The horrors of expat socialising

Nothing makes my blood run cold like an expat party. I don’t mean a party where there might be some videshis and English-speaking Nepalis having some beers on someone’s roof. I mean an expat expat party.

This will be an event attended by INGO, embassy and media-wallahs. Often it will have a theme. Come dressed in red/as your favourite movie star/as a total plonker!

Hoorah.

What is it with British expats in particular and their need to come up with social rituals involving strange clothes and booze that reinforce conformity? I mean this with special reference to fancy dress parties. As soon as a British people go abroad, they become obsessed with getting trolleyed while wearing strange costumes.

Wake up and smell the Earl Grey, people. Your days at university are over.

OVER I tell you. Yes, you may have thrived on initiation rituals, school-uniform themed parties and been the kind of person who enjoyed thwacking people’s bottoms with towels in the showers after hockey practice or whatever, but we are in someone else’s country now and our professional circle is very, very small.

I guess I object to the ‘enforced fun’ aspect of it of expat socialising. I also get a bit weirded out by the surreal overlap of professional life/partying. To put it this way: I do not relish the thought of exchanging business cards at 2am with a middle-aged man from a multilateral who is dressed as a giant tomato.

At the crux of this rant is my exaggerated fear of social awkwardness.

Most of the time I’ve stood my ground in not observing dress codes for themed parties. However, in my first ‘real’ job peer pressure got the better of me. It was the time of the office Christmas party, an event which all outwardly-confident-and-at-ease-but-secretly-awkward people dread. The theme was ‘come dressed as something beginning with X, M, A or S!’

keeping the awkwardness under wraps

I arrived at my colleague/bff’s house to walk to the party together. She said she was very disappointed that I had not followed the dress code and decided we should improvise a costume. She suggested a mummy. That began with ‘M’. And lo(o) and behold, the components for the costume were common household objects! They were right there in her downstairs bathroom – three rolls of loo paper. With a little persistence and a lot of selotape I was wrapped from head to toe in loo paper and left her house, looking like a total prat but virtually unrecognisable.

This picture was taken at a later stage in the evening when I had started to ‘unravel’.

The funny thing was, that once I was peeking out at the world through a couple of layers of bogroll I actually did start to feel more confident. Maybe this kind of thing is a release for people who are a bit buttoned-up. But I still don’t fully understand it.

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2 Responses to “The horrors of expat socialising”

  1. chris gutkind Says:

    Scary stuff indeed. I’ve never got on with masks. It can be pleasurably liberating but ultimately faces allow me more.

  2. I agree, Chris. Can be somewhat disconcerting…

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