I attended BritMums Live, the parent blogging conference this weekend, and as with last year I organized an expat get together on one of the nights. I knew that a handful of the expat bloggers were only in town for this event so I thought it would be nice to get everyone together—selfishly, because I really wanted to meet these expat bloggers!
Around 30 people got together, some were foreign expats in the UK, others were British expats home for the conference, others were Brits who had once been expats and there were a few Brits who had never been expats but were friends of expats.
The attendance requirements were pretty loose! They were all women—British, Americans, Antipodeans, a Romanian, an Estonian, an Austrian, and a Swede, so we were from all over, with the only shared characteristics being expat mothers who blog.And they were all really nice. They were friendly, interesting, and chatty and even though many of them had never met they all immediately got stuck into conversations that lasted beyond the dinner meet-up.
Is this because they were expats, and through this experience they had learned how to strike up conversations with strangers more easily? Or is it because they are also bloggers, people who are interested in engaging and who would have had this skill even without their expat experiences? Or both—are expats with this skill naturally drawn to blogging?
In the aftermath of the BritMums Live conference I have seen a handful of blogposts by people complaining that they felt alone at the conference and found it difficult to meet with others, as it seemed like everyone had formed cliques. However, one woman observed that she walked into a room and saw several small groups already clustered together, felt intimidated, but then on passing by one group and overhearing their conversation realized they had just met each other seconds before she walked in—and it was the same with all the groups. It made her realize that all she had to do was stop thinking of them as intimidating cliques and just turn to one of them and say hello. She did just that, and was immediately part of one of the groups. Easy peasy. And maybe that’s what expats already know to do.
As an expat blogger I have learned a lot more about people and how they feel about their expat experiences through their blogs, and I suspect I am much friendlier and less focused on my own insecurities as a result. What’s your experience with expats around the world—are expats who blog friendlier than those who don’t, bloggers being the subgroup of expats who may more fully understand that need to connect—and to have someone reach out and initiate that connection?
Michelle Garrett is an American expat making a life in Britain for over 20 years. Yes, she's still homesick for the States and yes, she'd be homesick for Britain if she moved back there!
Michelle is a freelance writer and blogs at The American Resident.