One of the most annoying and troubling (for me) fixtures of our year in Uganda was the expat bubble. If you are unfamiliar with the expat bubble, perform the following mental exercise: Picture a country; any country is fine. Now imagine some sort of social occasion taking place in said country. Finally, insure that almost nobody at this occasion is from the country in question. That is the expat bubble.
What annoyed me about such occasions in Uganda was the inefficiency: why travel to Africa just to hang out with other Americans and Europeans? And what troubled me was the vaguely colonial feel of it.
But for some reason, it took me much longer to recognise, much less be troubled, that many of the parties/soirees/outings I’ve had in London were peopled overwhelmingly by non-Brits. Somehow that didn’t feel like an expat bubble. There are, of course, many ways to justify this:
1. London is a global city. Of course most of the people I hang out with are from somewhere else.
2. This is the new Europe! Until leaders like David Cameron all do something stupid, the UK and its EU mates no longer exist as walled-off fiefdoms.
And of course there are all the justifications that explain expat bubbles anywhere else in the world: people who are away from their home country are more eager for new friends and networks and thus find each other more easily than content, established locals; expats are generally having an experience more similar to other expats than to locals and thus can relate more easily, etc.
Nevertheless, just as I felt a bit weird talking about Uganda in Uganda with a group of entirely non-Ugandans, I do sometimes feel a bit absurd doing the same thing in Britain, even if there are no colonial overtones.
So I pose a question to all the expats, where’er ye be:
Do you generally feel a compulsion to include more ‘locals’ in your friend group, or do you think it’s perfectly acceptable to have most of your friends be other expats (for the reasons above, or others)?