Things you didn't expect to miss in a foreign country

I moved to Costa Rica earlier this year with the full understanding that I would be leaving behind several of my favorite things. I expected to miss hot showers, baths, certain ethnic foods, etc. What I didn’t realize was how much of the internet is blocked to individuals in certain countries. No hulu, comedy central shows, etc unless I spoof my IP.

I also was never an individual to prefer shopping at the big box stores. I always preferred the little guys and bought at our local farmer’s market all the time. Now, sometimes I find myself wishing for one store where I can go and get meat, dairy, vegetables, fruit, clothing, shoes, equipment, etc, all in one trip. As much as I love the small little stores, sometimes I miss just being able to find everything at once without a lot of walking or taking multiple trips back to the house to prevent certain foods from spoiling.

Delivery/take-out food is something that I almost never ordered in the past. Now, when I’m at some small little town where all the food places are closed by 8, I often get a hankering for something I don’t have to make myself.

What are things that you find yourself missing unexpectantly?

The horizon. Being able to look out over land and see a straight horizontal line where the earth meets the sky. In Taiwan, there’s always mountains or buildings in the way. (I’m not talking about the ocean horizon, though that’s usually obscured by haze as well.) Along the same lines, I also miss open countryside. The “country” areas here are scattered with residential buildings, dinky little farms and dipshit little factories everywhere you look.

In Costa Rica, I missed fruit (most of the fruit they grow is for export, most of the fruit we found was imported) and fish (I’m from Spain, where fish is a basic staple).

In the US and France, there were times I missed the enormous variety of my little piece of Spain, but I’ve had that same feeling of “is the landscape going to change at some point or what?” in other parts of Spain too (koxinga, you might like the area between Burgos and León, lots of horizon there and it’s pretty flat in general).

In many places I missed fiiiiiiiiiish! Yeah, there’s fish everywhere. But for example in Miami I only saw one fishmonger’s and it was filthy, I wasn’t about to buy anything there; the selection at the supermarkets was quite slim. I’m used to having fish 2-3 times per week (tuna, crabsticks and anchovies don’t count toward the total).

In the US I was surprised to discover that ice cream varieties were different, lemon is one of the basic staples in Spain and a rarity over there; I found this same kind of situation in other countries but by them it wasn’t a surprise. Chewing gum varieties also change from country to country.

Back when I used to go visit relatives in Poland a lot (about 8-10 yrs ago, dunno how much this has changed recently) I really, really missed water fountains.

I never realized how much water I drank until a quick sip of cold water was simply not available to me. I was generally given a small glass of hot tea at every meal; if I was just super-thirsty, I’d get … a second small glass of hot tea. Yay. I was always there in the summertime, too. Still: hot tea. Sometimes some cold fruit juice.

Don’t know how those people stayed hydrated.

There’s not a lot I really missed. I certainly didn’t miss TV. Doper cliché coming up, but those three years without TV made me realise how little I needed it, and that has stayed with me, and I rarely watch it.

But bizarrely, I missed Marmite. Bizarrely, because I didn’t even like it, but I started to miss it anyway. Then I found some in a friend’s house and I ate it, and now I love it.

I missed the BBC, until I got a shortwave radio. And later, the internet.

That’s about it, really.

Now I miss where I was and wish I could return.

The vastness and accessibility of the American West and road trips. I’m from Northern Nevada and the land from New Mexico, Arizona, Utah and Oregon is much more varied than anywhere in the UAE or Central Europe. A few weeks ago I was out on Hwy 163 near Mexican Hat, Utah at the north end of Monument Valley… amazing scenery and vast open space.

When I was in India, I missed homemade cookies. Most desserts I had were made of milk solids, which I’m not a fan of. But my husband’s family would press me to eat them, so out of politeness, I’d have a few bites. When I got home, one of the first things I did after the jet lag wore off was make a huge batch of chocolate chip cookies.

A few things I missed about Chile after I got back to the States were all the different types of bread, the custom of sitting down in the early evening with a cortado (a type of coffee that looks like a black and tan, only the black is really strong coffee and the tan is condensed milk) and the smaller evening meals. In the U.S., dinner is the largest meal of the day; I really liked having most of my food during leisurely, relaxed lunches while dinners were typically eaten later and were much, much smaller. Since starting my own family, most dinners are sit-down affairs, but the amount of food served is much less than it used to be when I was growing up. And if it’s something I didn’t have time to make ahead, it tends to be really simple.

I agree with water fountains. My family just spent 3 months in Germany, and there is not a public drinking fountain to be had in that whole country. If we were out and thirsty, we’d have to stop and buy a bottle of (always carbonated) water. This gets expensive. I really missed water fountains.

We don’t really have them here in the UK either. But it’s pretty easy to fill a bottle from the tap before you leave the house…

Glass beads in the road paint?

I remember one frightening night driving home in the outskirts of Rio when it started raining.
Not only don’t they have those little cat’s eye things on the road, but much of the paint is non-reflective. As soon as the rain hit it, the lines, and hence all traces of the highway, disappeared completely.

Whenever the road curved, I was in fear of driving off the side of the road in the blackness.

This was not on a little side road; it was on a 100kph highway.

