A message to visiting expats: shhh

  • Blog, SMH

At Christmas time, Santa isn’t the only one circumnavigating the globe to deliver joy. At this time of year, it feels like the entire million Australians who live overseas fly home for beach time, family time, and frenzied catch-ups with those of us lucky enough still to be deemed their friends.

I love seeing my expat mates – they’re lovely, clever, entertaining people who are doing terribly well in NYC or Singapore or Kalamazoo or wherever is lucky enough to have them. But as our globetrotting pals regale us once more with their tales of their glamorous existence exhibiting avant garde paintings in Shoreditch or collaborating with the UN in Geneva or saving lives in rural Myanmar, I have one small request.

Beloved expat buddies, could you please refrain from those subtle, snide comments designed to show how utterly you’ve transcended Australia? You know the ones – about how you can’t have a global career in this backwater, or how we aren’t on the map for major events, or how you can’t imagine not being able to fly to Europe for the weekend.

We never contradict you, we just think quietly to ourselves that you’ve become a bit full of yourself since you bought that one-way ticket overseas – and you know how much we Aussies dislike people who are too full of themselves. Or at least, you used to.

It might also be prudent to cool it with those broad declarations about how bereft Australia is of intellectuals/culture/world-class anything. They only make you seem snobbish or uninformed.

Besides, we know living overseas isn’t necessarily so splendid. America’s full of guns, Trump supporters and Trump supporters with guns, whereas Britain isn’t shooting itself in the foot over Brexit, it’s trying to amputate the limb.

Patronising expats should take care, and remember they hail from the land of the boomerang. As unlikely as it may seem when you’re young, childless and career-driven, you expats often decide to move home so your kids can grow up like you did, in a comfortable, pleasant place with a good climate and quality, subsidised education and health care. You’ll find yourself wanting to spend time with your parents while you can – and getting their help with the kids.

Then, during Christmas catch-ups, you’ll hear your expat friends desperately trying to convince themselves that they’ve made the right decision, and you’ll wince with self-recognition. And then you’ll smile, and remind yourself the beach they’ve flown halfway across the world to visit is a short drive from your house, and that living here isn’t so bad after all.

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