Appreciation: The Greatest Part of Returning to the USA

Silent gratitude isn’t much use to anyone.  ~G.B. Stern

“To speak gratitude is courteous and pleasant, to enact gratitude is generous and noble, but to live gratitude is to touch Heaven.” -Johannes A. Gaertner (1912-1996) Art History Professor, Theologian, Poet

“In all affairs it’s a healthy thing now and then to hang a question mark on the things you have long taken for granted.” -Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) Philosopher, Mathematician

appreciation [əˌpriːʃɪˈeɪʃən -sɪ-]  noun

1. thanks or gratitude

2. assessment of the true worth or value of persons or things


Prague's Spires and Bridges with Snow in Winter
Prague’s Spires and Bridges with Snow in Winter

Not long ago, a wise friend wrote a spontaneous comment to me about the expat experience. She, too, had been an American who had lived for an extended period of time outside the United States. And she, too, had moved back to the United States recently with her family. I have thought about and repeated what she said many times over the past few weeks, as I and my family transition from our almost 4 years of living abroad in the Czech Republic. What she said was this:

“The best thing about being an expat is the appreciation you have for everything when you return.”

I might only be able to add, with emphasis and bold letters, to the word EVERYTHING. Because that’s what it really is: I appreciate EVERYTHING.

It’s funny. I don’t think I ever realized just how much I would appreciate home until I’ve returned. The most basic things are the things I am most profoundly grateful for, for instance:

  • Safety and security: i.e.: that there aren’t mafia men in trench coats on 24-hour stake-out on my street for over a month straight (truth about the end of my time in Prague)
  • Security: 911 and the ability to get help if and when we need it
  • Public benefits: lines to mark the middle and edges of roads, shoulders on roads, snowplows, on-ramps and off-ramps
  • Consumer: uh, this one is impossible to depict the reality in former Soviet countries, but the shopping experience is completely opposite of what I enjoy
  • Public and professional behavior and demeanor: service, warmth, smiles, kind words and deeds
  • Family needs: a GYM! With safe courts. For my active family, it’s amazing being here.
  • Personal smiles: a refrigerator bigger than my Prague dorm-sized fridge (for my family of 5)
  • Frivolous: Ice in drinks, free water at restaurants

I do believe it is true that we are most at home in the places from which we were born and raised. We become accustomed to the way things work and how we perform our daily lives, and when things are different, we feel uncomfortable. The discomfort isn’t a bad thing. Obviously, it’s good in the best way, for how else do we fully come to understand and appreciate what we have?

What have you recently noticed you are most grateful for?

Published by Jennifer Lyn Art

About Jennifer Writer Author Photographer Artist Corporate Marketer Happy Wife & Mom World Traveler Grateful.

5 thoughts on “Appreciation: The Greatest Part of Returning to the USA

  1. This is a very nice entry, Jen — i think the US is unbeatible on consumer experience & customer service. That’s the one and utmost thing I miss anywhere else on the globe. Glad you guys are settling in, and had such a wonderful, interesting time in Europe! xxx

  2. I moved to Dublin last September to do a professional development course at Trinity. I was so excited for the opportunity to live in Ireland and attend a prestigious college. Two things I learned rather quickly were how grateful I am to be an American and how vacationing somewhere is far from the same as living in that same place. Living in another country has taught me to appreciate the following things which I took for granted in America: convenient stores, large grocery stores, accurate and thorough websites, the ease with which we can open a bank account and get an ATM card, good beer, fountain soda, stores that stay open after 5pm, stores that open on Sundays, American bacon, pedestrians having the right of way, people who clean up after their dog, clothing store sales, Charmin toilet paper, Ramen noodles, cheap(er) electricity, central heating, the lack of smell of burning peat and most importantly the plethora of clean, straight(er) teeth. However, I am sure once I move back to Chicago in June I will have a list of things I miss about Ireland! After all, it’s still a great country.

    1. You are so right about so many things. The point I love that you made, especially, is this: “how vacationing somewhere is far from the same as living in that same place.” From my experience, the only way we learn that point is by actually trying to live somewhere outside the US. The longer I lived in Prague, the more I came to understand why the country was so different from what I was used to in the US. Despite the opinions of many Anericans, the US has been an incredible place to live and become and thrive. And thus I’m back to the grateful piece. I’m so grateful for the US, and plan to do and be all I can to help it remain and become even more a place where freedoms define us.

      Thanks so much for sharing, Katie. I hope the rest of your course and time in Ireland is enriching and that you live it up each day as best you can. Cheers!

  3. I loved this piece. Memories of returning home after living abroad came flooding back. Personal smiles is one I remember most, as well. Thank you.

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