Tag: Expat Life

‘The Old Man Isn’t There Anymore’

‘The Old Man Isn’t There Anymore’ Photo by sun dazed via Flickr (Creative Commons)

Kellie Schmitt shared a big house in Shanghai with a dozen neighbors she hardly knew. Then she got an invitation to a funeral.

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Expat Pleasures: Jimmy Buffett, Live in Paris

Jim Manzi is living in Paris, where a recent Buffett concert has him reflecting on the expat experience:

One of the many great things about living here is the fun of having typically American experiences completely out-of-context. The annual late-September Buffett concert in Paris has become, like the seven-a-sides in Hong Kong, a ritual gathering point for expats for thousands of miles around. This created a hilarious Anglophone bubble in the middle of Paris. About the only French I heard came from Jimmy at the mic (who, having lived here years ago, still seems to have pretty passable French).

A surprising number of his songs reference the city. In fact, he closed the concert with a great acoustic version of He Went to Paris, which is a song that Bob Dylan cited as one of his favorite tunes by one of his favorite songwriters. Though not many of us here are living a Lost Generation literary life, it still felt very bonding.

I can relate. One of my favorite weekends, during the year I lived in England, was spent preparing a makeshift Thanksgiving dinner and tossing a football around the backyard with other North American students—funny, since pigskin and pumpkin pie are no part of my life at home, however “typical” they are supposed to be. As Manzi points out, context is everything when you’re living abroad.


A ‘White Guy in a Tie’ in Beijing

The Atlantic has a dispatch from a Beijing expat with an unusual sideline: fake American businessman-for-hire. From the post:

Six of us met at the Beijing airport, where Jake briefed us on the details. We were supposedly representing a California-based company that was building a facility in Dongying. Our responsibilities would include making daily trips to the construction site, attending a ribbon-cutting ceremony, and hobnobbing. During the ceremony, one of us would have to give a speech as the company’s director. That duty fell to my friend Ernie, who, in his late 30s, was the oldest of our group. His business cards had already been made.


Confessions of a White Woman in India

Sharell Cook lives in Mumbai and is married to an Indian man. She shares the raw details of her life and her travels in India in an essay in Open.

How foreigners are regarded in India is a curious matter. Our white skin, and the belief that we have power and money, unwittingly elevates us to the top of the social hierarchy. Doors will open for me in India, while at the same time remaining closed for many Indians. Shop assistants will beckon for my attention,while ignoring other potential customers. Everyone wants to have a foreigner for a friend. I’ve lost count of how many times my neighbours have knocked on my door, asking me to meet every relative who visits them. They’re not interested in my husband, though.


A Linglei’s Life in China

The Millions has a compelling essay about a Chinese-American novelist’s life as a linglei —a “different species”—in Beijing and Shanghai. Deanna Fei writes:

I’d moved to Beijing for a year of postgraduate study with some notions of mastering my mother tongue and reclaiming my heritage. I hadn’t expected to feel at home, but I hadn’t anticipated feeling quite so alien. Like most Asian Americans, I’d always been asked the question, “Where are you from?” with the expected answer being China, or someplace equally foreign. Now, this question was asked even more relentlessly of me by Chinese people in China, but the answer never satisfied them. But you don’t look American, they might say—or, You don’t sound Chinese. They’d assure me that I wasn’t really American, even as their suspicious expressions made clear that I certainly wasn’t really Chinese.


This Gamer has Some Issues With Japan

Tim Rogers’ rant at Kotaku about expat life in Japan is racking up the page views—and has stimulated quite a conversation. So far, more than 2,300 people have commented. Rogers’ dislikes about Japanese culture include:

But he does like Japanese trains! (Via The Morning News)


‘You Might be Working at a Bad ESL School…’

One expat TESL blogger rounds up some nightmarish-but-true teaching scenarios. My favorite? “... if one American teacher quits without notice and the school, as a precautionary measure, fires all the other American teachers on the spot.”


Dan Baum on Journalism and the Expat Life

In a recent series of tweets, the veteran reporter looked back on how he launched his career—by setting up as an independent foreign correspondent in Zimbabwe—and encourages young writers to follow suit. The tweets are collected on his website. Here’s a sample:

I still think going abroad—particularly to a place others avoid—is a way to make a name.

It’s a way to distinguish oneself from the mass of people who want to be writers.

It’s a way to call attention to oneself—by having something others don’t.

And it’s a way to do what we all got into this business for in the first place.

That is, to shine light into places the public needs to know about, but might otherwise miss.

