My opinion is this: One expat is fine. And perhaps two in any given place is okay. But three or more are poison.

Take me. I am the only expat in this small city of 60,000 in northern Michoacán. And it has been my observation that if you want to get along then you better learn to keep your grumbling at home, listen more than you speak, and make please and thank you your most spoken words. And I’ve learned that it doesn’t hurt to smile a lot. But here in Mexico that’s an easy thing to do.

Teasing small children, talking to old people, and taking a sincere interest in your neighbors also goes a long way. But then again this is Mexico and I’ve found these things surprisingly easy to do as well. And you can’t out smile any of them. And when you do smile you might find like I have that their graciousness knows no limit. Taken one step further, local people can’t get enough about how much you love their town.

But I am the only non-native here. So it’s made it easy for me to learn that to get along is to go along. You consciously need to make an effort to fit in; not stand out. But you quickly find that one hand washes the other; as in a sincere niceness and generosity of spirit are abundantly rewarded.

It has been my experience that expats – in groups greater than three – are generally guilty of committing 3 egregious sins.

First, to cop an attitude of I am special, look at me, I have all this money and back home I used to be a really damned important person. (If you travel enough you’ll soon discover that paradise is overpopulated with liars, scoundrels, and thieves who expatriated themselves for less than honorable reasons).

Second, the natives – when they aren’t being ignored – are there for color, amusement, or failing that – to merely wash your clothes and pick up your shit.

Third, many expats quickly ban together together in their misery to drink, brag and complain. They drink because they are bored. They brag to each other as to band aid over their previous mostly miserable lives. And they complain because they find nothing in this new place nearly as good as what they first imagined. Which combined with no. 1 and no. 2 further tends to poison paradise.

As a mostly misunderstood cliche has it, ‘no matter where you go, there you are.’ And an asshole in paradise is still an asshole.

PS – A comment yesterday pointed to the aphorism “The purpose of going somewhere is to be there.” Truly the best and quite possibly the only real good reason to travel. Thanks Bob.

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