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.