The truth behind an expat’s social media.


So you’re at work, tapping away at your keyboard and—taking a minute to let your mind wander—you innocently scroll through Instagram or FaceBook.

Ugh, again? There’s so-and-so, hiking some far-flung mountain, cheers-ing in front of a tropical sunset, or arms akimbo with some group of laughing weirdos. Cue rolling eyeballs and a silent promise to unfriend/unfollow/un-whatever at the next gratuitous display of glorious life-abroad fun.

Well, thank goodness you stumbled upon this article because there are so many myths to dispel when it comes to the ‘glamourous’ life we expats lead. You can make anything look good from the outside and when it comes down to it, expats are just as good as everyone else at curating a perfect life on social media.

Of course, white sand beaches look amazing from a cubicle, but let’s take a moment and pull back the curtain on a lifestyle that is so often idealized, to see that the grass isn’t always greener. Below are a few ideas at what’s happening behind the scenes of those perfectly cropped and captioned photos.

So many adventures!

Once I bought a fruit that had the shape and skin texture of a lemon, except it was green on the outside. I prayed it was a lemon. It was an orange. Another time I was craving a salad with salmon. I got five strips of lox topping my lettuce.

These examples may seem trite but imagine your life filled with probably fifteen of these little ‘surprises’ every day—with a different culture and language, nothing is without effort. Living each day as an adventure can be so exciting, but it can also be tiring. Don’t begrudge your expat pals an opportunity to celebrate a happy accident.

Everyday life is so cool!

Maybe an expat will always win the #TBT game with whatever amazing trip they took last weekend, but they still work! Imagine trying to adapt a culture with completely different values to U.S. standards. In a different language. And being expected to take meetings after hours because of different time zones. A grind is still a grind, folks.

Ladies aren’t exempt from weekday blahs, either. Excuse me, blahs from what? The norm for the majority of expat families is that the dudes work and the wives…lunch? Direct the maid? It’s difficult to voice struggles with identity, isolation or lack of community when you don’t have the stress of a job and can fill your days with whatever you like. Before you ‘pfft’ spittle all over your new iPhone at those posts of $7 manicures or reading in cafes, take a second to consider how often she’s alone in these snaps. Then maybe tag her and remind her you can talk anytime.

Look at all of our friends!

How about those pictures where your expat friends are out having fun, having drinks with their new besties? Ah yes, we call those strangers. When it comes to ‘friends’ in a foreign land, many of those bonds are forged from finding people in your same situation. The simple act of finding someone from your same culture can make you cling to them for dear life, even if you don’t have much in common outside of a shared language.

Also, for every smiling face you see tagged on FaceBook there are ten more Groundhog Day style introductions and clichéd questions that amounted to nil. From what I’ve experienced (and heard from the non-expat side), when you do meet a cool person, one of the first thoughts to pop up is how great they’d fit in with your old crew.

Transitions are hard for all relationships and in some ways social media can step on toes just as much as it keeps people close. We all know what it’s like to leave or be left, and one of the best ways to tread lightly is to put the shoe on the other foot. Thank goodness all of my posting missteps have been met with a big dose of compassion.

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