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.
Chances are that living an expat lifestyle you have friends that are bloggers, and increasingly the probability is that you are a blogger yourself.
For those that don’t know a blog (officially a Weblog) according to Wikipedia is a discussion or information site published on the World Wide Web consisting of discrete entries (“posts”) typically displayed in reverse chronological order so the most recent post appears first.
I have always likened them to a digital scrapbook: a means for an individual to share their experiences and thoughts via a combination of articles, photos, video and audio. For many Facebook fulfills this requirement, but with two distinct differences: you have to be a subscriber to Facebook so it is very much a ‘members only’ option, and you have to do it the ‘Facebook way’, so not a good option for the creative minded.
As a blogger I confess I have a problem with Facebook, although I remain a fan, as it has all but killed the art of commenting with the now ubiquitous ‘like’ sufficing for many, and I am convinced it has reduced the already diminished attention span of many who now just don’t have the time to read anything longer than a paragraph.
Of course blogging isn’t reserved for expats, with millions of individuals, and in recent years corporations, sharing their thoughts and information, but it does still appear to be a favourite communication method for expats, especially it seems those that are, or aspire to be, writers!
So why do so many Expats become bloggers? Surprisingly, not for money, or at least not directly as many resist the temptation to monetise their blogs, preferring instead to use them to promote books, skills and services: a shop front of their wares so to speak.
For many it is an opportunity to promote their writing skills, as with Linda Janssen (www.adventuresinexpatland.com) “Blogging represents an opportunity to write in a slightly different genre, conveying small vignettes or observations on living abroad. The blog also serves as my brand platform with which to network and interact via social media (e.g., Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+), engage readers and build a community of followers interested in similar topics.”
For others like Lindsay de Feliz (www.yoursaucepans.blogspot.com) it is an opportunity look at daily life in a barrio in the Dominican Republic. “I had so many experiences here, which I thought other people who knew the country would like to share, and also I had started to write, so it seemed a good way to combine writing and providing information.”
For Toni Hargis (www.expatmum.blogspot.com) it was a gradual introduction. “A friend of mine had started a very popular blog called “Drunk Mummy” where she gave out wine advice, coupled with some hilarious anecdotes about daily life. I dipped my toe into the blogosphere by commenting on her blog, and then on others. My friend kept telling me to start my own blog, and I eventually did. My book, “Rules, Britannia; An Insider’s Guide to Life in the United Kingdom”, came out in 2006, and as most authors know, you have to do a lot of your own marketing. A blog seemed like a good way to expose the book, but it’s morphed into something much more than that now.” Self promotion rather than direct income again being the incentive: “It’s not a source of (direct) income but I definitely keep the blog up for professional reasons.”
A view endorsed by Matthew Hirtes (www.matthewhirtes.com), who has only recently launched his blog, but doesn’t hold back as to why he set it up: “Vanity. I also really want to support my very first book: Going Local in Gran Canaria. Also, it’s a way to be more expressive, freed from the shackles of the 140-character limit of twitter”
What inspires so many Expats to become bloggers? Basically other bloggers! For Lindsay it was a blogger in Portugal “Piglet in Portugal. ( http://pigletinportugal.com/). She showed me how to move up to the next level so as to speak, and how to “spread the blogging love”! For example, when I first started the blog was very basic, I would blog every week or even less often. Then I realised that if I blogged more often the number of visitors increased. She was very supportive at giving me ideas and having looked at her blog I started playing around more with different buttons and added a range of new features to my blog – probably not difficult to do, but I had just never thought of using them. I then used Facebook, and joined different sites about the Dominican Republic, so that when I post now, I also put the link on these sites. At the same time I joined Twitter and started to publicise the blog on expat websites and forums. And it has really snowballed. It is just like one big circle now and one of the things I love is that there are a whole range of bloggers out there all supporting each other all around the world. Each reads each others blog, and comments on each others, and none of us really know each other – we are just spreading the love! This is even more important as we are all expats, so all away from our home countries and our families, so it is a really nice way to have a link to people in a similar situation, all posting about our experiences.”
As to what makes a good Expat blog for Linda Janssen variety is the spice of life, but they have to be strong writers who can do it all i.e. observational, humor, reflective, poignant and most importantly, do it regularly! Other factors which rank highly for many are creativity, depth of knowledge and understanding of the subject, and again consistency: if you are doing a daily summary then do it daily.
If you are thinking of starting an Expat blog these sites cam highly recommended by contributors to this column: www.grumpytraveller.com, www.iwasanexpatwife.com, www.expatriababy.com and www.chickybus.com and for those wanting to get started, but maybe not ready to start their own blog www.displacednation.com is a site founded by
a small number of individual expat bloggers; they each contribute posts and their interviews of global citizens and serial wanderers are varied and always interesting.
As for myself the one piece of advice I give to anyone thinking of starting a blog is to just dive in! With free hosting available and free themes the start up costs are extremely low, and until you have found your stride there is no point in paying to have a theme designed. Just start writing and let the blog evolve as you develop your skills and preferred content. That after all is the beauty of the blog: it is a means of sharing your thoughts, your information and your opinions.
Finally, as a blogger who posted their first post in March 2006 I have to say that it is extremely pleasing to see how blogs and bloggers are thriving. I confess that when I started researching this column I feared that Facebook and Twitter were having an adverse effect on blogs and while I still think they have in many ways it also seems that they are spurring people on to start blogging: a natural progression as it where from 140 characters, to a paragraph to a whole article, which can only be good news!
Please feel free to search on Google for the published versions of these columns.