Expat Life: Overheard at the Airport

by Miss Footloose

Overheard at the airportWhat have you overheard at the airport lately? Eavesdropping on other people’s conversations is not nice, I’m sure your mother told you so. But airports are full of conversations and interesting scenes and if you live the expat life and spend lots of time in airports, how do you avoid overhearing what other people are talking about? I, Miss Footloose, have not been able to find a solution for this problem. So when at times I hear fascinating diatribes and discourses, such as in this earlier post, I try not to feel guilty simply enjoy them. Here, for your possible entertainment, a little scene I once witnessed at Zvartnots Airport in Yerevan, Armenia, a country buried in the Caucasus Mountains, where I happily lived  the expat life for 6 years.

Real Food

“I’ll be happy to be home and get some real food,” the American woman says. She and her three friends are waiting for a flight to Paris, as am I. From what I’ve overheard from their lively conversation I gather they’ve been on a vacation here in Armenia, have done the tourist thing, and are now on their way back to the US full of memories and stories. They’re a happy-looking tribe and apparently have had a good time. Except for the eating part, it seems.


No real food in Armenia? (No, this is not me)

Real food? I’m thinking. They’ve suffered from a lack of real food here? This is Armenia, not the land of processed much. The markets in the summer overflow with fruits plucked fresh from the trees and most meat is carved fresh from various animal carcasses. Wonderful bread of all kinds is available everywhere, fresh all day long.

“Well,” Miss Real Food says, catching herself, “I mean, you know, the food is good, but it’s all so fat! That barbecued meat is so fatty!”

Khorovats BBQ

Khorovats: Armenian Barbecue

I’ll give her that. The Armenians aren’t much into fat trimming, and fatty meat does well on the barbecue. Khorovats, or barbecue, is an Armenian national specialty and it’s delicious. It’s what’s done for parties and picnics. You can also buy it by the roadside, or from many barbecue shops in town for lunch or take it home for dinner if you don’t feel like cooking.


Lavash, Armenian flat bread. Not a preservative in sight.

I’m wondering what the woman means with real food, and I am rather surprised to hear her complaint. All four mamas are of generous proportion and possibly (I’m guessing here) not strangers to fat and sugar-laden American processed food, which, last I heard, is not real food. Just check the labels.

I’m shamelessly eavesdropping

The women commiserate lengthily, yes, they’d like to go back to their American diet. “What I really crave,” one of them says, “is-”

To my utter disappointment, whatever IT is gets swallowed up in a crackling Armenian flight announcement, so it is lost to me. I would have loved to know, because I’m wicked curious. What could she be craving? Chili cheese fries? Corn dogs? Pop tarts? Pork belly sliders?

Miss Real Food says she’s going to get some coffee. Her friends decline her offer to bring some back for them, and she wanders off to the coffee shop. She returns some time later, carrying a cup of java and a paper plate with an American-style doughnut on it, sticky white with powdered sugar.

“Look what I found!” she sings, and bites into it with relish. Her baby blue eyes widen with delight as she chews.

“This is so good!” she jubilates.

I guess she found herself some real food.

Photo of lady in red:  © Alexxxey | Dreamstime.com 

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What pearls of wisdom have you overheard in airports or other public places? I know there are some gems out there, so please hit that comment button and entertain me.

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Oh! This makes me think of a favorite poem by Naomi Shihab Nye:


We have always eaten fairly spicy foods by American standards, but on returning from Myanmar we found that what was billed as “spicy” seemed quite mild. I must say, I always liked food in Myanmar, but I think if I were restricted to only eating one cuisine for the rest of my life it would be something Middle Eastern, and Armenian would largely fit into that.

It is always a huuuuge disappointment to come back home after traveling abroad, eating all kinds of delicious food that I don’t know how to cook or can’t buy in WV, and arriving home to the land of processed grub.
PS-I love eavesdropping at airports too!

I never comment that I want “real food” when I am heading back to America, but I do state that I can’t wait to eat all the crap with all the dipping sauces that I can’t get here in Italy! Yum!

