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Miss About Living In The States

Things We Miss About Living In The States

Me: So, what is it like to be living back in the U.S.?
Friend: Everything is just easier here.
Me: Really? How’s so?
Friend: Well, you know everything is easier to get done and, now, I am the one that has to be careful NOT to be the asshole on the road.


This was a phone conversation I had yesterday with a friend who recently moved back to the U.S. because of her husband’s job transfer.

So, it got me thinking.. What are some of the things we miss about living in the States?
Honestly, there are not many things besides the obvious – friends, family, and steady income. But, if I think about it, there are a few other things that I miss.

Let’s face it; with the exception of five years in the early 90s that I lived in Virginia, I spent the last 33 years living in the Midwest. Comparing to Puerto Rico, you might say that is a huge change. So, there have to be some things I miss – right?

Here are the things we miss about living in the States:

1. Autumn

Autumn was always my favorite time of the year in Michigan. Yes, summer was nice too but there was just something special about fall. Perhaps it was the leaves turning from green to brilliant yellows, reds, and browns, or perhaps it was the smell of the dried leaves on the ground – I don’t know but I always really enjoyed Sept, Oct, and even November in Michigan.

Every year, we went to the Renaissance Festival in Holly, where we could enjoy looking at all the medieval costumes, watching the jousting show, listening to the comedians and sampling the food. My favorites were always the giant pickles, right out of the barrel, and the mead tasting (you just can’t get mead in PR).

Tim and I liked to rake yard leaves into a big pile and burn them (still legal where we were lived). One of our favorite fall highlights was also visiting the apple orchards in the area to pick fresh apples and drink fresh apple cider and, occasionally, fresh-made donuts.

It may come as no big surprise that we also really enjoyed celebrating the Halloween and Thanksgiving holidays with friends and family. I especially liked going to the local haunted house attractions with my friend Gretchen. She was always so terrified, I would sometimes get claw marks in my back from her hiding behind me but it was all good times.

So, now that we are getting close to the autumn months, I miss all of that and it makes me a little sad. We planned on visiting Michigan in September but because of some unexpected car expenses, we decided against it. Maybe next year…

2. Timeliness

Yes, I get the concept of “island time” and I know that it is good to slow down but…..Puerto Rican’s are never on time!

OK, that is not totally true; they seem to be on time to church but other than that – nope. Nothing is ever done here in a timely fashion – nothing. If someone makes and appointment, count on them being at least 30 minutes late. If there is an event, it will most definitely start an hour late. For example, this year’s Mother’s Day concert in the Town Plaza started 1.5 hours late.

Doctor appointments are not really appointments – they are suggestions and you will wait for hours – guaranteed.

Everything is done “mañana” which literally means tomorrow but actually means sometime in the unidentifiable future. If you call someone, you are lucky if they answer the phone but even luckier if they call you back – EVER!

We waited for 3 days for the Internet guys to show up to fix our Wi-Fi. Every time we called, the answer was: “They’ll be there later today, they will call you first”. Well, they did not show up the first day, did not show up the second day and when they did show the third day, it was without calling. Lucky we didn’t miss them.

I already told you that there is always a line somewhere that you have to wait in. I am not exaggerating. You wait for everything in Puerto Rico, timeliness is not a concept that is culturally understood here. There is no such thing as a quick trip to….{fill in the blank (bank, store, “fast” food, drug store)}… it doesn’t happen, so don’t count on it.

I would say that the adoption of “island time” is the biggest adjustment we have had to make here. We are getting better at it but it is still a struggle at times. It seems it is harder for Tim than it is for me, most of the time.

3. Efficiency of Services

This is closely tied in with the concept of timeliness but simply put; services suck here. Not only do you have to wait forever for your waiter or food in a restaurant but getting things done correctly on the first try is rare.

Take our story about getting our car registered in Puerto Rico, for example, the whole thing could have taken 1/2 day but it took 3 days. Why? – because we were not given the information upfront and had to talk to multiple people to get the full story. We were fortunate to have a native translate for us but can you imagine what it would be like if we were to try to struggle through it alone?

Some mainlanders move here and think that this is a personal affront on them; that they are being treated poorly because they are “gringos” (or foreigners) but trust me on this – the natives get the same treatment. My Puerto Rican friend went through the same ordeal as we did with the car, when she had to replace an expired driver’s license. It took her three days and several trips to finally get the “right” birth certificate and get it all worked out. Services just suck and if they are government related – they suck worse.

