The Expat Experience from Five Different Countries in Asia

Have you ever wondered what it's like to be an expat in Asia? Here are highlights of the expat experience from five different countries in Asia on www.MilliGFunk.comAll 18 of us in the program have been in touch through a Google Group since we left our orientation in San Francisco two weeks ago (today marks the end of two weeks in Taipei). It seems that most of the Scholars are gathering entertaining stories to share.

Each time I read an email from the group, I see certain lines or descriptions that make me laugh out loud, inspire me, or really capture my own experience in Taiwan even if the Scholar who wrote it is in a very different place. Here are some of my favorite excerpts from my expat friends experiencing life in Asia for the first time right alongside me.

Five Crazy Expat Experiences

From The Philippines:

…They were so sweet. Like a Filipinos, they asked me if I had a boyfriend and then proceeded to offer up each of their sons to me. 🙂

From Korea:

I have been eating so much kimchi (at almost every meal!) that last night I dreamt I was on a kimchi themed ride at an amusement park. And I like kimchi, so this was actually a good dream.

From China:

I’ve reached enlightenment. In keeping with the Chinese proclivity to name old philosophical concepts and new political agendas with numbers, my new holistic approach is called 8 delights. Like the 8 delights noodles I ate last night, you gotta just take a big bite and try to appreciate the taste of the whole thing. Don’t look too closely at any one “delight” or it starts to look like an ear and then you start to feel panicky. 🙂

From Cambodia:

I was a little taken aback when a turtle arrived as the appetizer, as I expected it would be in a soup or something, rather than whole…I was then at first unable to establish what kind of animal was in the soup, because no one knew the word in English. Luckily, one of my coworkers speaks French. We narrowed it down to “small rodent, but that flies with flaps of skin like a bat,” from which I deduced flying squirrel. My coworkers went on to explain that the gall bladder and stomach of the animal are particularly prized for their fortifying effects according to traditional medicine. How does one consume the stomach and gall bladder, I enquired? By brewing it with “sra saw,” the local rice-based moonshine, of course.

From Thailand:

You know you’re a Scholar when…You’re prepping to fall asleep on a concrete floor on the Burmese border and you receive a text message from the Foundation that says, “There’s been the revolution in Bangkok. Don’t worry.” (THE revolution??? What does that mean???)

Finally, on a more sincere note, a friend shared some fantastic advice to her about living abroad. Her own friends shared these helpful reminders with her, and I’m going to share them with you.

Two Pieces of Advice to Expats

1) You will not/can not realize everything you’re learning right now or understand everything you’re feeling right away…a lot of it will hit later in reflection and you need to trust the journey and trust you’ll find answers whether it’s next week, next month, or in ten years.

2) You may feel helpless/idle, but merely the act of deciding to pick up, leave your home/life and immerse yourself in such a foreign setting is not idle. In that very decision and action rests a lot — and the mere act of doing it will reveal a lot to you/help you grow.

Do You Think You Could You Do It?

What do you think? Do you think you could fully immerse yourself in a foreign language and culture, living like a local, for a year or more? Do you think you could eat kimchi every day or taste the flying soup and turtle appetizer? Could you stay calm when you were sleeping on a concrete floor on the Burmese border and heard news of “the revolution” in your country’s capital?

These excerpts help paint a bigger picture of what life was like for me and my colleagues as expats in Asia. If you’ve lived as an expat or hope to live overseas someday, I hope you’ll leave a comment today on the blog!


This post was originally written and published in full on my blog, A Year in Taipei on September 14, 2006. Today’s post is abbreviated and is also edited so that the names of the friends who shared these experiences with me are made private. I hope you enjoyed this post!

I wrote more than 300 blog posts during my year in Taipei, Taiwan. I don’t know yet how many of those posts I’ll recreate on, but for now, at least, you can come back on Thursdays for a #ThrowbackThursday to my #YearInTaipei.

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