When people think about travel they think primarily of tourism…balmy breezes..palm trees, and other exotic fantasies. Have you ever thought of the economic migrants and business travelers you’re sharing the flight with? In a place like Dallas where head offices are ubiquitous, there are working professionals from around the world working on the various contractor visa’s that the US allows…..some stay for short contracts…others live away from home for years. In other major capitals the colonies of ex-patriots are replicated similarly, living a different life than most, and many children, including my own, have had classrooms as diverse as the plant they grew up on.
Everywhere you go, behind the scenes, there will thousands, and in some cases, such as Dallas Texas, tens of thousands of ex-patriots living as temporary residents. This is unlike any lifestyle an average tourist will observe from their hotels or guest houses.The ex-pat community itself has it’s hierarchies, that of the professional…engineers, technical writers, administrators , lawyers , representatives and managers , retiree’s, the flotsam and the jetsam.
There are the longer term visitors, on short term travel visa’s split into defined groups of those who are seeking something, either spiritual or banal, and those who are running away from something, some of whom tend to participate in activities that extend and perpetuate a certain stereotype about foreigners that tend to smear us regular folk with a dirty brush. The latter are usually the most visible, they appear as loud barflies with a distinctly foul sense of humor, and tend to be the standard pimple on the ass of any decent society and didn’t fit into their own communities either.
Trish and I have been part of the ex patriot community both as professional visa holders and long term residents retiree’s. We tend to choose the contracts and locations that interest us most and that determines our status of ‘working or not’…..right now we work…after this year we may ‘retire’…and so it goes. After traveling extensively as tourists in our younger years we chose to continue that lifestyle and designed our professional lives accordingly. It’s certainly fun and interesting, but there are many elements to adjust to, such as the fact that community is always temporary, and your friends inevitably fly away.
Next time you’re visiting an exotic capital on a sight seeing or short visit, and you see a person looking dressed for the office in traffic, on the bus or train, you’ll have brushed up to an ex patriot, away from home, on the way from one gig to another…and not going home after two weeks away.
BTW…check out the extended picture gallery…and new video’s on the Bangkok Living and Travel site.