8/30/09

The Expat Factor

I just had a great weekend and without doubt the major factor was getting to spend time with another Brit expat.

I said to the Hubster as we got home Saturday night, I think it's something you only understand if you're a long way from home and don't see other expats regularly. This is very much the case for me. As far as we know, I am the only Brit in our area for probably 50+ miles, it's rare to see another. So I never pass up an opportunity to get together with a fellow Brit.

I posted on my Facebook profile this weekend that I was getting to spend time with my 'own kind'! This caused great laughter from a Canadian expat and friend who lives closeby. She knew exactly what I mean't by that.

Every nationality has it's own individual quirks; different meanings for words, the way we express ourselves in language and mannerisms, our comfort zones, our likes and dislikes, our sense of humour, our memories of things 'back home'. These are all slight differences that make us feel like we 'belong' with our fellow countrymen.

When you take yourself out of your homeland, you may not realise at first that you miss these things. You are so busy acclimatising and attempting to fit into a new national identity. If you're like me and have little difficulty settling in and feeling right at home, you really don't miss them per se.

But it's amazing how a meeting with a fellow countryman abroad can lift your spirit, even when you never felt like it was ever down!

This weekend was a great example of this. I finally got to meet Ross, someone I met online 5+ years ago on an Immigration Community site (also where I met my Canadian friend). He made almost the same move geographically in the same timeframe and we have kept in very irregular contact by email occasionally.

But despite this being our very first meeting in person, within moments it was like meeting up with an old friend for a catchup. Everything about him felt familiar, I was totally relaxed from the get go, within minutes we were sharing laughs and recollections like we'd known each other years.

As is the case when I have spent time with my other Okie expat friend, the hubby of PamOKC, hours passed by without us noticing! There was some discussion of things we miss or would love to have here (decent bacon as usual), but actually not as much as you'd think perhaps.

One of my friends locally was teasing me on Facebook as to whether anyone else got a word in, when I said I was hoarse I had talked and laughed so much. But as I said to the Hubster, she has never spent time with a group of Brits and just doesn't get that we are all used to talking endlessly across and over each other.

This is a national trait the Hubster has experienced first hand in the UK. He was amazed how we all talk at once and yet keep up with every other conversation around us too, I'm not even sure we know we do it until we are abroad! I am always conscious of trying not to do this with the locals, because they'll just think I'm rude. It was lovely to get to relax and just go with the flow knowing I could totally be myself. Normally there is always a little tiny bit of me holding back, talking slower, watching my p's & q's, and being careful not to be too blunt or outspoken.

As for our better halves, well they're both used to us and our Brit ways, plus they are both chatty, sociable and outgoing. They have been with us on our journey and 'get' us most of the time, or could share their experiences being our spouses.

So if you're an expat of any nationality reading this and you are offered the chance to meet another for the first time. I heartily recommend it, in fact you should seize the opportunity with both hands as it will probably bring you great comfort and laughs.

Later today I will post details and piccies from our meetup. And share an even more amazing coincidence, that was just the icing on the big ol' cake that was my weekend!

13 comments:

Elaine Warner said...

I thoroughly enjoyed this post. As the mum of an Okie married to a Brit in Penzance, I know she feels the same way!

Brit Gal Sarah said...

Elaine, what a beautiful area she gets to live in!

Kay said...

I felt what you posted when I moved from Hawaii to Chicago 35 years ago. When I met someone from Hawaii, it was such a great feeling. Our language would change a little to the pidgin dialect (just a tiny bit) and we could talk about "local" stuff. After so many years away and then returning to Hawaii, now I'm wanting to meet some midwesterners.

Rob Inukshuk said...

Indeed, what you say is so true. I think we all enjoy connecting back to a time or place like that.

Look forward to more of the Brit fest.

Gaelyn said...

How absolutely delightful to hook up with a fellow countryman.

Anonymous said...

Love your blog. As a Brit expat myself I know how you feel. Although not a replacement for meeting another expat face-to-face, you ought to come join us on www.britishexpats.com. We have a great laugh on there.

Regards
Neelie

Daryl said...

Just catching up here ... sounds like the perfect weekend ... and I am now wondering if my father's family had Brit roots, they were always talking all at once over one another ... mom once said the first time she met them she was stunned silent ... LOL

Sandi McBride said...

Homesickness is contagious! Hope you are recovering and that your next shot of familiar voices is not to long in the future!
Hugs
Sandi

Pam said...

Yes, I know just what you mean and have experienced it myself. One trip to England was 4 weeks due to John being in a class for 3 weeks. So I had lots of time on my own to venture out from Tring. On the bus to Oxford, met up with an American living in England and I kept him talking to just soak up the American accent! The humor (humour) is something that just doesn't translate as well. John can fall back into that humor with his friends in about 5 seconds flat.

gigi-hawaii said...

I liked this post so much, Sarah. It was heartwarming! I am glad you had a good time with your fellow Brit. I can empathize as I was away from Hawaii for 7 years...

Dave Pie-n-Mash said...

A funny post... I felt like I could sense The Hubster's amazement when he first encountered a gaggle of Brits and that made me laugh. We are a strange lot, us Brits. We can be quite self depracating and certainly do talk over the top of everyone. I have lived in the mid west for almost 8 years and have encountered in passing about 5 fellow Brits. Despite having a pub in our downtown area called Brit's (which is rarely populated by Brits at all!). The last Brit I encountered was in a grocery store and even then I got into an argument with him and his wife because he ws pissing me off! It's no wonder Tony Blair exiled me...

A Brit in Tennessee said...

When I first lived in Colorado, I lived in a military town, with lots of residents from different countries. I had three Brit friends, on from my hometown, so the transition was made a little easier, by sharing our stories, and opinions on all things different. Thank goodness I was young enough to "sieze the moment".
When I moved to this area of Tennessee, I met a lady from Chester, England just twenty miles up the road from my home, we bonded like mother and daughter, and to this day, I give her credit for seeing me through the times, when I was ready to get on the next plane to England. It most certainly helps to talk and laugh with someone who understands not only your sense of humor, and background, but shares those memories that lie nearest and dearest to your heart.
A lovely and touching post Sarah !

...mmm... said...

22 years and still counting...