Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Expat Stalking: A guide

However much we love Bosnia (and despite all the whinging and moaning we do), there is nothing like a conversation with some other people from your own country. Sometimes, it is just a relief to be able to talk to someone who has the same cultural references as you do. Sometimes I just need to know if anyone else finds the way that, for example, the Bosnians insist on having carpet in their kitchens just bizarre or whether it is just me. This means that every now and then there is a need to locate a fellow countryman. Sometimes they just appear, buying a stamp in the post office or strolling around town. Other times they are a bit more difficult to find. But without a doubt, you will notice your fellow citizens when you come across them.

At this point, many people choose to do nothing. After all, apart from the fact you come from the same country you could very well have nothing in common. Others, like me, like to make contact, with behaviour that might just verge on the stalkerish. Having been an expat for a year now, I have observed the different levels of stalking behaviour as follows:

Basic: The ears prick up at the hint of an accent or native tongue fluency. Usually followed by a head swivel because, you never know, you might actually know them. It's a small world after all and there aren't that many English/Yanks/Cameroonians in these parts. Once identification of the owner of said accent has been established it is followed by a good hard stare and swift internal debate about whether to actually approach said owner. Common sense usually gets the upper hand and everyone continues with the daily routine unhindered.

Intermediate: The first steps follow the Basic Level, up to the point when everyone continues their day unmolested. The intermediate expat stalker will however manage to manoeuvre the situation so that they accidentally 'bump into' the owner of the accent, somehow engineering the start of a conversation at which point they can say 'oh whereabouts are you from?' or 'I'm English too' or something along those lines. This is usually followed up by a quick, slightly stilted conversation about the lack of suitable tea bags and the establishment of how long the stalkee is going to be in the area. If they are just here for a holiday then the conversation can be quickly ended, but if they are more permanent then mobile numbers can be exchanged, conversations about the best areas of town to live in started and promises to meet for coffee later. Alternatively the stalkee looks a bit spooked and exits the conversation as quickly as possible without being rude.

Advanced: The advanced level stalker will take the intermediate level one step further. The accidental engineering of a casual bumping into may only occur after a physical pursuit of the stalkee. This can be done on foot around, for example, the supermarket. It may involve jumping off an escalator, running to get onto the down escalator before visiting at least 5 shops before catching sight of their prey. Highly advanced levels may achieve this chase part of the stalk in their cars.

Yesterday we achieved the highly dubious accolade of completion of the advanced expat stalking level. Driving along quite merrily, discussing the merits of Bob Dylan vs. Bob Dylan covers (Adam is a purist, only a true Dylan song will do), I suddenly spotted an English car. Not just an English car but a family sized English car. What else was there to do? I slammed on the brakes, threw a wildly illegal U turn and set off in hot pursuit. Eventually the car stopped (after several light flashes and some fairly demented waving on my part) to reveal a whole bunch of bemused adult Bosnians, one of whom was over from the UK on holiday. I spluttered, vaguely tried to offload some of the blame on the boys - they saw the English car and wanted to say hello - and retreated.

The joy of being English here though is that everyone thinks we are quite dotty anyway, so the odd truly random bit of behaviour only serves to add to our mystique. Maybe.

12 comments:

Yummy Mammy said...

Awwwwww, you poor thing. But I so get ya xx

Kat said...

I live in a part of England where I can throw a stone and 50% of the time hit an American (thanks to the Air Force Bases), and sometimes I wish I didn't. Although I love my fellow country men, what is the point of living in another country if everything is going to be so Americanized?

Mwa said...

That's too funny.

I stalk British people in Belgium, even though I'm Flemish myself. How creepy is that? (I do feel like an honorary Brit after living there for so long and importing a Scot, but still...)

And by the way, you can talk - I'm always disgusted at British carpeted bathrooms.

Kathryn said...

I just love your posts! 1 because they always entertain and/or educate me but also because I can relate to some of what you're going through. After my first couple of years here I had a difficult time with 'Italy' - I wasn't sure if the problem was with my Italian husband which had a negative effect on the way I saw the country or whether my relationship with the country had passed the homeymoon stage and was having a bad effect on the way I saw my Italian husband (and it was the latter). Anyway, here in Ravenna we have an international ladies club - sounds awful doesn't it?? but it was great - it is just a group of expat women who arrange to meet up every couple of weeks or so for coffee, a walk at the beach etc (no money raising stuff or anythng!) - it is open to women of all nationalities (we have some families here with husbands who work on the rigs so there are people from all over the world) -the expat community isn't large but the objective of the group is simply to help women in our situation - it was great for me - I only went for a year or so but it really helped me settle down and realise I wasn't the only one having 'teething' difficulties - I thought everyone else was managing and so should I so to realise I wasn't alone was a real help. Do you have anything similar where you are?? After having successfully stalked a few expats could you set a group like this up?

Mud in the City said...

I really hope you have a trenchcoat, trilby and sunglasses for such occasions. If nothing else it will do wonders to enhance the Eccentric Brit reputation.

nappy valley girl said...

I was very close to stalking someone last night, when I heard a woman talking in an English accent at a local kiddie picnic. I was this close to following her home! If I spot her again, I will pounce.

Brit in Bosnia / Fraught Mummy said...

YM - takes an expat to know an expat...

Kat - That is the flip side. There is nothing English (or American) about here at all. Most of the time I enjoy that, but sometimes I want a bit of home comfort!

Mwa - I can see your point... carpet in bathrooms not ideal. Apparently it will take 10% of the value of your house...

Kathryn - Good idea! My stalking habits are becoming the stuff of legend so I could. There is an expat get together which I occasionally go to, but it is the Mummy expats that I'm on the hunt for... if they are here in Tuzla they need to beware, I'll be on their tails soon enough...

Mud - Last seen hanging out in corners by a lamp-post with a cigarette clasped to my lips. Or maybe I should be the doll. Hmmm. There is little we can do to make our eccentric Brit reputation any more eccentric than it already is!

NPV - Beginner level stalking. You'll need to graduate to intermediate soon but you are still quite a new expat so I feel beginner level is a good start. Keep me informed of your progress.

WeDoAdventure said...

Genius - this makes our little meet up seem positively mundane.

I once followed a UK registered vehicle through Mostar (it was driving the direction we were headed) but I think they might have been slightly spooked by the attentions of a battered Bosnian registered kombi as they threw quite the illegal u-turn too!

Who's the Mummy? said...

I feel the same if I hear someone in Lytham talking about the Guardian newspaper (it's very Daily Telegraph round these parts).

PS - I discovered a lovely cover of Dylan's My Back Pages last month. Nothing wrong with a good cover version.

Brit in Bosnia / Fraught Mummy said...

WDA - stalking in a Bosnian registered vehicle. Advanced level.

Who the Mummy? - my point exactly but my purist son won't hear my argument. My brother, another Dylan purist, is delighted.

Nicola said...

oh God that is so hilarious. I too am an advanced stalker. There are no lengths I won't go to if I think I detect even a hint of an English accent from 20 paces. But I have to say you have beaten me on the car chase. I need to up my stalker tendencies immediately.

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