Roaming Reality Bites arose out of the (Foreign Service) “Spouses’ Underground Newsletter,” and humor was always one of our favorite categories. This archived section includes parody and satire about expat life, as well as hilarious cross-cultural mistakes.

'Twas the Night Before Packout

Roaming Reality Bites

June 2019

By Francesca Kelly

(with apologies to Clement Moore)

'Twas the night before packout
And all through the house
Not a creature was stirring
Except for the spouse.

The stockings weren't washed yet,
The fridge not yet bare,
But still, in 6 hours
Men with vans would be there.

The children were nestled
Like cubs in their lair
While their mother picked Lego blocks
Out of their hair.

When down from the wall
There crashed with a clatter
A large jigsaw puzzle;
But what did it matter?

For all the spouse saw
Wherever she turned
Was a mess so gigantic
She thought, "Slash and burn!"

And suddenly something
Just snapped from within
When she realized she'd never be
"Neat as a pin."

She set out that instant
And returned in an hour
With a small Cat bulldozerRead More

Houseguest Rules We Wish We Could Post

Roaming Reality Bites

May 2019

By Sodone Withguests

Dear Houseguest,

Thank you so much for your kind (and unsolicited) offer to come visit us. We are quite certain we’ll have a great time, and you should know that we never, ever tire of seeing the same sights over and over again.

To completely optimize your stay with us, we’d like to offer a few basic guidelines:

Planning your visit:

We realize that traveling can be a hassle, but we would like to make the unusual request that before you book anything, check with us to see if your visit is convenient. We know you might find this surprising and upsetting, but we also have lives of our own, and our selfish and arbitrary work and leisure activities might unfortunately interfere with your preferred travel times. If we send you ideas for things to do during your stay, please take a look at the material. In fact, as some...

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Welcome to the Oakwood Corporate Apartments

Roaming Reality Bites

May 2019

By Patricia Linderman and Francesca Kelly

(To the tune of “Hotel California”)

Note: Oakwood is a short-stay apartment chain used by many Foreign Service people when they are evacuated from overseas posts (as depicted here) and during other temporary stays.

Our post was in crisis, had to get out of there,
Small group on a jet plane, rising up through the air.
Kids screaming and fighting, through a twelve-hour flight
Our heads were weary and our nerves were fried
We had to stop for the night.
A lady stood at the front desk
And rang a little bell
And I was thinking to myself,
“This could be heaven or this could be hell.”
Then she gave me a key ring, and she showed me the way,
There were voices down the corridor,
I thought I heard them say...

Welcome to the Oakwood Corporate Apartments
Such a convenient place
On per diem rates.
Plenty of room at...

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Meeting 48

Roaming Reality Bites

October 2017

By Mat Ward

When alcoholic Mat Ward was told in rehab that he would die if he relapsed, he decided to try to see the world before he died, calling at AA meetings along the way to stop him relapsing. On the 21-country journey that followed, he met Maori headhunters, Aboriginal criminals, Indonesian heroin users, Thai sex addicts, Tamil born-again Christians, New York crack smokers, Himalayan 12-step fanatics and a Galapagos priest who tried to exorcise his drinking demons. Along the way, what he learnt about AA made him question exactly what was killing alcoholics. Here, we join him halfway through the journey – meeting 48, in Tamil Nadu, India. All names have been changed.

Sunday January 13, 2008 - 1 year, 122 days sober

Intergroup meeting, Medical Institute, Salem, Tamil Nadu, India.

When you are standing on a stage, with your heart beating in your throat, talking through a microphone to...

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Asia Isn't Babel: The Lack of Communication is Cultural, Not Linguistic

Roaming Reality Bites

September 2008

By Antonio Graceffo

At 102 stories tall, the Empire State Building was the biggest building in the world from 1931 to 1972. The massive structure was built by immigrants, people who came from all over the world, speaking a sea of languages. The linguistic communication issues in the skyscraper’s construction must have been mind-boggling. And yet, the project was completed in just about one year.

