Serving Overseas – A Humorous Adventure

a couple of years ago

Serving overseas is an adventure! Americans have little concept of what life is really like in other countries. If you’ve ever traveled abroad, you know things can be quite different.  Either you love it or hate it. You cringe or you laugh – sometimes both. Here’s a brief and humorous look at what I’ve experienced the past three months on the mission field.

Yes, I miss a few things (like my mother-in-law… LOL) but, it’s worth it for Jesus!

Editor’s Note: (Ok, I confess that I might have added that part about her mother-in-law when I edited the article – Kim Schmutzler)


You Know You’re Serving Overseas

  • The power goes out 3 times while at the grocery store.
  • Every room is tiled, not just the bathroom.
  • You flip a switch on the outlet itself before any power will flow to it.
  • “See you at noon” really means, “I’ll start getting ready to leave at noon.”
  • The wrong voltage on the hair clippers almost takes your husband’s head off.
  • Countless strangers have your baby’s picture on their phones.
  • Dishes don’t see soap—a good rinse in cold water ought to do it!
  • A box of Kraft mac and cheese costs the equivalent of $5.
  • You can take a decent bucket bath with less water than it takes to flush the toilet. This is necessary when the city shuts your water off for a week.
  • You get your own special line and your own “special” price because you’re a foreigner. That means you pay more and do more paperwork for the same service that locals get for free.

Learn to Laugh At Yourself

  • It’s no big deal that kids never ride in car seats while driving – or that they stay seated for that matter.
  • Your English changes after being around ESL speakers for a while—complete sentences? No need when serving overseas!
  • You drive on the left side of the road in a car with a left or right side steering wheel depending on what country the car was imported from.
  • Bug spray becomes perfume, and you prefer the lemon essential oil one best.
  • Your passport never leaves your cross-body purse, which never leaves you.
  • When leaving the house, you have enough stuff in your purse for a national emergency.
  • When the power goes off mid-meal at the restaurant, in trots the wait staff with giant LED glow sticks so you can finish your meal.
  • You’ve been the bank or used other missionaries as a bank when you need to exchange currency.
  • You can divide by 2000 or 145 in your head without using a calculator depending on the current exchange rates.
  • You offer to take other foreigner’s photos for them, in trade for them taking your family’s photo at the same landmark.

Peanut Butter is Gourmet Food

  • You sometimes send an “I’m not dead” text to your family when it’s been too busy to contact them lately.
  • There’s no such thing as boneless anything. Chicken nuggets lied to me growing up.
  • You wished you learned your Celsius and metric system better in school—but, you thought it was pointless because no one in America used it and you never thought you’d be serving overseas.
  • All your recipes have dual measurements and temperatures for when you’re on the field or stateside.
  • You’ve butchered a foreign phrase, only to realize the person speaks perfect English anyway.
  • Your phone clock is set to 3+ different time zones so you know when not to call your family.
  • The last package of peanut butter crackers is to be savored and mourned.
  • If your vehicle hits them, it’s your fault and it’s the talk of the town. If their vehicle hits you, it’s still your fault and they drive off.
  • Teatime is an absolute must.
  • You don’t eat more because you’re hungry, you eat more because the little old Grandmothers spoon more onto your plate and tell you to eat it.

Forget Peanut Butter – Give Me Some Taco Bell!

  • Your schedule changes daily so don’t even think about planning next week.
  • The only ex-pat, Western restaurant knows you personally every time your family walks in for dinner.
  • Geckos, mice, snakes, and miscellaneous bugs don’t faze you anymore.
  • You have a favorite airline.
  • Guess what? There are a ton of ways to fix your hair when a blow dryer is not available – which is all the time!
  • You crave cheap fast food.
  • A small hospital could survive off of your personal First-Aid stash.
  • You’ve taken laxatives and Pepto-Bismol in the same week.
  • Mastering a gas stove is considered initiation.
  • Clothes dryer – oh, you mean the sun?

Uh, Oh – Don’t Look Ethel!

  • If you have to wash your clothes in a waterfall, don’t go on Fridays. That’s when all the Muslim men shower before going to the mosque!
  • If a hotel owner tells you he’ll prepare a special “Western” meal for you, just know the only thing you’ll recognize on your plate will be the French fries.
  • You’ll never complain about American traffic again after serving overseas.
  • You’re used to paying in the thousands for things. 7000 sounds like a real deal for an imported Snickers bar.
  • You drink more carbonated beverages than normal because the water filter looks iffy.
  • You always have a random roll of toilet paper on hand and you guard it with your life.
  • And Finally – You’ll remember to count all your blessings because serving God is an adventure!

(This is Hannah’s second short-term mission trip. Read about Hannah’s first time serving overseas – HERE.  If God wills, she and her husband plan to serve full-time on the mission field.)

Hannah Schmutzler

About the Author

Hannah Schmutzler

Hannah and her husband Cameron are currently on deputation, raising support so they can begin full-time missionary work in Mongolia. She juggles the demands of traveling with those of a toddler and keeps a sweet spirit through it all. Hannah has authored two books in addition to her writing for the Submissive Spirit. She also blesses us with her beautiful voice.

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