Have you ever spent any time in an “exotic” country and noticed how a lot of the expats living there seem a bit odd? (By the way, I say “exotic country” as opposed to “developing country” as the word “developing” doesn’t seem right…I mean, developing into what? Another capitalistic, polluting, consumer society maybe?? But that’s a rant for another time…) Well, it’s the conclusion I have come to after spending some time in Morocco and Egypt. Of course there are some normal people about, but the amount of odd expats to kooky ones seems a bit disproportionate!
I am obviously not the only one who thinks that either. Someone posted this picture of the seaside town of Dahab, Egypt recently on a local community facebook page and titled it “open air mental hospital”. Dahab is bulging at the seams with expats from all over Europe. Of course it was a joke (kind of).
So why and how do these Western misfits wash up on exotic shores? Here’s my theory on it. When I first started spending some time in these places, I ran into expats and was eager to get to know all and any of them and to hear about their lives there and how they fitted in to this new exotic culture they had chosen as a home. But after a while I realized that some of these people were a bit weird, and the only reason they fitted in here was because they are perceived by the poorer locals as “rich, white foreigners”. Money is power in these places, so the locals see foreigners as being someone to benefit from. So as a foreigner you get treated very nicely, and because you don’t know the local mentality, you trust the locals and this makes you vulnerable for a good fleecing. (But the “getting fleeced whilst living or travelling abroad” story will take us down a long path, so we’ll leave that for now). All these locals greasing up to you, smiling at you and taking care of you makes you feel like royalty…whereas at home said odd foreigner would most likely just have been labelled “the crazy guy/lady down the road”. Suddenly here you are somebody… and you fit in nicely amongst all the other weirdos too, so you don’t stand out like a sore thumb. You are just not so weird anymore.
Now I am not saying that there is anything wrong with being odd! I am just saying…if you move to another country, don’t befriend every expat that crosses your path just because you are in desperate need for an English conversation. Be choosey about who you want to hang out with. Enough said