For How Long

I would like to first issue a disclaimer that I am guilty of this habit. Being an expatriate is a strange, wonderful thing: living outside of your home is a constant challenge and a thrill. It forces you to step outside of your boundaries, to be confronted with hostile languages, to be the outsider, the different one, the foreigner. To sum it up, being an expat can be terrifyingly incredible.

So that may be why, when we perpetual expatriates find others like us abroad, we can’t help but regard them with a little suspicion and wariness. We slowly test them out, trying to figure out why there are also there, judging their reasons and excuses as if we somehow have more of a right to be there. The most popular question in this test is also the most annoying: “So how long will you be here?”

Too short and you’re just a backpacker, a traveler with no connection to the local community. Too long and we admire your commitment to your purpose in this foreign country but wonder what you are running from. The hook is that, even if we don’t realize it, for most of us it’s both.

Photo via Women of Kireka


Comment 1

  1. esteyonage July 2, 2010

    There should be some graphs in the world to plot the time spent/acceptability conundrum that you illustrate perfectly. Watching faces react around a table when the ‘how long’ question is posed is an amazing pastime and social experiment.

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