Sunday, July 11, 2010

Life in Limboland

Living abroad makes you feel like you're odd man out - you know, like that feeling you get sometimes, like everyone is watching you? Like maybe you just realized you’ve had something stuck in your teeth for the last hour, or you’ve been walking around with a section of toilet paper stuck to your shoe? You feel conspicuous, like suddenly everyone else is very noble and you are just, well, you.

Well, I’ve realized that when you decide to live abroad a similar phenomena happens – you are a foreigner, you are indeed odd man out. And even as I get more comfortable in my new life and hear that my accent is evolving, I know without any doubt that I am not from “here.” I am from “there.”

But sometime even though I know this to be the truth, an even stranger thing happens. Sometimes people whom you’ve gotten to know “here” seem to forget that you are from “there” – like in conversations with people who sometimes correct your pronunciation so that it sounds more like “here,” like maybe I forgot or perhaps spent too much time watching American television. Worse still, there are those that don’t believe you could really be from “there,” even to the extent that they mistake me for an imposter – a person who is just putting on a funny accent – a pretender, a wannabe, or someone who spent their childhood holiday in the States and became so enamoured they could never bear to shake it off.

The worst phenomena of all that happens when you’re living abroad is that sometimes people from “there” – from where I am really from – start to think that I am odd man out, too. Imagine when your friends start to tell you stories as if you’re actually a foreigner to them – they all start the same, “Well in America, blah blah blah...” I don’t know why this bothers me, probably because I never expected it and because deep inside I am still hoping to fit in someplace in the world. But I guess to be fair I must admit that this is at least partially true. I’m not like everyone “there” any more – even though I’m also not like everyone “here.” I am a member of a small population of people who are just like me, even though they’ve never met me or even each other, because they have also left home and started a new life someplace far away. The very nature of our decision means that we live in isolation from one another. We are Limbolanders – sort of in between – having the foundation and values of our homelands, the new learnings of our new lands and a sort-of understanding of both as we slowly lose touch with our old place and gain touch in our new place.

Life for Limbolanders is a kaleidoscope of learnings gained “everywhere” – I have friends all over the world, yet most of them don’t know each other and sadly, will probably never even be in the same room together. They are my virtual Sunday afternoon walking partners, my Friday-night-drinks crew, my shopping buddies – the fact that we are chatting over the phone while in different parks across the globe, or that we are in our separate homes connected by Skype over a glass of red, or that the shop happens to be on the internet – doesn’t change our connection to one another.

And this, in fact, is the most amazing phenomena of all – the fact that the deepest and truest of friendships can survive travel miles and time zones, that no matter where in the world you hang your hat you can keep these treasures with you like jewels in your pocket, even as you gather new ones.


  1. Just wanted to say I enjoyed this blog about adjusting to a new country. You do a good job of creating visualization in your writing. -Joshua

  2. Hi Theresa! I really liked this article.. found a lot in common I guess :) but also so well written.
    See you soon xxx