Advice You Really Shouldn’t Follow: Returning to the United States

February 13, 2013


Hey guys, remember when I told you that I was starting an advice column?

And how you should all drop everything you were doing and instantly contact me with all your problems?

Well, apparently, only four of you have any problems because that’s exactly the number of responses I got.

I had no idea you guys were so put together.

I mean, that is the reason why you haven’t asked me for any advice yet, right?

Luckily, the few questions I got were doozies, so I’m pretty sure they’re going to keep me busy for months. Or, at least, until someone ends up in jail for following my advice.

To start us off, I’m going to address some questions I got from Sine at Ex-Joburg Expat, who has recently moved back to the States with her family after living in South Africa for a number of years.
Sine's questions. And, yes, I am way too lazy to type them all out.

Sine’s questions. Just click on the image to read them all. And, yes, I am way too lazy to type them out for you. Besides, why do I have to do all the hard work?

As you can see, she asked me a whole bunch of good questions, including how to make new friends after repatriating and how to find a doctor in your new place of residence when you’re sick.

As someone who has also recently moved back to the States, I can totally relate. I’ve had difficulties with these issues myself. Friends and doctor’s appointments do not grow on trees here, you guys. Both require about a six-month waiting period. I AM NOT EVEN KIDDING YOU.

Luckily, my parents have a whole fridge full of gently expired antibiotics (two years isn’t that expired, is it?) and a barn full of cats.

So I’m totally covered.

If you don’t have these things, you might want to, I don’t know, get on the Internet and research doctors or join a club or something.

Or you can come to my house!

We have plenty of antibiotics and cats for everyone!

You just can't have this cat. This one's mine.

You just can’t have this cat. This one’s mine.

Sine also asked me about how to deal with juggling kids’ stuff, like music lessons and sports practices, while doing adult things like researching contractors.

Now, I don’t have any kids.

But I used to be a kid once.

And, I can tell you from my experience as a former-kid, that the best thing to do is to just not let your kids do any of that stuff.

I mean, I hardly did any kind of extracurricular activities as a kid and look at how I turned out.


Totally normal, right?

You see, my parents had like a million kids and they both worked, so they couldn’t really haul us all around to recitals and soccer practice and other fancy schmancy stuff, like orthodontic procedures.

Besides, why do kids need to know how to use a piano, anyway? Huh? I mean, there’s no piano section on the SAT.

And learning how to work in a team? When is that ever going to come in handy later in life?


But there are tons of useful skills your kids can pick up in the convenience of your own home. Or your own farm should you happen to have one. And you don’t even have to shuttle them back and forth to practices or shell out tons of money for uniforms.

For example, they could learn how to dress up guinea pigs.

At least I'm not dressed in a matching costume. Now that would be really weird. Right?

Or, say, learn how to look miserable in every single family photo taken.

I'm the pouty one.

I’m the pouty one.

Especially any family photos that happen to feature goats.


Still the pouty one.

Now those are some important life skills, my friends. And they don’t teach you that stuff in Girl Scouts. Not that I ever went to Girl Scouts. But lots of my friends did, and they were totally useless when it came to guinea pig fashion.

Sine’s last question had to do with teaching her sixteen-year-old how to drive.

This, again, just sounds like one of those fancy, schmancy extracurricular activities that’s going to fill your kid’s head full of information he’s never going to need later in life.

I mean, driving? Who needs to know how to do that?

Why not teach your kid something important?

Like how to sit on top of a barn roof while holding a chicken.


Now, that, my friends. That is a skill that’s going to get you far in life!

I mean, just look at me and how far I’ve come!


Or, umm, don’t.

Well, that’s it, guys.

Best of luck with your return to the States, Sine!

I just hope none of my advice helps land you in jail.

Although, come to think of it, jail would solve a lot of your problems. I mean, there’s on-site medical care and plenty of people to hang out with. And, last time I checked, they don’t allow you to bring any of your kids with you to prison.

Wow, you guys.

This whole advice column thing?


Have you ever returned home after living overseas? What was the most difficult  part of your move? Have any advice on making friends, dealing with doctors or any of that other stuff?
Or do you have a question you’d like me to answer? Leave a comment below, fill out the contact form or email me at unbravegirl at

I've blathered on long enough! Now it's your turn!