Nearly 35 years after the fact I still remember a snatch of conversation I overheard on the street in New Orleans…One woman was saying to her friend, “Everyone’s a pain in the ass to someone. I’m a pain in the ass to my ex husband.” As far as “real” food is concerned, again years ago, after being out of the States for almost four years I went on a root beer binge that lasted several months. I couldn’t get enough of the stuff. Not that I drank it that much before, but not having had it for several years the… Read more »

Camden Luxford

Wonderful! I’m a shameless eavesdropper in these sorts of situations – it doesn’t help that English tends to leap so clearly to the ears when one is used to being surrounded by a different language. I’m trying desperately to think of an equally delightful anecdote but I’m only on the first coffee of the day and the gears are moving slowly. The only one that springs to mind was overheard in a backpackers hostel in Ireland, a French boy earnestly trying to convince an Italian girl that “to take a piss on you” meant to poke fun at you. The… Read more »

Funny the things one gets to overhear or see while waiting at an airport!
This anecdote reminded me of a joke my husband always makes when we eat ethnic food, for example, Indonesian. He always says, “let’s have Indonesian food today! Or as they call it in Indonesia, ‘food’.” 😀

Well what can I say? I know what you mean and perhaps Costco and Claim Jumper have “real food.” I’ll never forget someone ordering pork chops at Claim Jumper and they were served 3 giant pork chops, for one person!
Anyway, I’ve had French relatives criticize me when I don’t serve a first course for dinner. I tell them that cheese and crackers, before dinner, is the first course.

guyana gyal

I was waiting to hear that *real food* is hamburgers, fries, sausages.

I know an American [in America] who loves Guyanese food…veggies cooked Guyanese-Indian style! My sis. says many Americans love Guyanese-Indian food.

I don’t eavesdrop. I just can’t help but HEAR when people around me talk hahaha 🙂

So true about how human nature is human nature and does not change with the time:) That’s what makes this story a classic with global appeal. I think she was craving a twinkie!

As it happens, Miss Footloose, I am currently reading a story by Henry James, The Pension Beaurepas, about a pension in Geneva that attracts its fair share of American tourists. Mme Ruck and her daughter, who have just arrived, are disparaging of all things European, apart from the shopping that is! The ladies in your story remind me of them — and for that matter, you remind me of the protagonist (James) in your gently mocking story-telling style! Seriously (actually, I was being serious!), has anything changed since the late 1870s? Well, I guess we have Big Macs and Dunkin’… Read more »


Oh please tell me the American you overhead wasn’t having a big Mac attack. Thankfully not all Americans have palates like hers. All my American friends & family have been won over by the slow mo French cuisine…of course if Le Frenchman (mine) is doing the cooking that adds to the appeal!

Haha, love it! I do it all the time too, the listening in on other conversations. I try not to stare while doing it. I love to imagine what other people’s agendas are, why they are there, where they are going. Maybe that’s the inner writer in you…


Oh I LOVE eavesdropping! I hear the most interesting things! I do remember how weird it felt at first to be back in America and be able to understand the conversations around me! 😉 As to “real food.” We all like our own version of comfort food, what we grew up with. For Mauritanians, it’s boiled goat meat that they suck off the bones. I know, not for me. But when we were overseas, people in the US would ask me what food I missed. They wanted to send me something. But what I missed most were berries. Here in… Read more »

Yet another reminder how adverse some travelers are to jumping in to the novelty of traveling, in this case, sampling the local foods.

Thanks for sharing with us ~

I’ve recently discovered your blog and love it, Miss Footloose, precisely because you avoid the Mayesian view of the world and provide such an observant, sympathetic, and witty view of your serial expat life! I was particularly drawn to this post for two reasons: I’m an Armenian American and an enthusiastic foodie (who also happens to be living a decidedly un-Mayesian existence in Italy 🙂 Cheers!


HA! This is hilarious. I love eavesdropping and people watching in the airport. Although, it can be dangerous… I always run the risk of finding myself exceptionally annoyed (read: embarrassed) at fellow Americans.

Great blog!


LOVE this! We giggle at airport conversations too … although we realize that we giggle more, the longer we live abroad and learn more and broaden our horizons 🙂

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