The Expat Personality

7 Apr

Whilst we are all expats here (being non Germans) and might stick out like sore thumbs to the locals, it is important to recognise that all expats are not necessarily created equal.

Here is my guide to the expats you might meet when you move abroad…

The Bragger

Commonly heard saying –
“You haven’t been to Neuschwanstein/Berlin/newest restaurant in town yet? you really must go”
“My kid speaks five languages”

Easy to spot, no matter how long they have been in the country (2 weeks, 2 month, 2 years) they will always have been to and experienced places that you MUST go to (in their opinion). Usually these braggers tend to have very little imagination and have seen every sight listed in their guidebook, but not a lot else. Guidebooks are great, but use them with caution, a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing.

If they have kids, well, get used to hearing how amazingly they are doing at adapting, learning the language (and never acknowledging that they should work on their own language skills), bringing their culture to a German school (by passing out valentines to every kid in kindergarten on Valentines day, much to the confusion of  their classmates). These expats will only adopt the best (in their opinion) of German culture and ignore the rest, their home culture is much more important to them (hence why the braggers generally aren’t in it for the long haul and will head home when life gets real, and then presumably brag about their European life some more back in their own country).

When to call a bragger – On returning from a fantastic holiday to a far flung corner of the earth, but do be prepared to find out they’ve been there and did it better last year. Good advisers about things to do in Germany when your friends and relatives visit though.

Best friend – The traveller
Mortal enemy – The whiner

The Networker

Commonly heard saying –
“I went to …. and worked at … and … and …, where do you work?
“I volunteer at ….. and ….. and ….., and I’m friends with …. and ….. and …..”

It can be hard to be away from your 9-5 for the first time, networkers react to this by treating their life like their job. Lists, lists and more lists are a sign of a networker, they never stop talking about making connections and have usually volunteered at every available place within their first six months in the country. If you aren’t visibly well connected they will probably look right through you, but once they find out who you are, they will be all over you.

When to call a networker – When you need help on a project that they could put on their CV or you hear of an opening that might interest them, they might even have some tips for you, if there is something in it for them.

Best friend – The Bragger
Mortal enemy – The whiner

The Wannabe Integrationee

Commonly heard saying –
“We are completely integrated here, no we don’t speak German and our kids go to the International school”
“I spend three months in the summer in Florida with my family and then two months at Christmas with his family in Texas”

Their idea of living here is actually being in the country for 7 months of the year, they do all their shopping in their home country and are never short of foods from home that they just can’t do without. This expat rides a bike, owns lederhosen, is friendly with their German neighbours (though they are not on first name terms even after 5 years) and really enjoys their life in Germany, when they are in the country that is.

In Germany they make good friends, they are people to call if you need help but the amount of time that they spend out of the country makes it hard to have a normal relationship with them since they are constantly arriving and leaving.

When to call a wannabe integrationee – If you need advice about luggage allowances back to your home country, where to go to get a passport renewed or the number for a good cleaner. Generally these expats are a font of information but due to their part time status in Germany can be hard to get hold of day to day.

Best friend – The stop gapper
Mortal enemy – The traveller

The Integrationee

Commonly heard saying –
Everything in German, all the time

Generally they are married to a German or have given up their former citizenship for a German one. Their life is here and they have made it their home but they do still think of their former home and their family there regularly. Their German is impeccable but they also accept that in their village they will always be “the foreigner” not matter how integrated they are, this does not phase them though.

They may have fewer expat friends since they have been here so long and have German friends though work or school, but that just makes them well rounded, oh and they probably own some Jack wolfskin too.

When to call the integrationee – Need advice about language schools, help with German customs or a natter about your past lives (in your former countries that is). They have been there and done that and most importantly survived, be aware that they may be wary of you, since you might not be sticking around long term.

Best friend – A native
Mortal enemy – The stop gapper

The Traveller

Commonly heard saying (usually be voicemail since they’re out of the country) –
“We are so lucky, we get to travel so much”
“Have you tasted the pasta at … in Florence?”

These expats are here to travel, their weekends and holidays are planned months and years in advance so not a minute of time is wasted, well, enjoying where they actually live. Always good conversation, about their travels anyway, but they can seem out of touch with their own city of residence, after 4 years here they still haven’t worked out how the recycling system works.

They are here for a limited time and are prepared to make the most of it, real go getters and if you aren’t that way inclined you might just end up being their house/cat sitter while they are away. Great people to ask for advice about holidays and to borrow guide books off.

