Saturday, May 30, 2009

Who Moves to Foreign Countries?

This post was inspired by a discussion thread on www.allchile.net, a discussion forum for people who are interested in Chile, want to live in Chile, or are living in Chile.

For sure not everyone moves to a foreign country as a matter of choice. Employment, or spouses employment certainly cast a different light on the experience and how it is approached. Also, the individual reasons are different. My most enlightened experience with ex-pats was being invited to a group pot-luck in [a country I choose not to name].It was in the home of a very lovely elderly couple who were career ex-pat company people...Chiquita I think. The rest of the folks were a mix...but mostly the recent rush of disillusioned recently retired folks, or hoped-to-be retired folks who wanted to live cheap and in a temperate climate. And a few other nice folks scattered in who just wanted a different life, slower pace, and who wanted to experience the culture. The pot-luck people quickly, but politely slipped into their assigned groups.

The first consisted of the ex-pat company people who never had to open an electric account, or get a driver's license by themselves, never rode a city or rural bus, or ate anything that a maid didn't cook for them...they hooked up with the career diplomats. They discussed the indigenous artwork they had pilfered or bought for pennies, the artifacts they smuggled from one post or employment or another and laughed about bribing local officials for some favor or another. Their badge is living in other countries without "living in other countries" but having all the trinkets and pictures to prove they did. How brave. I think they passed on the mondongo that was on the buffet. They sniffed and sneered at groups two and three when they werent' looking (you know, the low downs and freaks).

The second group included the Ruby Ridge Folks (though that is an insult to the people from Ruby Ridge) and they were the people who stuffed sugar packets in their pockets and shared resources for razor wire, finding vicious dogs to menace neighborhood children and cheating maids and gardeners out of a days pay and talked of how they were always getting robbed. This group often raises money for "good causes" so long as the cause is what they thing things should be like, as in "back in the US......" These people eat meat, but watch their cholesterol and often filter their water. They hate the US, but hilariously want to re-create it in this new country. They sneered at the other groups (you know, the snobs and earth muffins).

The third group...the old hippy type, and the loners, they gravitated to the salad and veggie section of the buffet. They talked about sustainable and organic (or hydroponic) farming, organizing the farm workers for better pay, and shook their heads at everyone else for not joining their little local causes. Well-meaning causes such as raising money for the "poor indians" so they could have gas cook stoves, yet not realizing that dragging a 30-pound tank of gas through the mountains isn't a very practical idea. The wood stoves worked just fine - thank you! They didn't sneer at anyone, they only meditated that the others would find their way though truth and light and understanding. Pass the organic toasted sesame seeds.


After that, this is why we never went to another pot-luck hosted by illustrious ex-pat community. We did have friends there, amazing since I am such an asshole. But my favorite thing was being friends for the sake of being friends. No schedules, no expectations other than when you ran into each other, or things worked out for a get together, it was just the best time. No "I'm so sorry I haven't invited you..." or "I meant to stop by but...". I have friends I might not see for years, or hear from for months, but they are friends just the same. I love them for their fierce independence and aloofness. I love them because they added something to my life, even if it was just for a moment. And mostly because they like me too, even though I am an asshole.

Moving to a new country can be anything you want it to be. It's also a little bit about who you are before you go.

7 comments:

ResidentExpat said...

I am laughing way too much to have anything wise to add. Pass the organic toasted sesame seed...HILARIOUS...

Vicki Lansen said...

What can I say....I'm an asshole! Truth be told, I've been a bit of all three groups and also None of The Above at many points in my life as an expat. I'm sure I will have some former friends or acquaintences who will be offended because they clearly fit "within" one of those groups. My real friends will find it funny as it was partially a tongue-in-cheek post.

Thanks!

Margaret said...

Great post!
I remember years ago, at a Thanksgiving dinner held here in Chile with gringos & Chileans alike, one of the Chileans asked the gringos why we were here. We had to think... and finally we all agreed that those of us who come to stay (no career diplomats in the group) often feel like ducks out of water in our homelands... we have always felt out of place, so there's something truly comforting (in an odd kind of way) about living someplace where everyone EXPECTS us to be out of place! In an odd kind of way, it frees us to be who we are... oddities and all!

Vicki Lansen said...

Margaret, that's it in a "Nut"shell! I love your comment. Greg has always felt at home wherever he is because...well...he is narcissistic, and I say that with great love. But I've never felt like I belonged until I was someplace I didn't belong. Don't know if that was what you were getting at, but that's what it made me think of. Thank you for your post. Which region or area of Chile do you live in, if you don't mind me asking>

ResidentExpat said...

what happened to the tale of bad expats? I clicked on it on my blog when you posted it and it's not showing up.

Vicki Lansen said...

Two reasons, Res! I thought it might be a little too mean-spirited (which I tend to regret later) and I thought I might refine it a bit and add some of the other characters...

...still thinking on it!

Vicki

Laura said...

Hehehe...the freedom to feel out of place-or the freedom not to care if we fit. Finally, we're expected to be out of place-great post.