridiculous but when WE say it, it’s genius.
It would be one thing if it was only one thing. But it’s not.
Few outsiders who come to China are not, at some point, overwhelmed by the the sheer number of toddler tushies that they see out and about in the public square. “Split pants” are just what they sound like — quick easy access because when babies gotta’ go, babies gotta’ go.
Consequently, parents and grandparents are often seen on the sidewalk, squatting their little ones while they make a mess worth stepping around.
It’s ridiculous. Messy. Disgusting.
But Elimination Communication (which is exactly the same thing) — Now that’s just genius. That’s the phrase that was coined when a Westerner spent time in India and Africa and came back with a “brand new” potty training method that focused on parent-child bonding, zero diaper rash, months faster results and an end to landfills once and for all.
The concept has taken off in the West and been the springboard for numerous more trendy (and pricy) lines of the exact same thing that has been common practice throughout much of the world for centuries.
photo credit: bbc.com
Maybe, the most prominent recent example of “it was stupid until we thought of it” has been brought to us by 23 time gold medalist Michael Phelps (and numerous other Olympians who jumped on the cupping train). He taught us in Rio that gigantic hickeys aren’t always a bad thing.
Confession time — I’m a lot like Michael in that (and only in that) I too have had my back covered in these enormous, suction induced bruises. I even wrote about it several years ago in:
My stance was, “stay away children . . . stay away” — but I’m not too big to admit when I’m wrong. In fairness however, I wrote from my own experience back when it was THEIR idea . . . way before it was OURS . . .
First things first -- Apologies to those of you who came looking for the real Jerry Jones, owner of the Dallas Cowboys. That is not me.
I live in China with my beautiful blended family. Together we are on an adventure that has taken us around the world and back . . . and then around again. Specifically 7 years on the East side of the planet (China) -- two years on the East side of the U.S. -- and now . . . back in China (on the East coast).
We like East.
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