Expats behaving badly

28th July 2003, Comments 0 comments

Expats behaving badly

In Singapore you might find an expat with a maid who does the ironing — naked. This British man calls Singaporeans as "thick as shite" and "from the jungle", then he defaces his national flag and urinates in the street.


X-Pats — a documentary on British TV — portrayed expatriates as foul-mouthed, racist womanisers. The show was in the headlines last week after a newspaper report claimed the scenes were faked; the TV production company responsible, Ardent (which is owned by Queen Elizabeth's son Edward), issued a denial.

But faked or not, this kind of behaviour is a disgrace. Does being an expat make you act like this?

Of course not.

Unless you live in Singapore, that is. In some Asian countries, according to accounts by contributors to Expatica's forums, expatriates feel lonely and alienated, so they go out, get drunk and run amok with fellow expats. Apparently, some people refer to it as a "god complex" — you feel so different from everyone else that you see yourself as some kind of god and hence feel you have a right to do anything. Even employ a naked maid, maybe.

But for most of us, life ain't quite like that. While some of us live in apartments or houses paid for by our companies or the embassy — which are, perhaps, better than we are used to at home — and have maybe higher salaries than we are accustomed to, for the most part our lives are pretty average.

We get on the train in the morning and go to work, we start to learn the language, we have friends (and maybe even a partner) from the country in which we are living and, generally, we try to integrate at least a little and not give our host country a reason to resent our presence.

After all, the gin-and-tonic drinking, manservant-wafting-a-big palm-frond image of the expatriate is from the age when Great Britain ruled the waves or when being an expat meant you were living off the profits of oil.

Now most expatriates are people with careers or accompanying a partner. We're living in another country from where we are born and — for the most part — we're liking it and making the best of it.

Filthy-mouthed sexists with naked maids need not have anything to do with us.

28 January 2002

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