Oye, rubia: Easing the expat’s jet lag

Oye, rubia: Easing the expat’s jet lag

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Expatica blogger Kristen Bernardi is sleepy. She’s also beginning to realize that jet lag can be social and cultural – not just biological.

It seems everyone’s got advice on avoiding or recovering from jet lag.

Nap; don’t nap. Drink lots of coffee; don’t drink any coffee. Don’t eat on the plane. Don’t sleep on the plane. Spend time in the sun as soon as you arrive.

I’ve tried a lot of those things. Two days later, I’m still in a bit of a fog.

Dealing with jet lag is tough.

It’s a small price to pay since I was fortunate enough to fly a few time zones away to see my family for the holidays. Millions of world travellers have experienced jet lag at some point, but expats feel a unique strain of it.

In addition to a new sleep schedule, for expats, spending the holidays back home means crashing with family or friends, since you gave up your old flat long ago, catching up with nieces and nephews who have grown a metre since your last visit, and a charming little thing that no one tells you about when you move abroad: reverse culture shock.

You feel at home in an instant, like you never left. And at the same time, so very, very weird.

Rather than jet lag tips (nothing seems to work), I’ve devised a list of topics you can expect to discuss when you go back for a spell, along with the things you’ve grown accustomed to hearing, to ease your groggy heads:

The future

In Spain: When are you going to Sitges? At the weekend?
At home: When are you moving back? SOON??

Cultural differences

In Spain: Christmas dinner time – 10pm, no sprouts.
At home: Christmas dinner time – 5pm, sprouts prominently featured.

Christmas in Spain
Christmas in Spain (photo above)
Christmas at home (photo below) Christmas at home.

In Spain: Enjoy a cigarette while wrapping presents and admiring twinkling Christmas lights. Smoke at the office party, smoke in between grapes as midnight approaches, smoke while waiting for Balthazar.
At home: Smoking now banned everywhere. Put on hat, gloves, scarf, jumper, winter coat and boots, go outside, light cigarette, take three drags, see frost form on lighter, curse, decide it’s not worth it, scurry back inside to derobe, make New Years resolution to quit smoking.

The season of giving

In Spain: Would you like some more wine?
At home: Did you bring us some more wine?

The weather

In Spain: Uf, está a 19ºC. ¡Qué frio!
At home: Can you shovel the driveway so we can get to the mailbox?

Grown-up decisions

In Spain: ¿Vais a comprar un piso? Sois jovenes – solo tenéis unos 36 años, ¿verdad?
At home: When you have kids, will they go to school in Spain? Will you teach them English? Wait, you’re moving back SOON, right? You’re not getting any younger, you know...


In Spain: Your portero doesn’t know where your Kansas hometown is and couldn’t pronounce it anyway.
At home: Your great-aunt Ruth thinks Spain is a province of Mexico filled with burros and huts.

In Spain: Spend your days surrounded by like-minded, globe-trotting peers who may or may not speak your language. Love every moment of it.
At home: Spend your holidays surrounded by people who love you no matter where you live or how often you make the journey ‘home’. Love every moment of it.

Kristen Bernardi / Expatica

Expatica Blogger Kristen Bernardi is an American journalist living in Madrid. She has contributed to various travel publications including Fodor's, TimeOut, The Insider's Guide, Spain Magazine and InMadrid, and most recently assisted in 2008 Spanish presidential election coverage for CNN International. What are your tried-and-true jet lag tips? What questions do your friends and loved ones always ask when you go home to the motherland? Share them in the comments below!

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