5 Things I Learned to Live Without (in the Home!) While Living Abroad

Updated: Aug 23, 2020

In ‘Part One: In the Kitchen” I talked about learning to live without 5 different kitchen essentials after moving from my home on the east coast of America, to North Africa and then the Middle East.

Here are 5 more things around the house that I was certain I’d never be able to live without, but that I eventually realized weren’t that important after all.

1. Clothes dryer: After a nice, hot shower, there’s nothing quite like drying off with a crunchy, sun-dried towel. Growing up with a clothes dryer all my life, it was kind of surreal the first few months after we moved to Morocco, climbing to the rooftop and pinning the clothes up on the clothes line. Soon, it became my norm … and did wonders for my whites! Rain and cold weather meant having clothes strewn throughout the house for a minimum of two days until they were dry. It’s become a total non-issue, though I admittedly miss the touch of a fluffy towel straight from the dryer.

2. Toilet paper: I remember watching in utter

confusion as toilet paper flew off the shelves of grocers in America when the Covid-19 swept through. In many other parts of the world, it’s standard to cleanse with water after using the toilet, and toilet paper (well, usually tissue) is simply there to dry you off. It serves as mere convenience than an essential item in the bathroom. In fact, this practice is such an integral part of many cultures that many people, upon immigrating to the US, keep watering pots next to the toilet, as a makeshift bidet. So much more economic, environmentally friendly, and sanitary!

3. Vacuums: No surprise here. I mean, wall-to-wall carpet is virtually nonexistent throughout North Africa and the Middle East. Why? One word: sand. I mean, within this area of the world are numerous deserts, so it’s only natural that even surrounding cities will get their fair share of residual sand and dust. It’s similar to why tile flooring is more common in coastal cities in the US. Keeping sandy tile floors clean was a full-time job in and of itself, and though vacuums are available, it’s standard practice to simply sweep the floors before pouring soapy water on the tile and then using a giant squeegee to guide the water into the floor drain, located in most rooms of the homes. Area rugs are typically taken up to the rooftop and beaten with the handle of a broom to release the accumulated dust.

4. Unlimited hot water: Two things I cannot live without: coffee and 30-minute, scalding-hot showers. Well, at least I didn’t think I could live without them, until I moved abroad. In some homes, the hot water was sufficient just for a quick 10-minute shower, and yes, in my world, that is quick. Too quick. But I inevitably adjusted, and now when I travel, I make up for lost times at the expense of the hotel’s hot water heater. Speaking of, it’s standard practice to keep the water heater turned off while not in use and only turning it on 30-60 minutes prior to use. But if you are, or know, a single, working mother, you can attest to how impossible it is to gauge bath time!

5. Home décor: This was a significant driving force behind my decision to begin designing and selling downloadable artwork myself (visit my store here!). Home décor options was so limited in nearly everywhere we’ve lived abroad, and what was available was oftentimes starkly different than my personal taste. I relied on Ikea for home décor in Morocco, but wall art was still so sparse. In Syria, I used personal photos and downloadable artwork to spruce up the walls, and found random things on my regular tracts around Damascus to add a personal touch to our home there.

(Right: Bedroom wall in Damascus)

Do you live abroad, or are currently consider moving overseas? What kind of things are you certain you’ll never be able to live without?

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