First of all, I should probably start by defining what an expat is. The word “expat” is an abbreviation for the term “expatriate.” Merriam Webster’s defines expatriate as a verb or adjective… for the purposes of this article we are going to go with the adjective meaning, which is, “living in a foreign land.”
If you are visiting a fellow country member that is currently living in a different country, there are usually things you can bring that would make them less homesick. When people come visit us from the United States, they usually ask us if there is anything we want. For our family the main things that make our lives easier are medications and junk food. There you have it… two immense joys in life. It is nice to think about things your host might want or need things that are much easier (or cheaper) to get in your home country. For example, Children’s Fever Reducer was super expensive in Hungary compared to prices in the US, so we used to have Trav’s mom ship us some whenever she would send a care package. In Greece, it is 2 euros, so we don’t have to worry about having it sent anymore. We also used to have people send peanut butter when we were in Hungary because we could only find super tiny jars, and they were extremely expensive. The list could go on and on… shoes are two to three times as much in Greece so we try to avoid buying them here.
Why do I bring all of this up in the context of being a good guest? Well, as a guest visiting an expat, you have the unique opportunity to bless your host with something they normally can’t get. Of course, no matter where you come from, there are unique things you have to offer your host. When we see our friends from South Africa, they usually bring us a box of Rooibos tea (it is sooo much better from there!)
It is also important to remember that when you are visiting an expat, that aspects of your home culture might be surprising to your hosts because they have been immersed in a completely different culture, and are adjusting to a new way of living. I only bring this up to remind you to be sensitive to anything they say or do that might be strange to you. You have to keep in mind that in a lot of cases, when your culture changes, your behavior might also change. For example, when my father and brother came to visit they were really surprised by some of the things that have become completely normal to us, like line drying all of our clothes. In Southern California, most people use dryers, but in Greece, it is very rare for people to have a dryer, and we don’t own one. What was once strange to us, has become completely normal, and our acceptance of this cultural behavior was strange to our guests.
It is also important to note that there are two different groups of expats, those that assimilate to the new culture, and those that do not. For people in long term situations, they tend to be more interested in assimilating than people that are there short term.
So keep these few things in mind, and you should be set! Don’t forget to check out the rest of “The Best Guest” series on the SER Series page, and happy travels!