Expat

The traveler and expat pecking order

Bwahhahhaha! [ Pha Taem National Park, 2014]
Bwahhahhaha! [ Pha Taem National Park, 2014]
I was at the Maejo Lantern release (aka Yee Ping Festival) when a colleague of mine loudly stated, “My god, there are so many foreigners here. This is insane. I bet they don’t even know what this event is all about. Why are they even here?”

Being as we were sitting down, surrounded by people from all over the world, I’m sure what he said was overheard. I was ashamed, but managed to say, “Even though we live here, we’re all visitors if you think about it.” And I wasn’t being spiritual or metaphysical either; I was just trying to put down the shovel that my coworker was swinging around with great importance and ego.

I don’t know why, but there is this traveller’s/expat pecking order that I’ve come across since living abroad and it’s embarrassing. I guess it’s kind of like the guys at the gym bragging about being able to bench press more weight than someone else or girls gossiping about those “ugly” women over there. It’s sooo high school.

Recently, I read a post on how Cuenca, Ecuador is overrun with rude expats and they are ruining the city. My first reaction was to feel annoyed at such a statement and my second was to understand why did I feel this way.

I used to live in Cuenca and I’ve met some really outstanding, generous and sweet folks out there. I consider some of them friends now. Yes, this was years ago, but I have a hard time believing that the whole expat community has gone fantastically to pot. (He said, all the expats were rude.)

When Cuenca made it in Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2010, I thought, Oooo, that’s not good, but seriously, good places get noticed.

Now, I understand, most of us don’t want to go to a place overrun with tourists (or gringos). I moved away from Chiang Mai because it was getting too crowded for my blood. I was having a hard time finding a place to eat near my home after work. Traffic was creating a quagmire of confusion and seemingly endless discomfort. I started to feel restless, too.

But I left a lot of beautiful and special friends behind when I did. I don’t miss the city, but there are happy qualities about CM that make it crazy popular for others. A lot of expats remind me of how much the economy in the US has failed the American people. Yes, adventure is part of it, but cost of living is a very big factor.

It’s a double-edged passport, isn’t it? We want to a place to ourselves and we hate seeing other travelers or expats, but then again, we are the other travelers and expats. Even if they weren’t there, we’d be there. On-the-beaten track is great for some and not so fun for others.  Tours, resorts, solo, camping, budget, RTW, gap year, adventure travel, there is truly something for everyone and I’m not going to pretend that the way I do it is better (or worse) than another. I mean, who the hell cares?

There are, of course, stupid travelers. And I’ve written about tourists behaving badly. In case you are unaware of this, Thailand gets A LOT of tourists acting like they ain’t got a bit of sense. So, expats like to sneer at them and swap stories like baseball cards.

Look, I get it. I don’t want your white mug in my photo op and you don’t want mine in yours (not true). We want to be the first to discover that special gem, that pristine place free of hip travellers, but here we are, collecting dirt on our boots and searching for the next restaurant to eat at.

Travel is supposed to enrich and broaden the mind. We’re not supposed to think colonial thoughts or be territorial. It’s a privilege and not a promise that it will be anything like we had hoped or wanted. And unless you are evil to small children and animals, I think it’s safe to assume that everyone’s journey has some value, right?

Why do you travel?

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30 thoughts on “The traveler and expat pecking order

  1. It is funny to hear your colleague so openly blast the fact that there were so many foreigners around you two. I don’t know how they can be annoying…accept maybe take up tables and chairs, block views and space and things like that at a festival. But that’s all of us… And pretty certain some foreigners have called CR home.

    I haven’t traveled abroad in a while but I’ve been getting around my backyard quite a bit. Always fun to explore and see what’s going on in town and around. I do notice that there are many Asians where I go here in Melbourne. Not that I’m complaining. The world really is very diverse these days.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yes, it was so strange and no body was doing anything rude or obnoxious. We were just all waiting for the ceremonies to begin, but as Ray mentioned, folks seem to get naturally rude when places get crowded. A rather interesting sign that we need space and open areas for sanity!

      And yes, it’s a diverse world these days, everybody better get used to it! xxoo

      Liked by 1 person

      1. That is an interesting point. The more crowded a place is, the harder it is to move around and people generally complain and make noise about everyone around them. If things get rowdy enough, then there’s the pushing, shoving and shouting. Cue police 😀

        Liked by 2 people

  2. Your post gives food for thought. We recently met a woman and her adult son from the Gold Coast in Australia. The are well traveled and mentioned they have been on the Andaman Sea side of Thailand many times and this was their first time to Chiang Mai. They were not impressed and said they wouldn’t be returning. Let’s face it, Chiang Mai is a wild west kind of gritty place.

    I mentioned to here that we want to see Australia and she immediately and with great conviction said, “Oh! Aussies are rude people, you don’t want to go there!” She is Aussie! On the other hand, she said she loves America and wants to explore there more. I told her that in our travels in and outside of the US we have experienced many rude, loud and obnoxious Americans!

    I wonder if we are just tired of our own people. Kind of like when your family gets on your nerves and you complain about them to anyone that will listen.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think one of the great things about traveling and being an expat is meeting people from around the world – and this includes people from our own countries. I love hearing everyone’s story and finding out that we’ve been to the same places, etc.

      However, I suppose if you were travelling on a well-trodden trail and kept running into the same people that could go either way!