  1. On February 13, 2013 at 7:43 am Gigi said:

    Haha, nailed it indeed.
    Gigi recently posted..How to Make a Temporary House Feel Like Home

  2. On February 13, 2013 at 10:10 am Neens said:

    Wow, you totally nailed it.

    So I have a question for next time – how do you stop your loopy springer spaniels from rolling in fox poo in the garden when it’s chucking down with rain and you didn’t even know there was a likelihood of there ever being fox dung out there because the only other time you’ve ever seen a fox in the area was in the neighbour’s driveway during a thunderstorm about half a year ago and that poor little fox must have been terrified and you just hope it found its way back to its mummy?

    I should point out that this isn’t a very pressing question. It’s already too late to try to stop them. The way to deal with it once it’s happened, though, is to chuck a stick in the sea while it’s still chucking down with rain and then watch the aforementioned canines leap in after the stick and slowly wash clean as they are fighting each other for the stick whilst swimming.

    Right. I think sharing that advice was my good deed of the day, as I can imagine this is a problem that most people deal with on a regular basis.

    Love Neens xx

    PS: SIX MONTHS??? That’s insane…!
    Neens recently posted..Mouse Poo and Fish Vomit: My Childhood Memories

    • On February 13, 2013 at 6:28 pm Sally said:

      Wow, and now I know. Should I ever end up with a springer spaniel, fox poop and a whole bunch of rain. I feel like that’s a pretty likely combination.
      And, yes, SIX MONTHS. Totally freaking ridiculous. And that’s just for my doctor. The dentist has an even longer waiting list!

  3. On February 13, 2013 at 10:45 am Priya said:

    Nailed. It. I woke up this morning thinking, “I have to read Sally’s advice column”. And, I’m so glad I did. Sally knows best. Need to get myself on a roof with a chicken ASAP.
    Priya recently posted..Dreams Versus Reality

  4. On February 13, 2013 at 11:18 am Jeremy Branham said:

    You should have your own TV show! This beats anything Dr Phil, Oprah, or Dr Oz has to offer (I don’t watch any of those shows so take my advice from someone who is ignorant on the current state of what’s popular in the US – and I live here).
    Jeremy Branham recently posted..Cambodia travel guide for budget travelers

    • On February 13, 2013 at 6:25 pm Sally said:

      Thanks, Jeremy. Yes, I really do think I’ve found my calling. Now if only I can make a major television network person agree with me, I’ll be all set!

  5. On February 13, 2013 at 3:06 pm Don and Todd said:

    Dear Sally:

    We were wondering how have you managed not to die after all these years of saying you’re going to die? We recall your swearing you were going to die on several occasions yet you’re still with us (not that we’re complaining!). Do you have a guardian angel? Or would that be a guardian unicorn in your case?

    Looking forward to learning your survival skillz.

  6. On February 13, 2013 at 3:57 pm Marta said:

    The most difficult part has been closing that chapter in my life which I didn’t close before I had left. (That’s called consequences of procrastination)

    However, basing on my experience as a Girl Scout leader* and a pre-school teacher I must say, that if you have to juggle with all those activities, then the least important ones should be eliminated. I was attending English lessons (useful, even though the final effect could be better), horseback riding (good if you’re the least sporty kid in a class and you like ponies) and swimming lessons (sort of good). Piano lessons were completely useless and I hated them. Irish dance lessons were cool, because I had fun.

    I didn’t attend all those things in the same time and I still had time to climb trees and build blanket forts. But it takes time to imagine that a tree is a Lion Rock and imagination is the most super-duper important thing to develop. More important than absolute pitch or motor coordination.

    *(the closest badge to “Guinea Pig Karl Lagerfeld” was either “Dr Dolittle” or “Needle”)

  7. On February 13, 2013 at 3:58 pm Marta said:

    Btw: Sally, you must know, that my mom is one of your biggest fans. I translate your posts for her, she really-really likes them and she asked me to tell you 🙂
    Marta recently posted..Task sixteen: Close my studies

    • On February 13, 2013 at 6:24 pm Sally said:

      Omigod, this comment MADE MY DAY. I LOVE when people tell me their moms like my blog. And I can’t believe you translate it all for her. You’re awesome. And now I’m curious to know what my blog sounds like in Polish.

