If you’ve ever considered moving abroad and turned to internet message boards for advice, you may have been shocked to find a few less than helpful folks. In fact many potential expats have been turned off by the attitudes projected online and seriously rethink their plans of migration. Unfortunately the internet has become a place where people can hide behind a computer screen and express themselves in ways they would never dare to in reality. And many of these people who have nothing better to do than haunt chat rooms and Facebook groups are the most bitter about life in general and are more than willing to spread the misery.
The good news is that one person’s experience of perception of expat life is rarely the reality for the majority. Just because Hemmingway’s The Sun Also Rises centers around his clique of binge-drinking narcissistic tortured-artists does not mean this was a true reflection of all Americans in Paris during the 1920s. In kind, just because a few very vocal expats choose to portray their perception of life abroad all over the internet does not mean it is so. Here are some of the types of online expats you might encounter and why you should ignore them.
The know-it-all loves to tell you how long they have lived in the country, how well they speak the language, and how involved they are in the community. They don’t simply hand out this information when it is relevant to a question or topic, but they find ways to work it into every conversation. They’re also big name droppers, jumping at the chance to mention the time they spoke with the mayor so as to imply they are buddies and maybe you’ll even start to believe they are some sort of spokesperson for the expat community. You will hear so much about the countless good deeds they have done in feeding the homeless, clothing the orphans, and raising money for public betterment projects that you will soon wonder if maybe Mother Theresa’s sainthood was misspent.
The truth: Chances are much of what this person has to say is exaggerated or just plain false. Like a pufferfish their online persona is inflated to several times what their true image is or should be. If there is a very knowledgeable do-gooder expat in town, you’ll know about it. From other expats. Anyone with real value will not need to promote themselves and shouldn’t.
This is the expat with the Chicken Little complex. The pessimist can turn a conversation about where to buy socks into a rant on why we’re all going to die. Posting links to articles about criminal activity in their adopted country is a favorite pastime, while of course ignoring the floodgate of crime-related reports from their original country of residence. Tales of expats being taken advantage of in business dealings or worse become repeated and regurgitated until they no longer resemble the actual facts. Even minor events cause a frantic cry of “the sky is falling!”
The truth: When living in a new country it is absolutely true that you must be cautious and get a feel for your new home. The world for the most part is buyer beware. However, there are very few countries where the majority of people are not welcoming, friendly, and happy. Crime exists everywhere – the real question should be “is the crime disproportionate?” Moreover, if this country or town is so dangerous, ask yourself why the pessimist is living there themselves.
Rose Colored Glasses Only
The extreme antithesis to the Pessimist, is the expat who only sees their new country through rosy shades of pink. Their world consists of rainbows, ponies, and lollipops and anything less will be ignored or altogether shunned as false. Nothing in this country can be wrong and no one had better say otherwise. I have heard these people actually say that by moving abroad you are a guest in your new country and therefore must accept all aspects of the nation: good or bad. This makes for some fun discussions between Rosy’s and Pessimists on online forums. This also makes me question the morality of people who will not even listen to those who speak out against rampant animal or domestic abuse and racism.
The truth: It should be obvious to most of us that the world is not perfect and sometimes negative experiences need to be shared in a calm manner. Convincing potential expats that any place is heaven on earth is just wrong. Not only is it misleading, but it makes the inevitable culture shock all that much worse.
I Found It First
This is the guy who finds the ideal place to relocate and immediately wants the doors shut to all future immigrants. Sometimes he will masquerade as a pessimist, posting horror stories so as to discourage newbies from checking out his new town. Other times he might come right out and rudely tell people that no new outsiders are welcome here.
The truth: There’s not much to say here other than these guys are simply selfish. The good news is that if you do move, you’re unlikely to run into them as they are often anti-expat in general (despite the fact that they are expats themselves).