The cashier at the restaurant handed me the credit card terminal. I slid my card into the terminal, as I’d done many times before. As the receipt printed, I removed the card from the terminal—also, as I’d done many times before. It was then she yelled at me.
She was speaking a language I couldn’t understand. Slavic. But, her tone was unmistakable. She was pissed. Then she changed to English:
“Why you remove the card!! It wasn’t done. Now it is all bad.”
She called the younger, male employee over. I assumed it was to fix whatever issue I’d caused with the credit card machine. As she finished talking to him in their native tongue, he turned on me in the same angry tone.
“You CANNOT remove the card!!! Why did you do that?!?! It wasn’t done, you shouldn’t have done that.”
As if I didn’t understand the first time. Finally, I fired back.
“I KNOW. I understand it wasn’t ready. It printed, I thought it was done. You can stop YELLING now.”
Everybody behind me in line looked up, slightly bewildered. I’d had it. I was a paying customer, and while I understood it was my fault—I wasn’t going to sit there and be yelled at. I merely matched their tones. As I left the restaurant, I pulled out my phone and logged onto my bank’s mobile app.
There were two identical charges from the restaurant. The first one had gone through just fine, as I had suspected. It was in this moment… I missed home.
I woke up for the fifth day in a row with a splitting headache, and a bit of light-headedness. I got out of bed, and poured my morning cup of coffee in the hopes that it would solve the problem. For the fifth day in a row, it didn’t. What I initially had assumed was nasty jet-lag was showing symptoms of a nasty sinus infection of sorts.
I emailed multiple “general practitioners” offices that day after their phone numbers never picked up, asking when they had an open appointment, and how much it would cost a foreigner to get a basic checkup for a likely sinus infection. A week later I’d heard nothing.
The symptoms continued. I was always tired. I wasn’t getting my work done. I was cranky and irritable. My girlfriend tried calling around. The one clinic she could get a hold of told her they could see me…in 3 weeks. I started researching natural cures for sinus infections, thinking I’d just be a doctor myself if no doctor in this country wanted to take my money and write me a prescription.
For the next three days, I downed raw garlic with whatever nasty concoction I’d thought of, and hoped it would go away. For two days, I felt like a genius. Then the symptoms returned. Finally, on a Friday afternoon I went to Google again and found a doctor right down the street. I walked into her Soviet-style office. Her entire “office” was one room, with two desks and one patient “table”.
She told me she could see me right then and there. She performed an examination on me while I sat on a plastic chair next to her desk. She wrote me a prescription, and I paid a reasonable $25 for her 5 minute service. A week later, the symptoms persisted. I felt scammed. It was in this moment… I missed home.
I was waiting for an expensive package to be delivered by DHL. I’d arranged to be around the whole day. My apartment has four locked doors before you can even ring my doorbell, so I had to be. All morning, I heard nothing. At 11:41am, I refreshed my tracking page and was met with disaray.
“11:32am: Address invalid, please contact DHL to confirm contact.”
I called DHL. Apparently the number the driver had was wrong.
ME: “Did the driver think to contact the alternate number on the order?”
“Okay…can you have him drop it off at the local DHL?” (One just five minutes away from me)
“Because. You can pick up the package tonight, at the DHL warehouse. Anytime after 6pm, I think.” (This warehouse being a 1-hour 1-way trip for me)
“Are you SURE it’ll be there at 6pm?”
“No. Maybe 7pm, maybe 8pm. I don’t know.”
I ventured out to the warehouse—my journey entailing two metro lines, and an old-school Soviet style bus. The driver was pissed with me that I didn’t have exact change—this bus wasn’t included on my all-city transit pass, unbeknownst to me (hindsight is 20/20, I should have just taken Uber).
I finally made it to DHL and retrieved my package. As I stood in a grassy, desolate field in the middle-of-nowhere while waiting for the return bus—while holding $1,000+ worth of electronics in my hand—I wondered what the hell I was doing with my life.
It was in this moment… I missed home.
It was these moments that make me ponder whether maybe people are when they think I’m crazy for having moved abroad. It was these moments that make me wonder if I can really live abroad for the rest of my life.
I’ll admit, at first glance, some of these do seem petty. I consider it the price I pay to live abroad, and to live a good life devoid of all of the poisons of western culture. But no matter how patient and tolerant you are, these things can and will eat at you. The little things on a daily basis wear you down over time. What once was a cool and unique adventure—venturing out to DHL in the boonies, for example—becomes a massive waste of time and frustration.
These three stories are just a handful of the consistent things expats deal with on a usual basis. If you’re on shorter trip, you don’t even notice these things. It’s over the long term you lose patience. And your only choice is to suck it up and deal with it, or return to your home country.
Ultimately, what I’ve realized is this—no place is perfect.
Read More: 6 Rules All Expats Should Live By