Expat Homecoming: Year #2

@mattkaiser
Andrew and I went back to Ukraine! After freezing our butts off for a little over two weeks we are back in the States and it is time to reflect. It was a good trip, filled with ‘You’ve gotten so fat’ and ‘When are you having kids’ moments I am trying to erase from my memory. You know, the usual.

I wanted to talk about something that has been on my mind for awhile. I will ambitiously call it ‘a pace of life’. It is true in every country - you don’t work you don’t eat. People work their asses off just to put food on the table: Ukrainians and Americans alike. I hear a lot from my US friends and colleagues about a work-life balance and how hard it sometimes is to maintain/find a job that allows you to have it. For the longest time I wasn’t entirely sure what they were talking about. Ukraine is more simple I guess in that department. You go to work 5 days a week, you come home, you do stuff on the weekend. Or at least this is what I was used to. Time after work on a weekday is the time to be home with your family, watch TV, read, do whatever. I guess Ukrainians do not have that need to constantly be moving - we know when to stop and reflect.

Andrew and I sometimes argue when I get into that Ukrainian state of mind. It is not that my people don’t do anything fun - this fun has a special time and this time can’t interfere with work or family/alone time. Granted, it might just be me. In the States it feels like if you come home after work and just relax - you are wasting time, you are considered lazy. A lot of my friends here devote time to their hobbies or side businesses after their main jobs. In Nashville especially - you are a musician, you worked on your day job now you are out to create music, write lyrics, or rehearse. I do think this is great - I just don’t want to be considered lazy if I don’t do something like this. This stigma just feels unfair when in reality, I do what I need to do: enjoy my life, put food on the table, pay rent, travel. Smaller things fulfill me. I have side gigs and go out whenever I have something to do and someone to do it with. However, time with myself to me is never wasted time. I am my own biggest investment.

There was a lot of eating, sleeping, and walking around involved when we were in Ukraine. Small town life is so much different from what we now are used to. It gets ‘boring’ sometimes but hey, so many people across the world do not have the luxury to just sit and read for a few hours. The thing is: I feel like Americans are running a marathon - Ukrainians are here for a stroll. And once again, I am here not knowing which one is better. Should there even be one to be ‘better’? As always I am sticking to my song: the magic of being an expat is to have a chance to see two cultures, nurture the things you like in them and let go of the things you don’t. Travel opens up your eyes to what there is in the world - expat living gives you a chance to dissect a culture.

It was a good trip. Hell, I got a new dress out of it! This time around it was almost impossible to leave. I don’t know if this is because Andrew was with me and I didn’t have to miss him or because I am getting older and more sentimental. Or just ‘cause we always want what we don’t have.

3 comments

  1. I'd have to completely disagree. All of people surrounding me all my life in Ukraine were always busy with something. Yes, there are times you spend with the family sometimes, or going out with friends, but working 8-5, 5 days a week not my story. I feel the opposite, it's an overtime, constant rush trying to learn something new, succeed at work, trying to find side work etc etc., I haven't met people here in USyet who would actually be very proactive, even the "having fun" considered to be grilling some meat and having a beer at the backyard. But, then again, maybe it's just the surrounding that I happen to run into all my life, but still, I wouldn't agree on most of Ukrainians just go home and have spare time after work.

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    1. Not trying to say that Ukrainians are lazy or anything - my mom has work and then she tutors after work for hours, I had school when I was living there and then I did art school after and was coming home late at night. That's not the point. The point is: here, people work themselves to death because they 'have to' - otherwise they are not a 'hardworking part of society'. Ukrainians do that because they need to/want to.

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  2. You're not lazy if you want to go home and relax after your day job. A lot of people just have greater ambitions here in Nashville to be something bigger and better than what they are currently. They have a dream they wish to fulfill. I'm one of those people except when I go home, I just may be relaxing because I love doing it. However, I work just about everyday, 7 days a week, trying to accomplish that goal of being a well known photographer producing good photos that people want to see and have for themselves.

    You're not lazy because you want to relax after a hard day's work; you're lazy if you don't ever get up and even go to work. You're lazy if you go to work and not perform your job well. You're lazy when you're out begging for money rather than working on getting a job and improving your own situation and contributing to society. Don't lump yourself in with those people unless you truly belong there. You also should contact me.

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