E if for Expats. Not a hugely surprising entry for E from a girl like me I know.
For those of you who are not familiar with the reference in the title, I live in Chris Stewart Country. This is not quite the same as saying that you live in Braveheart Country, but nearly.
Chris Stewart, one time drummer and founding member of Genesis, is the best selling author of Driving Over Lemons: An Optimist in Andalucía. This is the first installment of the gentle, ambling tale of how he came to set up home, farm and family with his wife here in the Alpujarras. A very nice read.
The book title refers to the abundance of lemons in this area. So abundant in fact, that they are certainly not worth avoiding in the road – a lesson that Chris Stewart learned early on – a bit like expats.
Too strong? I’m allowed to take the piss. Some of my best friends are Expats. I also know some gay people.
Our nearest town and surrounding area is thick with expats of all shapes and sizes. If you were, god forbid, to hit someone in the road on market day, for example, the odds of it being a ‘foreigner’ are pretty good.
As a Brit out of Britannia, and especially in Spain, is it hard not to become a walking expatriate cliché, displaying behaviour that clearly bemuses some of the older generation of Spaniards. People, whose personal histories we couldn’t possibly begin to truly understand, and who might wonder daily what the hell we are doing here in their town in the first place. Do we not have families and indeed countries of our own where we should be?
Local shopkeepers, however, are wise to the fact that many of us would run blindly across a busy street to get our hands on a jar of Marmite, a squeezie bottle of Heinz Ketchup, or a frozen loaf of white sliced cotton wool.
I suspect that integration, that holy grail of ex-patriotism, is difficult in any adopted country. We have English friends who have moved here from Seville and find that it is more difficult here, in a rural setting where expats tend to group together, to get involved with local life. Perhaps in the city people of all nationalities are thrown together more. And as an expat you are less likely to find that all your friends are expats.
Anyway, in the interests of keeping it a little bit brief, and getting the washing out of the machine and onto the line, I will leave it there. But I wonder if there are any expats out there reading this who would like to add their thoughts on the subject. Am I talking rubbish? How easy is it to integrate where you are? Do you sometimes feel like a walking cliché?
And finally the big question: should the locals be allowed to run us over in the street?