Expat Etiquette: How to Look Good in Bad Places


Going overseas is hard. Leaving friends and family behind. Traveling to a country where you probably don’t speak the language, and definitely don’t understand the culture. Foreign foods, foreign diseases. Loneliness.

Of course, it does have its compensations. Smoking. Casual sex. Functional alcoholism.

Add a little danger and excitement, and it’s a difficult offer to refuse.

The physical act of going overseas is simple enough. Have ticket, will travel. Yet arrival alone doesn’t confer any knowledge, let alone status. This book is a humble guide to all of those who not only want to travel to far away and sometimes dangerous lands – for the best or worst of reasons – but also want to do so with a modicum of style.

Style defined as “appearing to know what you’re doing, even when you have no idea what’s happening around you.”

Because it’s true, we all do look and act alike. The American and European travelers and expats. From Afghanistan to Zimbabwe, there’s a distinct expatriate culture, a distinct lingo, a distinct way of dressing. It’s about broadcasting your experience without resorting to native dress. It’s about talking in place-names and acronyms.

It’s about learning to use a squat toilet. And yes, you will use a squat toilet.

Having picked up a few tricks of the trade, we thought we’d put together a collection of best practices and lessons-learned. Standard operating procedures, if you will, for navigating through some of the best and the worst places in the world.

Thus, we offer this sometimes-silly, sometimes-serious, sometimes-tongue-in-cheek handbook on expat etiquette.

Enjoy.