(Thanks for the tip, Rob Verger)


Dubai in the Downturn

Dubai in the Downturn Photo by Larsz via Flickr (Creative Commons)
Photo by Larsz via Flickr (Creative Commons)

“It’s all a bit scary,” one expat tells the Washington Post’s Andrew Higgins. He’s not the only one cowering and fleeing. Many expats believe there’s a hunt on for “foreign culprits to blame for the sheikdom’s sliding economic fortunes.”

In Dubai’s defense, its Media Affairs Office told Higgins that it “prides itself on a well-established system of law and order and judicial fairness,” but it didn’t “respond to repeated and detailed questions.”


Canadians in the U.S.: What Do They Miss About Canada?

Here’s a Canada Day treat from the New York Times: Eleven Canadians living in the United States talk about missing, among other things, hockey highlights, universal health coverage, the Canadian Mosaic and the “u” in color.


British Expats in Spain: ‘Eldorado is Turning to Dust’

Andalucia, Costa del Sol, Spain Photo by Cayetano, via Flickr (Creative Commons)
Photo by Cayetano, via Flickr (Creative Commons)

The BBC reports that British expats are fleeing Spain, “driven by the double-whammy of a strong euro and a weak local economy.” Says one expat: “This place is losing its heart, it really is sad.” (Via @evanrail)


Asia’s Food Vendors: A Plus for Work-Family Balance

Asia’s Food Vendors: A Plus for Work-Family Balance Photo by René Ehrhardt via Flickr (Creative Commons)
Photo by René Ehrhardt via Flickr (Creative Commons)

I’m not a parent, but I’ve sympathized with two sisters and plenty of friends who bemoan the constant time stresses on working parents with young kids. Grocery shopping and cooking rank high among parental time-sucks, of course, so a Thai curator’s recent comment to the New York Times that Bangkok’s ubiquitous food carts “provide a vital support system to people who work, especially couples with children” got me wondering about the benefits of raising kids in Asia.

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Expat Tales: Wanderers, Starving Artists and Dissolutes

Expat Tales: Wanderers, Starving Artists and Dissolutes Photo by shashiBellamkonda via Flickr (Creative Commons)
Photo by shashiBellamkonda via Flickr (Creative Commons)

Novelist Malcolm Pryce rounds up his top 10 expat tales with heavy representation from Asia and the Pacific: novels and journals on Vietnam, Thailand, Tahiti and Sri Lanka make the cut.

Eurocentrics will appreciate Pryce’s inclusion of the Thomas Cook European Railway Timetable, but, for Asia travelers, the money quote can be found in his description of Bangkok: “The city is, in fact, a combine harvester for the ex-pat male heart.” Something tells me that line will come to mind next time I’m walking through Patpong.


The Book Bench: ‘Let’s all Move to Berlin’

The Book Bench: ‘Let’s all Move to Berlin’ Photo by wit via Flickr (Creative Commons)
Photo by wit via Flickr (Creative Commons)

I’ve had a longtime fascination with the Parisian expat writers of the 1920s. Books like “A Moveable Feast” or “That Summer in Paris” never fail to make me wish I was sitting in a Left Bank cafe, making a cup of coffee last for hours while I wrestle with a short story or pause to chat with other struggling writers who’ve wandered by.

Of course, Paris is hardly the place for impoverished creative types anymore, but—say the New Yorker’s Book Bench bloggers—there’s a viable European alternative if I ever decide to attempt a modern-day recreation of my Hemingway daydreams: Berlin.

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Spinning Travel in a Tough Job Market

When I decided to quit a full-time job in Washington, D.C., to take a one-year fellowship in Taiwan, I didn’t know I’d be returning home to economic collapse and the worst U.S. job market in years.  I skirted the problem by choosing to work for myself, at least for the immediate future.

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Returning Home: A Tougher Transition?

taipei taiwan train Photo by *Solar ikon*, via Flickr (Creative Commons)
Photo by *Solar ikon*, via Flickr (Creative Commons)

In a recent Wall Street Journal column, Alan Paul writes that he’s feeling persistent grief, three months after returning to the U.S. following a three-year stint in China. He misses his neighborhood noodle restaurant in Beijing, and his kids miss the friends they made at their international school. It’s been a rougher transition than moving to Beijing in the first place, a sentiment shared by several former expats he interviews about cultural re-entry.

“I have certainly found myself carrying a heavier sense of loss here than I ever did there,” he notes. “During my stay in Beijing, people in the U.S. would ask me about missing home and often didn’t believe me when I said it wasn’t a problem. I longed for specific people or places, sometimes profoundly, but I never had a deep sense of loss, simply because I knew that my old existence wasn’t gone forever; it was on hold and I would be returning to it ...”

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