I’m really annoyed by the so-called “expat” communities I’ve met this last year.
Meeting someone who considers himself/herself an “expat” has become some kind of identity thing, where referring to oneself as an “expat” is becoming akin to referring to oneself as English, Australian, Caucasian, Hispanic, or Jewish.
And the frustrating thing is how much these “expats” blatantly ignore anything non-expat.
“OMGawd I looooooove traveling! I looooooove living abroad with other expats and being able to drink fancy Italian wine while hanging out with my other expat friends at our regular expat hangouts and laughing about the rambunctious horniness of Italian men and the coldness of Italian women! It’s so great being surrounded by expats who all think the same about Italians!”
Maybe I’m just oblivious, but the kind of Italians I met in Italy and the kind that my “expat” friends met were in no way similar. They seemed to meet the most stereotypical Italians with the most stereotypical Italian traits while I seemed to meet regular people that I liked to talk music with and have conversations about shared hobbies and interests.
And going to expat hangouts like the Drunken Ship was just disgusting. Horny college kids from outside of Italy looking to score with Italians and bartenders who had lived there for years and didn’t speak a word of Italian were more frequent than snow in the Antarctic.
I think the problem is that most “expats” have an idea of living “abroad” which involves looking at their host culture through the eyes of their home culture. This means that Americans seek out other Americans, English seek out other English, and people not from there seek others who also aren’t from there.
And sure, I get it, it can be difficult being in a new place and having no comfort zone to speak of. But trying to create a comfort zone that conforms to the comfort zone of where you’re from is counter-productive and only serves to reinforce stereotypes.
One, because when you are faced with a new and uncomfortable situation, running at a sprint back to the teet only serves to stunt growth.
Two, because by not immersing yourself in the new place via learning the language and frequenting local hangout spots, you only end up seeing locals in the context of the place they happen to live, rather than in the context of them as human beings with beliefs, interests, and ideas that are their own.
So, if you really want to gain the full experience of living in a place different than your own, stop being an “expat.”