      • On February 13, 2013 at 6:46 pm Marta said:

        Hahahah, technically, I don’t translate it all for her, just the funniest/most interesting parts… But when I do, it sounds like this:

        “Hej, pamiętacie jak ogłosiłam, że zaczynam dział z poradami? I że powinniście natychmiast zostawić to, co właśnie robicie i zwrócić się do mnie ze wszystkimi waszymi problemami?

        Cóż, najwyraźniej tylko czworo z was ma jakiekolwiek problemy, bo to jest właśnie ilość odpowiedzi, którą dostałam […]”

        Marta recently posted..Task sixteen: Close my studies

  8. On February 13, 2013 at 4:15 pm Dania said:

    Your cat is adorable. :3 I am so jealous, my dad doesn’t like cats and my mum is allergic, and I’m fine with a dog as well but my parents don’t want a dog in the house.
    Dania recently posted..I love this version of “A heart full of love”.

  9. On February 13, 2013 at 5:35 pm Allison Tait said:

    I would have a question, but now I’m too busy teaching my children to climb on the roof with a chicken under each arm. Only one broken arm so far. No chickens have been hurt in the creation of this special childhood moment.

  10. On February 13, 2013 at 6:01 pm Jeff @ Go Travelzing said:

    I think you got it all right. Maybe you should start a separate site just for advice. It could be a gold mine. Keep up the great work!
    Jeff @ Go Travelzing recently posted..The Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge in Northern Ireland

  11. On February 13, 2013 at 9:46 pm Matthew Karsten said:

    Excellent advice here! Where would one go to learn the intricacies of Guinea pig fashion? Is there a class I can take?

  12. On February 14, 2013 at 6:27 am The Guy said:

    Wow, lots of cats, shame I’m allergic 🙁

    I returned from a year and a half working in the Middle East. Somehow it was nice to be home and I’d missed all the green scenery as well as family and friends.

    It was an adjustment though because the expatriate lifestyle was great fun. I even miss it today, more than a decade later.
    The Guy recently posted..Why Do We Ski?

    • On February 15, 2013 at 7:48 am Sally said:

      It is fun, isn’t it? I found as an expat, there was always someone around willing to go hang out at the last minute. Whereas here in the States, I find I have to schedule stuff way ahead of time with friends. Probably because we do all have families here and other obligations that I never had overseas.

  13. On February 14, 2013 at 6:54 am Sid said:

    I have a question for you. Can you use your powers for good, and convince all hot men to immigrate to Cape Town, South Africa?
    Sid recently posted..Happy belated birthday, En-dee!

  14. On February 14, 2013 at 3:34 pm Scott - Quirky Travel Guy said:

    I make friends in new cities the nerdy way, by finding communities online and then meeting up in person. Lame, right?

    I just wish I had a childhood family photo with goats.
    Scott – Quirky Travel Guy recently posted..Travel blogging couples share funny and inspiring memories in honor of Valentine’s Day

    • On February 15, 2013 at 7:45 am Sally said:

      I’ve done that before when I was traveling — mostly meeting people in person that I’d met on Twitter or through their blogs. But I haven’t really done that much in Buffalo.

  15. On February 14, 2013 at 10:52 pm Sine said:

    Well, looks like I’m late to my own party. That’s because moving back and having all these questions is only the one part of the problem. The other is when your container with all your stuff actually gets here, and you get buried under a whole mountain of stuff, none of which is remotely close to the place you are ultimately going to want it at in your house. And when I checked the news every few days when I was coming up for air, the one time the pope had retired and the next Oscar Pistorius had shot his girlfriend. So maybe it’s better I just keep organizing my house (or rather yelling at my kids to organize their rooms) than watching news.

    ANYWAY… Thanks for answering all my questions so diligently, Sally, I will take your advice to heart. Especially the prison thing has got me thinking. I mean – all the time I would have to work on my blog. And no grocery shopping. And no cooking meals. And yes, no kids asking me what’s for dinner. Oh, it sounds positively romantic…
    Sine recently posted..From Barefoot Shopping to Having an Affair

    • On February 15, 2013 at 7:44 am Sally said:

      When I was in Japan, I seriously considered going to jail. I thought it would make a really effective language immersion program. Nobody else seemed to think this was a great idea, though.

