December 2010 The Expat Telegraph published an article I had written called Thoroughly Modern Expats.
For a number of years following I was a regular monthly columist for them.
Reading through the original articles that I submitted recently, I was taken by a) how relevant many of them still are today, and b) I had no online record of them of my own.
So I have added the original submissions to this blog, so if you want to read more of them just search for telegrapharticles, and while you are at it you may want to search for expatarticles as well to see other columns I wrote in the past for various newspapers in Spain.
It is dilemma time again for many an expat, the question of where to go on holiday. Do we stay at ‘home’ and explore the country that we now live in, or do we go ‘back home’, to see the country we left, in many cases, because we ‘wanted to see more of the world’?
Choosing a holiday these days seems to be one of the most stressful activities anybody can undertake: do you stay at home and inject some much needed cash into your own economy, or do you head off in search of the cheapest deals and all that comes with them; the threat of airport strikes in protest against austerity cuts, the ongoing ‘civil wars’ which are the reason why so many holidays are cheap this year, or maybe this is the year to ‘splash’ out on the ‘holiday of a lifetime’ as after all, with redundancies looming it may be your last chance.
If you think that is a tough decision spare a thought for us expats, as we have all the above and more, much more, to contend with because whatever we decide there is every chance we will end up feeling guilty!
For many an expat when it comes to deciding where to go on holiday they run the risk of pleasing nobody, while at the same time alienating many.
Consider the options:
1. Do you ‘go home’ to see friends and family, and so give up your two weeks of opportunity to have fun and self indulge, by doing the same old things, with the same old people, in the same old places? For the vast majority a holiday with the family isn’t exactly a stress free time so throw in the lingering resentment they feel for you having a ‘glamourous life’ abroad, and stir with a healthy mix of your own bitterness that you are having to ‘do the right thing’ and you have a recipe for a pretty depressing time. On the one hand you will feel guilty if you don’t, but on the other there is every chance that you will feel guilty if you do, a view rather bravely endorsed by fellow Expat Telegraph blogger Annabel Kantaria on twitter (@BellaKay): “I go ‘home’ once a year on a ‘duty-trip'”. Others like @glideandswerve on Twitter seem to take the ‘whose parents this Christmas’ approach and alternate between holidays back home and holidays in their expat country.
2. Another option is stay at ‘home’ in your new country and spend more time getting to know it, the people, the cultures and traditions. Possibly an over simplification, but as a rule of thumb expats have either moved because of their career in which case they are likely to move on at some time in the future, or have retired to enjoy life ‘while they can’. In both cases there is a strong argument to stay put and enjoy the country and opportunities that you may only have a limited time to enjoy, an approach taken by Stephen Amore on Facebook, who seems to be making the most of the opportunities presented to him, although I am not convinced of all the benefits he claims: “I went on a tour of Spain last summer and regularly visit Cordoba, in fact in 2 weeks I am seeing ZZ Top in concert there. Went to Barcelona too in April. Mind you just come back from a week in Morocco which was cheap and exciting with free food poisoning thrown in.”
3. Then there is the option to take advantage of where you are currently living to visit ‘local’ places that normally would be out of reach? This is the option favoured by Annabel: “From Dubai, we’re well-placed to go to all those “once in a lifetime” places that most people in the UK rarely manage to get to – Maldives is a quick trip for us – under four hours away. Also Sri Lanka’s great for a long weekend, India’s two and a half hours away, Mauritius, Thailand – all do-able. We also take lots of short breaks around the UAE and Oman because it’s a brilliant tourist destination – people pay good money to come here and it’s all on our doorstep, so why not take advantage? In the summer, as the tourist trade slows because of the heat, residents get fantastic deals on hotels so we’d be mad not to have some ‘staycation’ time.”
On the whole though my impression is that expats tend to be pretty pragmatic about their holidays:
@TheyCallMeEllis showed the true nature of many an expats lifestyle: “typically depends on the holiday and how far from home I am at the time” while @darrenporter took the attitude: “wherever we go there are plenty of things to enjoy” and @RussellVJward said: “we try to go to a new place each holiday but it’s inevitably around Oz given distance/price to further afield. UK every 2 yrs.”, again highlighting the ‘responsibility’ that comes with being an expat.
Off course you can do what we have done: adopt four cats (with a fifth one currently being fostered and looking more and more likely to stay) and give up all hope of ever having a holiday! It is slightly ironic because a key factor in adopting our first cat was that it would force us to stop splitting our time between the UK, USA and Spain, and would bring more normality and consistency to our life.
Little did I know what a brilliant shield they would become! If I had a Euro for every time I said “would love to, but we have the cats …..”, I would probably have enough by now to afford a holiday.
So what will we be doing this year? We will be doing what we always do these days: staying at home and enjoying the things that we have. Day trips on the Harley’s, long lunches on the balcony, a spot of sun bathing by the pool, and evenings up on the roof playing with the cats. Add weekends on the beach, an occasional late dinner on a friend’s boat, and you have a pretty perfect summer as far as I am concerned.
No packing, no flights or hotels, no dilemmas to be solved, no priorities to be juggled and best of all ……… absolutely no guilt!
Please feel free to search on Google for the published versions of these columns.