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  3. Well said! There’s definitely a pecking order in some people’s minds and I think having it in there is often a sign that they’re not really at the top of that order 🙂 It’s not a competition! There are pros and cons with travelling. You can’t say everything’s great about the nomad life and those who stayed at home are just not living properly (and those who’ve travelled more are somehow better). You’ve got to build your own yardstick at the end of the day and, just, yes, who the hell cares anyway?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well said, yourself! I agree 100%. It’s not a competition! And really what’s best for you will be different for me. Maybe they were road-weary because certain countries particularly Ecuador has been getting a lot of attention lately…everyone wants to retire on the cheap. Plus, it’s very close to America! A short flight has great appeal to many.

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      1. Yes, I have to laugh when I see newbies awe and oooo over the things that I have now taken for granted because I remember making that face, too!

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Hi Lani,

    I always love the Mark Twain about travel:

    “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”

    Unfortunately, this does not seem to happen for every traveler.

    Cheers,
    Jim

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Sometimes it’s best to re-evaluate why you are traveling and sit on a post before hitting publish…Thanks for the Twain quote. I hadn’t heard that one.

      Like

  5. Double-edged passport, yeah!

    We shouldn’t generalize so much, but it comes naturally. But the fact is, when a place gets more crowded then statistically there will be more rude people.

    Also, a weird thing about travel is that it seems to paradoxically make some people *less* open-minded. The point of seeing the world should be to broaden your outlooks. Yet, some people retreat into themselves and into familiarity even moreso when outside of their comfort zone. It depends on individuals, but somehow a lot tend to go to a new place and immediately act like a stereotype of their home country.

    Is it bad I think that particularly goes for Americans? I’m American, I can say that.

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    1. Yes, I wrote a post called “Why are Americans so loud?” because they are and it’s annoying for us Americans who don’t want to be known for this!

      You bring up some good points, particularly the irony of travel broadening the mind. I think travel is a good way to figure out what’s important to you and what you want and need.

      We have these ideas as to who we are and then boom, you travel and you realize something new about yourself whether it be good or bad.

      And yes, it’s natural to judge and poo poo others, but I try to remind myself that everyone deserves to be here and I’m no better than someone else. I know, so unAmerican of me 😉

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      1. To be fair I could write a post about why British travellers are so stuck up and arrogant but most people wouldn’t understand it 😉

        I had a mate in China from Boston who used to regularly stand up and apologies in Mandarin when Americans were being obnoxious. Luckily the Chinese speak loudly as well so it wasn’t too much of an issue.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. 555+ Wow. That’s kind of sad when we feel the need to apologize for our countrymen. Hopefully, folks will gain enough exposure to learn that there is great variety under the big hot sun.

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  6. Love this, Lani! I see this almost everywhere I went in Europe, these people bashing other travelers and feeling like they were higher on the totem pole than the others. There’s no reason for travelers to take on this attitude, which is ironic because I feel like my mind broadened through traveling, not gained an additional way of judging others!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Ahhh, totem pole. Good analogy. And yes, I don’t want to travel around the world so I can be better at judging people! I see nothing wrong with saying I didn’t like the place and leaving it at that. Vietnam is a good example. Folks either hate it or love it.

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  7. I’ve always wondered about bloggers who have these travel destination bucket lists: what does that truly show? How much did they understand what they saw, felt when travelling through xxx country in such a short time period.

    Ex-pats. are often temporary unless they have truly left their home country by selling off/moving all their possessions.

    If ex-pat. has the option to leave country to resettle easily in a safer country without citizenship / residency hassles, if country becomes violent, totalitarian, etc., then already there’s an element of privilege that many locals cannot exercise at all.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. You raise some good questions. I don’t know about hard-core travel bloggers. It’s definitely a lifestyle and such an amazing privilage. I’d love to pose the question and get some answers.

      Yes, there are the temporary expats. Most 20somethings are in that category. And then we have the retirees on the other side of the fence.

      The ability to leave with my US passport is something I am grateful for because I know what my mom did in order for me to have this. However, I see myself as a long term expat b/c I’m not interested in living the 7 to 7 // rat race life.

      That being said, you never know. I’m not opposed to going back to the States, it’s just a hard place to go back to – mainly for financial reasons.

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  8. In China (and even Taiwan), many foreigners would use local people as “props” to show off to other foreigners how “local” they are. It is pretty disgusting. Or they would make a face at another foreigner like, OH MY HOW DARE YOU GET IN MY SIGHT. I WANT TO FEEL I AM PIOOOONNEEEER.

    Nah, you’re still no pioneer, dear.

    I sold all my stuff in my apartment in Florida before I moved to Taiwan with my husband (his home country). I now have residence there. I am happy to call it my second home but I know full well I am by far not the only foreigner who made the island home. That kind of “superior” complex attitude I will never understand and I don’t want to.

    Luckily though, many other foreigners (of course, it should go without say) aren’t like that in the slightest.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re so funny. I need to use ALL CAPS for shouting and pretentious behavior more often. 😛

      Yeah, I get it and I don’t get it. I mean, I try not to act like I’m more important than others, you know? Traffic teaches you that.

      I think it comes down to specialness. We want to be special and having that Thai/Taiwanese (I know the difference! Hahahah) mate to show off how native we’ve gone is just another way – and if you hang out with your “own kind” all of the time, that’s another smirk waiting to happen.

      Relax everyone! 😀

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  9. It’s not that “Oh no, a foreigner is with a local” must be a snob. I think foreigners should make friends with locals, for sure but when I see that foreigner was very cold and distant from the local till a foreigner shows up…then that’s kind of fishy. It’s kind of like when a woman sees an ex and she makes out with a guy she doesn’t really care for…you know, to show off. We all want to be special but maybe we should just call our family for that?

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I completely agree with you. Everyone’s journey has some value. I personally love to travel and experience different cultures. I love observing the various traditions and beliefs around the world. Travel changes you and really does broaden your mind. I love that! And I’d love to have you in my photo op any day! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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