This is true even of small towns in the US. I live in a town with very few box stores, and it’s all very charming. Our downtown has no chain stores at all, unless you count the Wells-Fargo bank (which is in a gorgeous old bank building) and the new pizza place which is part of a 5-store regional chain. It’s really great when you’re in the mood to wander around and look at the cute stores; it’s not so great when you really need a pair of shoes/bra/specific piece of hardware/specific book/whatever. I really sometimes miss being able to go to one place and have a reasonable chance of finding what I want, in a size or style that works.

Decent public transport. I live in a metro area with a population of about 1,700,000, and there is no passenger rail service of any kind here. I work in a city with 40,000 population, where there are probably 5,000 people working, and there’s no way for any of those 5,000 to use public transport to get to work. I miss having a choice of catching a train or a bus to work.

(Note: the United States is a foreign country for me).

When I was traveling I found I missed my fridge most of all.

We would eat every meal in a restaurant or on the street, in the market, etc. For months on end. After a while I really missed having a fridge to graze. Y’know, stand for a few minutes, staring at the contents, with the door open, trying to decide.

When we would return home, it would take me weeks to get the hang of keeping the fridge stocked with food and cooking a meal every night!

I’ve gotten amazing fruit and fish here. They don’t have as much variety as in the states, but they have some new delicious treats. I purchase a lot from the local market and street vendors. Where else can you buy a huge bag of exotic fruit for $1? I’ve not bought that much fish besides tuna, but on vacation we’ve gone to some great fish restaurants.

Our major highway used to be like that. No street lights, no reflectors, and the drivers (including truck and bus drivers) would pass you at over 100kmh in the pouring rain. We just got reflectors earlier this month and it was a time of rejoicing. We still have insane drivers–including those who will pass you on the left while you’re trying to turn left–but I’ve never been so happy to see reflectors in my life!

jjimmI’m one of those people who loves to multitask and when I spend hours doing data editing, it’s nice to have a movie/tvshow going in the background so I can focus on my work. I think I’d go crazy if I had to spend hours staring at numbers and letters alone.

elbows, I also miss a fridge when traveling. I love to stay at hostels where you can go out and purchase foods at the local markets, then cook it up in the hostels for meals.

A lot of Americans say this, but when I lived in Europe for a year I found myself missing a couple of things most:

(1) Being on a compact, American-style university campus, instead of spread throughout the old city as well as some of the newer sections. On the other hand, it had the advantage of fostering a more independent lifestyle than was the case living in the dormitory back home.

(2) Shops staying open late, and this as a student. I can appreciate how inconvenient it must be for people living there who work at weekday jobs. But this didn’t bother me after a while; it was just something I got used to.

I’ve missed blueberries when I’ve traveled to various countries. They just don’t seem to be that popular outside North America. On the other hand, I miss blueberries in the US as well. Usually the only ones they sell are the small, sour, unripe ones that cost about $4 per pint. I don’t think I bought a good box of them all summer. :frowning:


I’ve been to Europe 3 different times in 5 countries, and having ice in your drinks is damn near non-existent, and they look at you like you’re insane if you ask for a glass of ice along with whatever soft drink you’re having.

Another driving one…

Multiple traffic lights at each intersection

It wasn’t until I was on Brazilian roads driving by myself that I appreciated how much we depend on the typical American intersection with several signals in different positions.

In the suburbs of Rio, it is quite common to have a single signal hung over the center of the intersection, meaning that when you are first in line, you can’t see it without leaning forward and craning your neck.

Years ago I remember seeing one of these prism gadgets at an old car show and I asked the fellow what it was for; he explained that it was made to solve this exact problem. I wondered why they went out of style after the 50s—until I noticed how many traffic lights there are at a modern intersection. If I ever move to South America, I might take one of these with me.

Regular old button mushrooms. You can get them here (Okinawa), but they run nearly a dollar each for ones the size of a quarter. I just can’t do it. Fruits and veggies in general are expensive here, with much smaller selection than you’d get in the states. Zucchini are usually $8 a lb, when you can find them. You can get excellent mangoes here when they’re in season, they just cost $6-10 each. Potatoes are expensive, and you can only get a couple of types, and never my favorite red new potatoes.

But I really miss being able to drive and get somewhere. It costs a fortune to get off this island, and of course you can’t drive off, so I get island fever pretty bad.

(New) Mexican food, and peanut butter. I didn’t expect much of the former, especially since I moved from New Mexico to Ireland and then England, but I was surprised by how much I missed being able to just run out for a burrito. And I’d had no idea just how American peanut butter is - the first grocery store I went to in Ireland didn’t even have any.

Also, grape flavor (candy, but soda especially). When I’d just gotten off the plane, tired and grumpy and so on, I assumed the bottle of purplish soda with round, purplish fruit on the label was grape soda, and Ribena was just a European brand. Took a big swig. Boy, that was a surprise.

I have no idea why, but at times I kind of missed the ‘just move along and don’t think of fucking with me’ appearance/attitude of American cops. Much more civilized in Europe, I guess, but the British cops walking around in their neon-yellow construction-worker jackets, with nothing more than a radio and a stick, just…seem lacking.