On any given Sunday, in my native town, New York City, Catholic mass is said in 29 languages. Include the synagogues, mosques, temples and Orthodox churches, and the number of languages becomes staggering. According to the Board of Tourism, 138 languages are spoken just in Queens.

So, how is it that New York functions so well, but I can’t get my coffee the way I like it in Thailand or Cambodia?

The longer I live in Asia, the less I understand it. I constantly have misunderstandings and problems...

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Mosquito Hunting in Japan

Roaming Reality Bites

July 2006

By Kevin Krikke

I’m startled awake at the faint light of the night table lamp and the discomforting sound of my wife’s whimpers. Here in earthquake-prone Japan, the first thought that comes to my foggy mind is: “Did she feel tremors?”

But it turns out that for the third night in a row, she’s awakened to discover a goose-egg-size welt growing on her elbow.

“Nasty ka!” (ka being the Japanese word for mosquito) she cries. “Why do they always go for me, and for the same spot?” Unconsciously, I begin scratching in the paranoid itchiness that comes with knowing that one has spent the last three hours as oblivious prey for a merciless, blood-sucking creature. A quick inspection of my own skin reveals a an itchy red lump on my abdomen, just to the left of my bellybutton.

“That’s it!” I yell, as I jump up from our tatami-level futon. “I’m on the...

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Private Parts in a Public Park

Roaming Reality Bites

February 2006

By Gillian Bland

Living and teaching in Japan can be many things: usually confusing, sometimes rewarding - one might even go as far to say heartwarming on occasion. It can also be frustrating and trying to the extreme (you try getting the Japanese McDonalds Crew Member to give you an extra BBQ sauce: the official rule of one sauce per one portion of fries - or per half dozen Chicken McNuggets - is strictly adhered to, No Exceptions). But one thing it never fails to be is entertaining.

My tale takes place during my first month in Japan. After a teenaged student of mine did a fine job of bringing up the rear in the local Nakatsugawa City English Speech Contest, to cheer her up, myself and Kato Sensei - Head of English Department and my boss - went for a spot of lunch, after which Kato Sensei suggested that after we go...

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Neh: Learning "No" in Bulgaria

Roaming Reality Bites

January 2005

By Bonnie Carlson

It was early on in our posting to Bulgaria. I’d learned a little Bulgarian. I’d tried to get sensitized to Bulgarian ways (though our best is still only our best, right?). I had read all the stuff about Bulgaria that I could find. I wanted to really be in Bulgaria, and not just passing through.

I learned from the one travel book on Bulgaria I could find at Barnes and Noble that the country is famous for yogurt, rose oil, and wine. The yogurt is especially good for you and tastes great, the rose oil is so superior that it’s the foundation for most of the perfume that comes out of France, and Bulgaria has mysterious and wonderful varieties of wine that I had never heard of before, like Mavrud, Melnik, and Gamza, which are excellent and incredibly inexpensive. I discovered on arriving that they love kids, with the notable...

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American Junk Food Addict Visits Vienna

The Road Less Traveled

Roaming Reality Bites

July 2000

By Sarah S. Rhodes

David was arriving! We had been looking forward to his visit for six months. We couldn’t wait to show him the sights of Vienna. After all, he was my 11-year-old son’s best friend from the United States.

Also, his parents had been so gracious and generous to our family over the years. We seemed to share so many things in common: an interest in foreign affairs, traveling, leading professional lives, reading The New York Times, modernizing old homes but retaining their charm, gardening and cooking. David’s trip here would be a wonderful learning experience, they said.

Let’s just say it was an experience.

Oh, we tried to make it wonderful. We showed David Hundertwasser Haus, the colorful “playhouse” by designer Friedensreich Hundertwasser, and we showed him Schoenbrunn Palace, with its coach collection and formal gardens. And we tried to make it educational. We showed him the Hofburg, the imperial palace...

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