      • On February 18, 2013 at 6:20 pm Sine said:

        Yes, I can see how jail would be an awesome language immersion program!
        When I was in South Africa, I used to SO want those cops stopping me all the time to extort bribes to make good on their threat to arrest me, so that I could blog about jail. They never did though, and never even issued me any tickets, so my eagerness must have had the reverse effect and paid off on some level. Still disappointed though that I did not get to see the jail…

  16. On February 15, 2013 at 5:53 am Briona said:

    This is comedy gold! But seriously, only six months for a doctor’s appointment? You have NOTHING to complain about! I was on a waiting list to see a dentist in the UK for TWO-AND-A-HALF YEARS. The appointment finally came through the week AFTER I’d moved to Portugal. Sigh.

    Six years on I’m still dentist-less. I still have all my teeth though so maybe dentists are not all that important. Hmmm… food for thought (unless that food rots your teeth of course!).

    • On February 15, 2013 at 7:43 am Sally said:

      TWO AND A HALF YEARS? That’s insane. You should really think about going to Asia for some dental care. I’ve had amazing dentists in Japan, Thailand & China and they will totally fit you in within a year. Although, don’t expect much when it comes to novocaine.

  17. On February 15, 2013 at 7:56 am Theodora said:

    I’d like some advice on dating, please. In particular, how to form a meaningful longterm relationship while overseas.

    Because I know we’re both very good at that.

  18. On February 15, 2013 at 8:31 am Montecristo Travels (Sonja) said:

    Advice on how not to kill your simblings or hate your parents …and maybe even like them …clearly you seem to have found the secret.
    Montecristo Travels (Sonja) recently posted..Top 6 Pet Peeves in the world of “With Dog” Travel!

    • On February 17, 2013 at 2:45 pm Sally said:

      Hmm… yes, I have had almost no urges to kill my siblings or hate my parents in YEARS. It’s possible I’ve turned into a saint or something. That and I’ve learned the art of holing up inside my apartment when I’m feeling stabby. 🙂

  19. On February 15, 2013 at 10:01 am Bessie said:

    100% delightful, Sally. Keep it up! I’ll be working on my Ask Sally question.
    Bessie recently posted..Can We Make the US Home & Still Live Like Travelers? How is it Being Home – Part 2

  20. On February 15, 2013 at 10:33 pm Tom @ Waegook Tom said:

    I’m campaigning for you to have your own talk show. Ricki Lake has been going downhill for years (is it still even on?) and Jerry Springer is just full of actors. You might have a tough time taking on the Jeremy Kyle Show if you go transatlantic, however.

    Oh and the whole repatriating thing…yeah I’m not so good at it. I just tend to fill up on snacks and catch up on TV shows that I haven’t watched for the past 12 months. Also regarding friends – I just contact the ones who share my snarky sense of humour and have a mutual admiration for drag queen TV contests. So, just one.
    Tom @ Waegook Tom recently posted..Tet Food: The Colours of Tet

  21. On February 17, 2013 at 4:41 am Naomi said:

    Nailed it! Best advice ever! Go to jail: inspired!

    I too think kids do far too many extracurricular activities, and there’s actually mounting evidence that al this structured activity teaches our kids to be unimaginative and incapable of taking risks. So actually you are right, despite your protestations to the contrary, that you turned out normal. More chickens on roofs I say!!
    Naomi recently posted..Holiday planning again

    • On February 17, 2013 at 2:39 pm Sally said:

      Well, I’d hate for chickens on roofs to become some mainstream activity. The next thing you know there’d be after school clubs for kids with chickens on roofs. And parents would start giving their kids a hard time for not being better at sitting on a roof with a chicken. And then colleges would start weeding out kids who had never sat on a roof with a chicken.

  22. On March 5, 2013 at 2:20 pm Ceri said:

    I’m about to move back home for the summer in a few weeks and I’ll definitely be sure to put this advice to good use. 😉
    Ceri recently posted..Scenes from the Museo de Arte Moderno

  23. On June 20, 2016 at 11:41 pm floor planning Summit NJ said:

    A good way to be sure and relax when moving is hiring transition services that will help you.


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