Monday, January 14, 2013

The Expat interview

A new term has begun and at an International school this always means new arrivals. Over the years I have watched newcomers and "oldies" meet up and introduce themselves ... sometimes boldly often timidly. Under local (normal) circumstances this process would probaly take few weeks if not months.

You see somebody.
You smile at that somebody.
You wait until someone introduces you to that somebody. (This can take a looong time).
You greet that somebody when you see them.
You start having a chat with that somebody but can't for the life remember his/her name.
You a have a proper conversation with that somebody and ask them their name again "en passant".
You decide to meet for a coffee together. (This again can take a very loooong time.)
You finally do have that coffee together.
You suggest to do lunch.
You finally pluck up the courage to sit down with a stranger for 2 hours in a noisy bistrot and hope you have enough topics to talk about.
You actually think your new found friend is quite cool and decide to pursue your budding friendship.

This process can actually take months even years. But then again, if you know where your home is and you are not moving around the globe with your entire household why bother developing new friendships. Good point.


if you HAVE moved over half a dozen times or more you adapt a new personal communication technique that gets you through all those stages faster than you can say "How nice to meet you".

I always wondered: Why does everyone keep on asking the exact same questions when you arrive at a new destination, no matter where in the world you are? Well, one day it hit me. It is the Expat interview and goes somewhat like this:

You see somebody, you make eye-contact and you smile at them all in one go.
If that person smiles back at you, you walk straight up to them and introduce yourself in English probing if they understand your language. You keep on giving them your best Hollywood smile and start shooting:

- Hello. When did you arrive?
- Ohhh, Mmmh. Ahhhhh.
- How many kids do you have?
- I see.
- What grades are they in?
- Ah, mine are in Grade ...
- Where did you arrive from?
- Really.
- Where are you originally from?
- Wow.
- How long will you stay here?
- Yeah, us too.
- Where are you living?
- Oh, that's great (thinking easy logistics for playdates!)
- What does your husband do?
- How interesting (thinking I'm sure our hubbies could find something in common)
- Why don't you join me for lunch this week with some of my friends?

Et voilà. 5 minutes ago I would have walked right passed this person had I met her on the road. Next thing I know I'll be introducing her to my BFFs over lunch. We might hit it off, we might not but at least we didn't waist any time with the introductory rituals.

And if we were not trailing expat spouses we'd be bloody brilliant at speed dating, I can assure you!

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