Disclaimer: this is a satire and due to its satirical nature, exaggerations and sarcasm are used. I am also an expat and go to house parties, and yes I am making fun of myself as well)
This is going to be an oversweeping generalization but the expats social life is the same regardless of where one is based in the developing world: East Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, or Latin America. Regardless of one’s age, relationship status, i.e. married or single, nationality, or gender, the social scene is remarkably similar and the questions asked at each party are like an echo chamber.
Firstly, let’s define expats. An expat is someone who moves to another country outside of his/her work/home country, primarily due to work or loved one’s work. They can be of any nationality/ies. An expat also includes repats, or people who are originally from that country but have spent a considerable amount of time outside of the country, either for school or work. They have since then come back to their home country.
I’m not going to get into the debate of why expats tend to hang out with other expats instead of “locals” (what is a “local” anyway?). That’s a whole other beast. I am merely making a statement: expats do hang out with other expats, even when they make an effort not to. After all, who else are they going to celebrate Canada Day, Thanksgiving or Madakaras Day with?
The expat social scene evolves around one thing: house parties. Not only are they rowdier and noisier than the parties held by “locals”, but they also tend to involve some sort of substances restricted or banned by the government: alcohol if in a Muslim country and drugs (weed). People are not obligated to use the two substances but most do, because how else are you going to relax when your other life movements are restricted due to security reasons? It doesn’t matter that the neighbor has 4 kids who probably don’t enjoy the lingering smell of weed when they wake up in the morning.
So popular are these house parties that, in some countries, they trump over clubs. Who needs clubs when the expat host or one of his/her friends (an expat always knows someone who works for the UN or the embassy) can get disco balls and anything else needed to make it a “party” through the diplomatic pouch for free? And weed is so cheap! The local government doesn’t bother the party unless it gets out of the compound. White expats always get a pass on these sort of things anyway, right?
Don’t get me wrong. These parties are not homogeneous. Oh no. They tend to look like the UN though half of the people at the party have a very strong stance against the UN and/or any of its affiliated organizations, such as the World Bank and the IMF. The parties have expats from all over the world, from all walks of life and probably the only place where 50-year-old career diplomats are partying it up with naïve 20-somethings in a non-creepy way. There are diplomats, aid workers, non profit workers, consultants, and the money-making folks. English, spoken in all accents, is the dominant language with 5 or 6 other languages sprinkled in, including the local language. One thing everyone has in common is (passive) acceptance, or at least heavy exposure, of Western values and worldview.
At these parties, the same questions are asked of strangers. “What do you do?” “Who do you work for?” “How long have you been in ___?” “How long will you be based out of here?” The same snobbery towards short-termers remain. Then the conversation takes the predictable turn towards the city. “Can you believe the traffic here? And I thought I had it bad in _____ (American/European city).” “How do you get around the city? Do you have a driver?” “Corruption here is unbelievable. The other day, I got stopped by a cop for a bribe….” But quickly, these complains are smoothed over by, “but I do love this city. The people here are so friendly and hospitable.” “I met this local on the street and I was so impressed by her hustle and ingenuity” and so on. Because goddamn it, how can this city not have nice locals who bend to the will of foreigners?
Slowly, the inevitable hierarchy develops based on the nature of one’s work, how long one has been in the country, one’s network in the city, etc. But all that is forgotten by 2 AM when everyone is drunk, high, and/or sleepy.
House parties. The unifier of all expats.