Efficiency, I believe, is what my friend referred to in our conversation in the beginning of this post – it is a foreign concept in Puerto Rico. In the States, things are far more efficient and easier to get done.

What else?

Frankly, that is about it. There really isn’t much else that we miss about living in the States. Other friends of ours complain some about the difficulty of Spanish or crazy Puerto Rican drivers but those have not been big problems for us and we have adjusted pretty quickly. We don’t miss any of the U.S. brands because Puerto Rico has them, we don’t miss any foods, because either we can make them or we buy them on the island, and the local food is amazing. So, really, we do not have any other major complaints.

I also want to note that the lack of timeliness and efficiency of services are not unique to Puerto Rico. It has been our experience that this is true of most of Latin America, as well as, some Europe. I think that, as Americans, we value time and efficiency more than most of the rest of the world – that is just my opinion.

Do you have something you miss about living in your home country? Please share with us.


About Joanna

is a Polish American living in Arizona with her husband Tim. She is a founding partner of JTR Tech and she is proud to be a professional geek. She had dreamt of living abroad for many years. So, she and Tim created AbroadDreams.com to document the process of making their dream of moving abroad come true. They spent 2 years in Puerto Rico and several months in Spain and Poland. Now they are exploring the American Southwest.

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  1. Another great post! After living here for two years, I definitely agree with all your points. For me Autumn is a biggie and I DEARLY miss winter. I’ve lived in New England, the Northeast and Alaska, and really miss Nordic Skiing and Snowshoeing. Nothing like gliding across a freshly fallen snow by moonlight.

    We have one year left on our tour here, so perhaps our next duty station I’ll be able to dust of my skis 🙂

    • Thanks Dan,
      I have to say that winter is one thing I don’t miss…ha ha.. But I do like snow for Christmas -) I am definitely a warm weather fan…and beach…I love the beach. We have decided to move back to the beach after a few months in the mountains, perhaps as early s next month.

  2. Okay, okay… tone down the drama. I wasn’t *terrified.* I was, um, “easily startled.” AND I call foul! Our husbands kept giving MY NAME to the ghosties and ghoulies that were working at the haunted orchard so that my name was being moaned and whispered all around me every time we went into a new scare zone!!

    But we miss you guys, too! Tim is a nice blockade to hide behind when the monsters started chasing me.

  3. Good post – I appreciate your honesty. Indeed, paradise is not a place, but a state of mind. Wherever you go, there will be things you will miss and things you will wish were different. No place on Earth is perfect, so it is a matter of weighing pros and cons. The thing I would miss is a well functioning society, where I would not have to bribe anybody in order to obtain what is rightfully mine. Of course, I would also miss our family, friends, beautiful house, good jobs, changing seasons, wood burning in the fireplace on a December evening, and many other things. What I would definitely *not* miss are the long, dreary, Michigan winters. Come February I start to think that this one consideration outweighs all the others… 🙂 That lasts until April or May.

    • Hi Vlad,
      Yeah, those long dreary winter months were a deciding factor for us too. But, so was the 8-5 rat race and the work climate at UM, it just sucked the last few years since ITS started to take over. Neither Tim nor I are the types to silently take it when we see all the blatant BS. So, we really couldn’t count our jobs as good – they were well-paying, but not good.

  4. Hi, Joanne,

    You know, when we lived in Costa Rica, we hardly ever did any of the “what do we miss” exercises since we’d figured we’d be in CR forever, so why bother with missing things we couldn’t have. 😉 BUT, once we moved back to the states (after our 5+ years in CR) it’s AMAZING how much we appreciated the contrast — mostly those very things you named. We actually love being back in 4 seasons, we *do* find the food here to be tremendously better than what we had in CR, and even after being back 3+ years now, we STILL marvel at how *easy* it is to get anything done — medical is amazing, something like registering your car takes barely moments, etc. So while we sure did enjoy those years in CR, we’re sure still appreciating being back! Good post.
    all the best,

    • Thanks Arden,
      Yeah, I can see what you mean about food in CR. I think compared to PR, it is very limited. We have pretty much anything here that we had in the States, including rice cheese! One thing I miss is mead, Tim and I got into trying different meads and became somewhat connoisseurs. That is one thing we don’t really have here but fortunately we found suitable substitutes – ha ha.
      Glad you guys are still happy with your decision to move back.