My mother likes to complain about the weather. She was born in eastern Germany and now lives in Orange County, California, which is part of the area that arguably has the best year-round climate in the world, and yet she still complains about the weather. Weirder still, she has lived there for over 50 years, and the people she is complaining to are almost always in worse weather when they are hearing it, yet it doesn’t slow her down.
I’m reminded of this after reading an article in the UK Telegraph about what expats in Dubai complain about. The writer is surprised how trivial most of the complaints seem, and I certainly know that feeling myself. It seems that many people just like to complain.
Expats should be careful of their audience
I’ve actually written about this phenomenon before as it pertains to behavior on expat forums. While living in Thailand I noticed that the most popular forum site there seemed to be controlled by bored expats who treat complaining about Thailand as a sport. Others in the comments pointed out that Thailand has no monopoly on this sort of thing, and that it’s common in many other parts of the world.
Moving to another country voluntarily and then complaining about it constantly with other expats is bad enough, but when it spills over to the locals it can seem incredibly rude. When I used to live in Orange County myself, one of my better friends was a recent transplant from Sydney, Australia. At times he seemed to spend hours each day complaining about various aspects of American culture and its political system. Move home then, many of us would think.
It seems all the more insulting when you move to a country where you are in the top 5% in wealth the moment you arrive. Expats who move to warm and cheap countries seem most guilty of this. They move to a place with far fewer resources and a much lower standard of living, and then spend their days complaining about how backwards things are.
Trying to keep perspective
It’s really none of my business to tell people how to spend their days, and I think just about everyone likes to whine about things among friends at time. But it would be nice if expats would remind themselves at times that they moved there by choice and are staying by choice, so most people probably don’t have much sympathy.
Also, there are plenty of potential future expats who wonder what life is really like in that destination. Some people actually think that the bitter-sounding guys in Thailand are doing that to discourage others from moving there as well, but I think it’s mostly that they don’t remind themselves frequently (or at all) that they are guests and can leave anytime.