Tuesday, February 23, 2016

an expat's battle with stuff

Most expat stints are temporary. I don't know a single expat in Taiwan who plans on living here for forever. Most plan on moving somewhere else in the not-too-distant future, meaning anywhere from next year to five years from now.

I know the same is true for us.
As much as I love Taiwan, I know that we don't really belong here forever. 
Most of the time, I don't mind not knowing where we will be 2 years or 5 years or 10 years in the future. Other times, it makes me want to tear my hair out.

For example: I have lived in Taiwan for 3.5 years now, and just two weeks ago I had a mini freak out because we ordered a semi-expensive memory foam mattress online. It arrived on Monday. The cause of my grief? The same thoughts kept playing over and over again in my head:

WHY ARE YOU ACQUIRING STUFF?
ALL THE STUFF YOU ACQUIRED YOU GAVE AWAY WHEN YOU MOVED.
YOU WILL LEAVE TAIWAN.
ARE YOU JUST GOING TO GIVE AWAY ALL OF YOUR STUFF AGAIN?
THAT IS WASTEFUL AND SILLY.
STOP GETTING STUFF! 

The funniest part? We are not materialistic people. The stuff we have acquired is no-brainer stuff that everyone has: a couch, a dresser, a kitchen table, a mattress, a dryer, a coffee machine, a shoe rack.

But being an expat makes me question every single purchase I ever make because I know that our lives here are temporary. I think it is probably a lot easier for people who own their own home or have normal lives to buy a couch. If they move, they can put it in a moving truck and take it with them.

As an expat, far far far away from "home" or a "rooted" existence, that is just not how things work. 

We moved to Taiwan with four huge suitcases and a guitar case. 
When we leave Taiwan, we will leave with huge suitcases & a shipping crate. 

Because here is the deal: free housing is free housing. It's exactly what you would expect from something that is free. We had a couch that only one of us could comfortably sit on, a mattress that was as hard as a rock and a kitchen table that wobbled dramatically anytime someone bumped it.

I am an almost 30-year-old woman.
I don't exactly want to live like a college student.

So we bought a really awesome couch from IKEA, and I like it a lot, so when we move wherever it is we end up after Taiwan, I am bringing my couch with me. And my memory foam mattress. And my vintage red dresser. And my espresso machine. And my awesome kitchen table.

Maybe that makes me a weird expat or something. Who knows? But what I do know is that I got rid of all of my stuff once before, right before we moved to Taiwan in 2012, and as it turns out, unless you are a nomad living out of a backpack, having some basic stuff to be comfortable kinda matters. 


6 comments

  1. Jackie this is so true! I always have the same problem over here as well. J and I didn't sell all of our stuff when we moved to Lithuania (it is clogging up our parents' houses), but we came here with 4 suitcases and left all of our apartment stuff in the US. We just bought a highchair a few weeks ago (holding and feeding the baby was getting to be too much), but what are we going to do with all of these things when we move?! Also, why does it seem like stuff multiplies?

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    1. Are you guys thinking of moving soon, or is this the "what if..." worries? I know it all too well!

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  2. I feel the exact same way! I have been toying with the idea of buying thinks like a hot water heater and a somewhat nice espresso machine (I really love coffee), but I know that I won't bring those things back to the United States with me (I'm not going to use a converter at home!!!) and so I somehow can't justify them even though I may be here for years more! Glad to know that other feel the exact same way ;).

    www.california2catalonia.com

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    1. Get them! I think some creature comforts are always a good idea!

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  3. Ohhhh my goodness, I felt like I was reading my own thoughts or something. We moved abroad in 2012 as well (almost 30, too!) and just last autumn decided to plunk down for a fancy mattress! I had the same mattress and furniture woes as you have described and honestly, it's been a coooonstant struggle whether or whether not to acquire, but I've definitely come to the same conclusions. I think it's because after we came back from a visit to the States, we were tired of living like "twenty somethings" and ready to make some big upgrades, even in this impermanent expat life. (then again it's like, I've lived here this long, so might as well invest now) I don't regret that mattress purchase for ONE second :)

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    1. Yes, I no longer find living super frugally cute. We did it for years because we had to. Now? We don't. I certainly don't want to fill up our apartment with useless things, but some items are nice to have. I am fearful of how much a shipping crate costs, but we will cross that bridge when we need to rather than worry about it now.

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