Saturday, November 2, 2013

It Seems I Just Became an Expat

Recently I joined a group called InterNations which is a community for expats ie. poor misplaced and misguided souls like me who are cast adrift in inhospitable foreign climes and forced to drink awful tea.

I had in the past avoided the expat tag. It made me think of stuck up English aristocratic types in Kenya who played too much tennis at the club, treated the locals like crap and murdered each others' wives. In other words I had watched White Mischief a couple of times too many.

 
Bruges (Cavalier JY)


But some of the problems I have had assimilating and relating to people who give my jokes odd looks, made me start to seek out some of the trappings of the old country. I think it was this more  than the lack of warm beer. The small reminders were not enough; the party down the English shop with cut outs of Wills and Kate on the day of their wedding didn't really do the trick but at least I was able to wade into a fantastic plate of sausage rolls with some old and befuddled and lost souls from Burnley.

On another occasion I sought out a nearby British shop to plunder some Jammie dodgers and real white bread. However, most of the clientele was Scottish and I sensed a small undertone of resentment to those south of the border. Don't get me wrong; the Jammie Dodgers were great.

I joined InterNations about six months ago but forgot I had joined almost as soon as I had forgotten my password. The invitations came and went but they were for nights out in DC. Then a group was set up in Norfolk. I resolved to go but still missed the first four meetings.

Then a meeting was organized at the German restaurant just 20 minutes from home. It was time to take some action and meet some people from the old world. It was time to be an expat in a non sneering way.

When I walked into the restaurant and saw a group of people on a table, I felt a sinking feeling. I think it was the dorky badges with our names and national flags on. Still something that struck me as soon as I arrived was the lack of awkwardness which is in stark contrast to meeting strangers who are American. There was no stilted conversation or small talk. Everybody was having a roaring good time in the total absence of mental mind games. There were no Brits. There was one American guy but no American women of the kind I usually run into who can easily spend two hours holding court on the virtues of the Shark cleaner against the Dyson as I find out whether or not it is possible to cut off my head with a plastic knife.

As I spoke with some ladies from Belgium, France and Sweden, I realized I had never met anyone from these countries in all the time I have been here. Everybody was drinking beer liberally without looking furtively around them for the beer police as Americans so often seem to do when confronted with the evil specter of alcohol.

I spoke to a German who had worked as a journalist in the old East Germany and a French Canadian. We spoke about Bruges, Cologne and Brussels. We spoke about drugs and old style man-woman athletes from the DDR and the way immigration has changed the old place so much. It hit me then how much of Europe I have left behind in a discarded memory pocket and how much I missed it.

The brown cafes of Amsterdam and the curious green light on the canals of Bruges suddenly seemed a long way away.

When my inflated beer and food bill arrived the organizer just smiled and said the night was on InterNations. All I had to do was spread the word and say something positive about it. Frankly that's not a hard thing to do.

19 comments:

  1. Sounds like a mighty fine time was had by all! Glad you were able to let loose with a buncha Johnny Foreigners. ;-)
    Check Out Mina's Resurrection Blogfest II!

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    1. agreed Mina - we all need to let loose with a buncha Johnny foreigners at some time :)

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  2. Glad you enjoyed it. I'm the InterNations Ambassador for the Montpellier group and we have a right merry time every month. There are always new faces so always new people to meet, and they are always interesting. :)

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    1. How cool is that Sarah - great organization

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  3. Well I may just have to find out if there is an InterNations group in my area. :-) Sounds like you had a great time.

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  4. It sounds like you all had a great time! :D I take it you'll go again?

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  5. Pleased to see you recognise that odd attitude a lot of Americans have about alcohol. I noticed a lot of it when I visited family over there a couple of months ago - hence we favoured sitting on the deck at their house quaffing 'real beer' and talking of 'home' late into the night without worrying about who was watching! (I still say it's because American's have an immature attitude about showing youngsters how to behave properly with alcohol!)

    ...and Bruges.......I know of a great bar .....many happy hours spent there......!

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    1. I know I feel like saying 'dude it's not crack cocaine' - really Sue do love Bruges...

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    2. I'm shoving in here in my brash way :)

      I have ALWAYS thought we here in the states are immature about alcohol. Look at all the binge drinking on campuses! Ridiculous.

      It is definitely not crack cocaine. Just having a swig of some bourbon! I have a carafe of Maker's Mark in my office and you'd think I was an alcoholic the way it's looked at from my peers. Sometimes I need a swallow or two. Mostly because of my peers.

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  6. "American women of the kind I usually run into who can easily spend two hours holding court on the virtues of the Shark cleaner against the Dyson as I find out whether or not it is possible to cut off my head with a plastic knife."

    Too funny! But I may resemble that comment! LOL

    Glad you found some comfort among the expats - it's funny but I've felt that way just simply moving from the west coast to the east coast. Easter's are just so uptight!

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    1. Ha - sure you don't really Yolanda - oh is east coast more up tight?

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  7. I never really thought about how strange it would feel to move somewhere other than the country I've always lived in. I'm sure I would feel quite out of place and more than a little lost. Glad to hear you found some kindred spirits and had such a good time.

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    1. ha thanks - yes Daisy, like discombobulated...

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  8. So happy all worked out! You're so right about the alcohol thing. Enjoying a drink in Europe/UK is totally different than here. There's also the gossip thing here . . . those watching eyes remember who drank how much. Anyway, I was getting caught on back "Vanity Fair" issues I missed this summer and thoroughly enjoyed a spread about "The Lady" mag. . . and how I found out who Willy is, LOL!

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    1. ah you did lol - yes tis a way of life in Europe for sure. Glad you enjoyed the trip Kittie

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  9. I'm the same as you David! I really should get more involved with InterNations because they organise great events, or so I hear. But my time is not my own and I'm only allowed out on week nights after I've put my wailing little accounts textbooks to bed (which is never).

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  10. I wish I was an expat. Can I pretend?

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