Sometimes, living in a foreign country is much less glamorous than Facebook pictures would have you believe. Life gets in the way of all that fun, and different people have different ways of coping with all the confusion that comes with planting yourself in a new environment. Here are commonly used coping strategies:
1. Become a caricature of your former self
This one is pretty straight forward. Take all stereotypical aspects of your home culture and magnify them 100 fold. Impose your new identity on everyone you come across, and make sure you do it loudly and obnoxiously, lest people not realise that they are dealing with a foreigner from country X.
So, for example, if you are a Kenyan man (because this seems to be much more common in men than in women…) have conversations at the top of your voice in order to assert your masculinity. Reject many types of food because ‘real men don’t eat leaves’. Get outrageously drunk every time you can because, we are, after all, a drinking nation. Justify every bad decision with the words ‘In my culture…’
Try (and fail) to score with as many native girls as possible, by using charming lines such as ‘have you ever been with a Kenyan before?’
Fail to understand why you aren’t making any friends.
2. Go Native
First off, latch onto the first person who seems interested in having some kind of relationship with you. Mysteriously develop an accent within a few weeks of your arrival. Follow this with ‘forgetting’ the names of ordinary objects in your native tongue, and replacing them with your host country’s language. (Never mind that your vocabulary is limited to ordering food by pointing at pictures and smiling). Start casually mention how much more American/French/ South African you feel in order to demonstrate how well you fit into your new found home.
Hang on to your boyfriend/girlfriend even though you have nothing in common and are slowly starting to plot each other’s murders.
3. Find your pack
It is entirely possible to live in a foreign country and never ever integrate. I mean never. Find your country men and base all your social activity around them. Plan elaborate festivals around every single public holiday from back home, and get overly excited about them, even though you never celebrated any of them before.
Spend all your time being utterly baffled by the strange things that you see the natives doing. Fail to understand why they would live the way they do.
Date each other, and then date each other’s friends until it becomes more convoluted than those Gossip Girl love triangles. (This may or may not involve several trips to the gyna and awkward social situations.)
Flat out refuse to try anything new and get your friends to bring you stuff from back home.
Have Ketepa teabags, Blueband, royco and your favourite brand of flour in your kitchen, even though you don’t live in Zimbabwe.
4. Become the Hulk
Get angry. Get really, really angry. Transform every conversation you have into a long, furious tirade about everything that is wrong with your host country. Claim that all the men/women are racist. Or very slutty, or a combination of both. Blame your unhappiness on the food, the weather and live only for your brief trips back home.
Remain mysteriously silent on why you are currently applying for citizenship in the country you claim to hate so much.
5. Develop a bit of a split personality
Get fluid and get fluid fast. Try out everything that’s put in front of you.Go out and meet as many people as you can. Ask stupid questions and make questionable decisions. Develop amnesia when you don’t feel like you should explain your country’s entire history every time you meet new people. Suddenly become your country’s fiercest ambassador when it suits you.
Alternate between the exhaustion of running yourself ragged and the thrilling excitement of all the new stuff you get to try. Post pictures on Facebook and relish every ‘Like’ that you get.