Tuesday, 9 October 2012

The Expat Blogger Knows Best. Always.

 Of course there are any number of intelligent, well-written, and informative expat blogs out there. This isn't about them.

I read quite a number of blogs by people who for one reason or other, live in a different country from the one they grew up in. Some people are happy to be where they now are, others less so. And blogging about your experiences is of course one way of coping, of working through good or bad experiences, or of letting off steam.

The more set in your ways you are, the harder you'll find abroad. The very name "expat" (expatriate) indicates this predicament. Somebody who is outside their homeland, their comfort zone. (One could draw analogies to Anglo-Saxon times where being an outcast (for whatever reason) and having to do without your homeland, your tribe and your kinship is seen as the hardest lot that can befell men.

But back to the coping strategy: The expat blogger tells his readers what s/he has to put up with on a day-to-day basis, what weird encounters, ignorant reactions, unacceptable behaviour s/he has to endure. That makes it easier to bear. The writer appeals- often by way of humour - to the reader to side with him, and thereby against  "the others", the aliens, the ones who don't know what's what. And of course it's up  to him to decide what is acceptable and what is not. Clearly, his own country comes out tops ,whereas the adopted home becomes a laughing stock.

It's a formula, and not a very edifying one. The overall message is: "Why can't abroad be a lot more like home?? I mean really!!" I recently read an expat blog which was so unselfconsciously self-righteous, so full of the opinion that his homeland (Britain)was the only acceptable place in the world, and that its ways should be the guiding line for all others. Anywhere else could only be treated with the utmost contempt. He was writing about Switzerland: Not only does this unfortunate nation not know about queuing, they also have the most absurd way of eating raclette. And of course he, the Englishman, was the expert on that (Swiss) dish and could only laugh derisively about those ridiculous people he had the misfortune of living amongst.

Maybe this is an extreme example, but I genuinely believe that a bit more open-mindedness, and a bit less of telling others how they should live and how to conduct themselves would make the expat blogging scene a lot more interesting.

1 comment:

  1. Great blog. I have met many ex-pats over the last couple of decades, and believe that those happiest are the ones that realise that adaption to local circumstance is a pre-requisite to well-being. Letting go, if you like, of the compare-and-contrast mode, always thinking how it was "at home"....and yearning for the past essentially. Which is often such a glorified myth anyway. Going native may be neither possible nor desirable for expats, but accepting humbly that you're the odd one out and that the art of assimiliation is closely related to the art of happiness is to me at least a pragmatic and often beneficial approach.