Sometimes it's the passing on of pop-culture references; introducing everyone you work with to your favourite comedy series so that suddenly the only way to communicate is via catchphrases. Or passing lunch break after lunch break trying to establish why the Americans omit vowels from everything as if they are some kind of Eastern European language tyrant, and let's just settle this now: is it a felt-tip, a marker, or a texter?
My favourite is when unexpectedly a conversation with a fellow countryman will hit a note so clear and true you could cry e.g. that somebody just referred to playing with their cat 'on the rug'. ON THE RUG? I squealed excitedly, and he was all, URM YEAH. IN FRONT OF THE FIRE. And I was totally, DUDE. I KNOW WHERE THE RUG IS. THE RUG IS ALWAYS IN FRONT OF THE FIRE. EVERY BRITISH HOUSEHOLD HAS A RUG IN FRONT OF THE FIRE THAT YOU JUST CALL 'THE RUG', and he laughed and said, YES! A SQUARE RUG COVERING THE CARPET BECAUSE GOD FORBID THE CARPET GET WORN OUT and I was just like, MY GOD YOU HAVE TO MEET JANE. For a minute and a half there, it was just like being at home, where everybody talks that way and sometimes it's okay not use the past perfect properly or to say 'Ay up' instead of 'hello'.
Also, there is the sharing. We're all away from home, we're all away from what is mentally comfortable. We're all trying to make a life in a place where we will never really truly belong because no matter how well we master the language or adapt the customs there is forever that element of being oil on water, of being not from here.
So we help each other- we make a network where we share the frosting, watch each others shows, and when we get pregnant we share our amazing wardrobes because we know that our friends only have the two sweaters that the airline luggage allowance would allow them when they moved here.
My awesome pregnant friend who has the style of Rachel Zoe, Blair Waldorf and well, ME, started nesting before Christmas and made a humongous pile of stuff she knew I'd love and would be wasted in storage when she had seen me in my belted leather and wool brown cardigan every single workday since temperatures dropped in October. She invited me over to try on some stuff and take what I liked. After, obvs, feeding me Nonna's famous fried aubergine. And giving me two boxes of Pop Tarts. And digging out half a dozen books for me to take home... and over 500 songs from her iTunes library.
Hey- I'd travelled 30 whole minutes to see her, I had to get my time's worth, right?
Also: I'm like, totally a cheeky bitch.
She lay on the bed and watched me pull on leopard print dress after Missoni-print sweater, laughing at my mirror face because I kept pouting at myself without realising it.
"What are you laughing at?"
"You look like a twat."
She could've called me the Rat-Tailed Skank of Horseham and I would've let her. SO. MUCH. PRETTYFULNESS.
All that remained on her bed when I was finished was single sailor-top and a dress that she decided- on seeing me try it on- she wanted to keep. Selfish bitch.
I had to catch a ride home with her husband when she finally told me to leave because I couldn't lift my swag onto the train. It took my two hours to find a place for everything in my limited storage space, and most of the things I tried again alone, mirror face and all, just because it was all so frickin' AWESOME.
And that is how being an expat meant the bestest day. And a new wardrobe.