You may disagree but I think the most enjoyable thing about travelling is escaping the routine and observing everyday life defined in a different context. It’s amusing to pretend to be a local and try on a new lifestyle.
PARIS: “Could I possibly get tired of pastries? If I did, could I occasionally get a smoothie? Are smoothies even a thing in Paris?”
BARCELONA: “Could I really wait to eat dinner so late? How long would it take to find another early riser to exercise with?”
NEW YORK: “Could I walk to work in heels every day? Chiropractors must make a fortune here. Is it too late to go back to school to become a chiropractor?”
The thing about travelling is when inconvenient oddities drive you mad, you can rest in the fact that you have a return ticket. “Take heart!” says your boarding pass, “Life as you define it is just beyond these gates.”
Not so when you move abroad.
No, moving abroad means that all the quirks of a new surrounding are things one must accommodate as normal. You can’t escape it. Complain or get used to it. I didn’t think life in St Andrews would be a stark contrast to our Vancouver routine but the differences still keep us entertained.
Initially when we moved here, every new definition of normal, subtle or not, was a hurdle to jump and I grew weary of it. (What’s with Tesco putting eggs in the baking aisle and not a cooler?!)
Eventually, I came to realize that I wasn’t the only one griping about things that seemed unnoticable and completely normal to long-time residents. Several North American friends were encountering the same thing. They decided to sum up the phenomenon with a very useful acronym: T. I. S.
It means “This is Scotland. This is not life as you know it. Get over it.” Here is a short list of things that fall under the umbrella of T. I. S.
1. The hot water faucet that spews scalding water and the neighbouring tap that delivers the arctic sea.
2. The discarded toilet seat and pile of filth left behind by the gentleman who enters my home in muddy boots and is employed by Student Accommodations to repair our bathroom.
3. The bartender who takes a drink order for the 18-year Talisker and, upon discovering there is none left in the bottle, decides to pour a dram from the 12-year supply without asking if you’d like something other than your first choice.
4. The email you receive from the university that celebrates your successful scholarship application immediately followed by the notice from the university that asks you to pay the full cost of tuition.
5. The neon orange carbonated cough syrup beverage that outsells Coca-Cola.
6. The barista who shrugs and says that if she replaces an inexcusably bitter coffee with a new one “it will probably taste the same because [she thinks] the beans are off.”
Electic showers, polyester bed linen, laundry machines installed in kitchens, haggis. It can get under my skin if I let it but at the end of the day we really do love it here, quirks and all. The people are fascinating and the food is not all deep fried. This is Scotland and this is our home.