This is what this woman said to me on the Number Nine bus in Hamamatsu, Japan back in the fall of 1989.
I was on my way downtown when she got on the bus and sat down next to me.
She had only been in Japan for a few weeks and obviously—from the reference to Coca Cola and her favorite brand of cigarettes—she was settling in okay.
As long as I have my Cokes and smokes.
What she said that cold, gray autumn day nearly twenty years ago has stayed with me as a reminder of what it is really like about being an expat and some of the sacrifices we might have to make. I suppose that is true about anything we might miss about back home and how we can manage our lives and a decent quality of life while we are living and working overseas.
Sometimes it’s the little things that make all the difference. Stuff we might have even taken for granted at one time or another or things that we would just miss once we were overseas or that might cost more.
I remember before I went to Japan in 1989, my very good friend Kevin McQuade told me to bring a couple of jars of instant coffee with me because coffee was so expensive there. Before coming to Korea, I was told to make sure to bring stuff like underarm deodorant because it would be hard to find once I got here.
Life was definitely tougher here in 1990. Of course there was always the Black Market you could depend on when you missed some of those comforts from home.
We all need a little something to make living overseas easier. I think today expats in Korea, Japan, and Thailand have it a lot easier than we did say 10 or 15 years ago.
Perhaps now, some people might say as long as I have my Krispy Kreme and Café Latte from Starbucks I will be okay.