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Malaysia Journal

A typical setting at the Novotel, SeoulThe Expatriate Life

Living as an expatriate in a foreign country, can be hard. Expatriates are usually thought of as Westerners temporarily located in Asian or South American countries. I'm not sure if they exist in Africa, or Australia.

Shanghai defiantly has them, I've met them. Some of them are Christian. But a lot of them are an exercise in hedonism. Thailand, Taiwan, China, Japan, Korea... Usually white men. But there are families, and a cultural diversity. to be found. I've even heard Chinese Americans returning to Shanghai, even with fluency in the language, they still are considered expatriates.

Urban. Most of them live in the huge cities, that's where business is. Heavy drinkers, wealthy, most of them are hard working and world travelers. But there's something I find lonely about all of it. I've been too too many loud bars, drank too much beer. And spent too many mornings kind of hung over and just feeling kind of sick.


The traditional definition of expat, and expat package, is the same life as back in the West. So an expatriate from the United States working in Western Europe, aside from the higher fuel prices culturally it may be similar. However for an American trasferring to Seoul, Beijing, or Bombay. Well they're in for a shock.

I'm not sure what expatriates look like in the Middle East. Israel I would imagine is pretty westernized. However being in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt, or any of the other persian Gulf states.

In addition to jobs which may be hard, expatriates are fighting against a culture which is foreign to them. In a place that by definition they will not feel at home at. At times they may feel unwelcome, as is the entire society just wants them to go home.

I've been warned that I might never escape from the circle of expatriate English speaking friends if I went to China. Even as someone ethnically Chinese. That's saddening, and a stern warning, saying that I might not be cut out to make it in Shanghai. Then again maybe my minister's right, I don't belong out there, and he wouldn't reccomend, or support me if I were to go. Hearing things like that hurts, but it might just be the truth, so yeah, it's kind of a painful thing to say. But I respect him still.

Expatriates somehow are lawless

But that's not saying that expatriates live easy lives, and not saying that there isn't a ministry field there to be gained from it. I met another one last night, this one living in Taiwan, in Hsinchu. Telling a story of how he got pulled over by the police and simply got away with it because he cops didn't want to deal with the paperwork of dealing with an international driver's license. Pretending not to speak Mandarin, and then his girlfriend who was Taiwanese, but went to school and lived there for years, was just playing dumb. He could hear them speaking in Mandarin saying "We can't let him go. but it might be quite a hassle to give him a citation"

Hmm.. there's somthing strange going on here. A kind of trying to determine whose law you are under, because the customs and laws are very different. So in a place where corruption is rampant, and as a foreigner. I can see how

Hmm... kind of reminds me of another story, the minister was telling a story of about how here in Malaysia when getting pulled over by the police, he simply told the police to go get their summons book. The officer expecting a bribe, and hoping for his pocket money for the week, was hoping to get a couple hundred ringits. Unfortunatley the officer found out his target wasn't being to cooperative, and simply let the offender go. Yeah, that's a sad commentary on the state of things. The corruption of law, and even the abuses which are unfortunatley common. The United States does have laws, and for that I'll respect it.


Street scene in Seoul

October 2, 2004