This weekend, I had the awesome privilege of getting to meet fellow American-in-the-UK expat blogger, Kat, from 3 Bedroom Bungalow. What an awesome experience. I got to escape my little urban bubble and get out into the English countryside, something which I don’t often get to do. I got to meet some of the other “characters” from Kat’s blog and life. Go have a read if you haven’t already–I don’t want to spoil any of it here! I got to see inside the day-to-day life of an expat who is here in very different circumstances in terms of job and family life, but amazingly that does not seem to matter so much. The expat experience proves to be somewhat general as I have noted before, there’s a subset of things that seem to amaze, amuse and surprise us all. (I did, in fact, lend Kat my copy of Mike’s book…) Kat and I are close in age, have a lot of coincidental similarities in background, and thus had an immediate ability to talk for hours on end, both about expat and non-expat things. Overall, I had a fantastic time, aside from a little rebellion on the part of my sinuses, who were quite taken aback by all the fresh air, pollen, animals, etc. that are not normally part of my sheltered urban bubble.
How great to find out that a fellow blogger is within striking distance and thus a real-world friendship can develop out of this forum, not just a “Yes, I have friends, they are all inside my computer” circumstance. And it is for that reason, the connections with real people, that I continue to blog, even though I think the last few months have seen a bit of harsh and unfounded criticism in the comments here, and at times, even personal attacks. I believe the problem is mostly the very crux of the Brit-American communication conundrum, in that subtleties of language in tone and humor are missed when a literal read is made of every thing that gets written, be it by me or by others. Without tone of voice and eye-contact, it becomes easier to misunderstand the intentions of the writer. I shall carry on, but with a more careful eye to both what I write and also on the new comments, with the aim to keep the discourse open and free from personal attacks. (Although I think you’ll find that I most often comment on “the locals” as a group, whereas some recent comments have been directed solely at me specifically, not American expats living abroad.) The idea is NOT to remove dissenting views, in fact, I continue to particularly welcome input from UK locals on the questions I have and puzzles I encounter, as well as expats who have resided in other locales. However, more than one person has recently mentioned being put off by the negativity in the comments, and I’d rather have more opportunities to meet fellow-bloggers, both here and in the US, by more carefully fostering the sense of friendly community that shows itself here on occasion. I don’t *actually* set out to be provocative with what I write, really my intention is no more than mildly ribbing or on occasion genuinely venting frustration, but clearly that is not coming across. And for the readers, try to read this (or any expat blog) in the spirit in which it was written; an outlet for frustrations, a desperate cry for help to find others in similar circumstances, and a genuine desire to try and understand the things going on around a befuddled transplant. The average expat writer is likely both homesick and substantially outside the comfort zone associated with typical working and family life, and if you feel the need to attack that writer personally, perhaps you should stop and think about why you’re so angry at someone you’ve never met.