When to call a traveller – Weeknights Tuesday-Thursday, the rest of the time you will go straight to voicemail. They always know when and where all the cheapest flights are available.

Best Friend – The bragger
Mortal enemy – The whiner

The Stop Gapper

Commonly heard saying –
“Do – you – speak – English?”
“We are worried about our kids now we are moving back to the states, I mean what if they start asking to go to the toilet? and not the restroom?”
“My husband thinks I should be grateful to have to live in this godforsaken place!!!”

They are here for an allotted amount of time and make little or no effort to integrate (why should they?) and tend towards blaming their spouse for having to live in Germany, especially when they are having a bad day. One day they will just up an leave for good so reliability is not necessarily their strong point.

They live their whole life for holidays to their “home”, countdowns are plentiful and their problems can be anything from ‘everyone can see when I buy toilet paper because I have to put it on the back of my bike’ to ‘my child is speaking with a German accent, how will anyone understand him back home?’

When to call a stop gapper – Just before they head back to their homeland for a holiday, they will be at their absolute brightest. On there return however be prepared to deal with the massive comedown and try to distract them with shiny things or alcohol or hugs.

Best friend – The whiner
Mortal enemy – The wannabe interationee

The Whiner

Commonly heard saying (or rather whining) –
“I asked him so slowly, and he pretended not to understand English”
“I miss my family/pet/husband” repeat x8 million
“If one more person stares at me I’m going to lose my shit!”

These expats tend to be very reactionary in nature, and mostly over reactionary. They will always have a tale of woe which is longer and more woeful than yours and despite your tea and sympathy they are actually very happy to be whiney and annoying to everyone around them.

Beware the group of whiney expats, boy can they suck the fun out of any and every event, mix your friends well and make sure that the whiners get their time to whine and give them some wine if they just won’t shut up.

When to call a whiner – Feeling emotionally strong? call them and hear their latest long rant about the things that are awful about living in Germany and how much they want to go “home”.

Best friend – The bragger
Mortal enemy – The traveller

Which one are you? Of course most of us expats are a mixture of all of these, I hope I am anyway!

Not that I think you are a touchy expat but just in case you are, this is totally a tongue-in-cheek piece and not intended to cause offence.


14 Responses to “The Expat Personality”

  1. cliff1976 April 7, 2014 at 8:43 pm #

    oh and they probably own some Jack wolfskin too.

    I’m considering my first wolfskin purchase after just over 10 years in Regensburg!

    The Whiny Expat Bloggers are a lot less whiny than the non-bloggy ones, in my experience…maybe because we have a release valve. It would be cool to see you at our meetup in your neck of the woods this autumn!

  2. Antonio Ethan Milian April 7, 2014 at 9:16 pm #

    This made my laugh and it really rings a bell 🙂 I’ve been in England for a few years and met most if not all of the expats on your list. I’m finding it hard to meet expats in my same situation, most of the ones I met over the years were here for a short while.

    I think I’ve been through the different stages over the years (from complaining endlessly to adoring the country). Now I’m just happy and try not to worry to much 🙂

    • theerlangenexpat April 7, 2014 at 10:59 pm #

      I too am enjoying the happy not worrying stage, for now 😉

  3. alliedow April 9, 2014 at 7:26 pm #

    This made me laugh so much. I’m a combination of a few of these. I complain, but then I enjoy the benefits, I miss home but I’m ok with living over here. I, hopefully, don’t go full on one of these, that would be rough!

    • theerlangenexpat April 12, 2014 at 7:56 pm #

      So glad it’s not just me who fears being a full on stereotype in Germany!

  4. wolfinterculturaltraining April 10, 2014 at 9:35 am #

    Ha, those are great! I think I had most of them in trainings. Very nicely described.

  5. Expat Eye April 24, 2014 at 3:29 pm #

    I’ve experienced all of these – I just hope I haven’t actually done any of them! 🙂 Thanks for following my blog – I’ll be following yours from now on as I hope to make Germany my next country! Maybe you can tell me where to buy good Lederhosen 😉 Linda.

    • theerlangenexpat April 25, 2014 at 1:51 pm #

      Maybe we will pass in the middle, I’ve been looking at Latvia for my next adventure! And I am always up for tracht shopping!

  6. sisterwags September 30, 2014 at 10:32 pm #

    Reblogged this on Sisterhood of the Traveling WAGs and commented:
    This is post is so spot on!

    • Alie C November 19, 2014 at 2:54 pm #

      Glad it’s not just me who thinks so 🙂


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