The Displaced Nation

A home for international creatives

DISPLACED Q: How many of these 5 expat Alice characters do you recognize?

After two weeks of total immersion in all things Alice, we’re finding that even normal people look like Wonderland characters.

Here are a few we’ve noticed:

1. The Red Queen

The Red Queen, as her title suggests, queens it over the less experienced and the newly-arrived in Wonderland (or Looking-glass country, if you would like to be pedantic.)

We all knew her in school. She’s the bossy one who made a beeline for The New Girl recently arrived from out-of-town, made a big deal about showing her around, and kindly explained the school rules in a manner guaranteed to confuse and subtly terrify the newcomer – which, of course, was the intention.

Now fully grown rather than three inches high, she reigns supreme over the expat coffee morning posse and sends out Tupperware party invitations which no one dares refuse for fear of excommunication from the International School’s PTA.

Her self-proclaimed superiority is based on her many years in Wonderland, and her familiarity with the country. She knows the place forwards, backwards, sideways, and diagonally.

2. The White Rabbit.

The Red Queen’s (or Duchess’s) sidekick. Always busy, always rushing somewhere, always checking her watch or BlackBerry, always worrying that she will be late for something – although no one cares whether she is there or not, and most would prefer that she isn’t.

She organizes coffee mornings, school bake sales, and garden fetes, and is never happier than when she is chairing a committee. She loves giving orders, which are generally followed but with much resentful muttering from the minions.

Her favorite expression, apart from “Oh my fur and whiskers!” is “If you want something doing properly, do it yourself”, followed by a heavy sigh at the bumbling incompetents with whom she is forced to associate by dint of a common nationality.

3. The Cheshire Cat.

The Cheshire Cat holds himself slightly aloof from the madness that is the expat enclave, accepts Wonderland’s eccentricities with smiling resignation, but has a tendency to disappear when the going gets tough.

Although he is friendly and happy to chat, don’t expect more than a superficial friendship from this one.

4. The Hatter.

Here is someone who should have left Wonderland years ago. Time no longer has any true meaning to The Hatter, who calculates it in days rather than hours, and in months until visa expiration rather than weeks since the beginning of  tea time. He makes jokes that aren’t funny, then gets offended when no one laughs.

The Hatter is a  great fan of the traditional expat gin and tonic, however, and it is always six o’clock in his house.

5. Alice.

The homesick newcomer, desperately trying to make sense of a new country and managing to offend people every time she opens her mouth.

She soon discovers that the beautiful, magic place she tried so many times to enter is full of faults, just like home, and the people in it of whom she was once  in awe are “nothing but a pack of cards.”

At this point she often leaves the country, as she has found the grass on the other croquet lawn isn’t any greener after all. Ironically, if she stays just a little longer, she will find that she has gone through the most difficult time of adjustment, and life in Wonderland can – probably – only get easier.

So – Do you know one of these Alice characters, or – dare you admit it – are you one yourself?

Img: — Many thanks to Emily Cannell at Hey From Japan for the photograph of waxwork Alice at the Tokyo  Tower!

STAY TUNED for tomorrow’s interview with Random Nomad Helena Halme. She appeals for citizenship in The Displaced Nation — and answers an Alice question!

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11 responses to “DISPLACED Q: How many of these 5 expat Alice characters do you recognize?

  1. Jack Scott June 14, 2011 at 1:07 pm

    I recognise the Red Queen alright and have written about her ad nauseum. The kind of person that things we all sailed the river on a banana boat and don’t know anything. I’m afraid to confess that I see bits of (though only bits of) the cheshire cat in me. Ah well, at least I admit it.

  2. Carole @ Berlinfusion June 14, 2011 at 1:52 pm

    Oh yes, I can think of many who fit these characters. And I seem to fit into one or two as well. Oops!

  3. Spinster June 14, 2011 at 3:49 pm

    Me: a mixture of Cheshire Cat & Alice.

  4. Janet Brown June 14, 2011 at 9:12 pm

    Kate, this is wicked and brilliant! I’d like to claim I’m a Cheshire Cat but I probably fall more into the category of Mad Hatter. How about the March Hare–the one who is crazy but articulate, an observer who is always taking notes and plunging into experiences without too much thought?

    • ML Awanohara June 14, 2011 at 11:15 pm

      “Wicked” and “brilliant” are perfect for Kate! And I love your idea of including the March Hare. Though I fancy myself as a mix of the Cheshire Cat & Alice (just like Spinster), I fear I might meet your MH description to a T! (I do have a tendency to plunge into things willy nilly…)

      • Kate Allison June 16, 2011 at 6:02 pm

        Well, thank you so much, both of you, for the absolutely huge compliment! All my hours of people watching coming to fruition, evidently. 🙂

  5. missneriss June 15, 2011 at 1:57 am

    I recognise all of these characters in many of my friends! As we’re being honest here, I probably identify most with The Cheshire Cat, with a bit of Alice thrown in…

  6. awindram June 15, 2011 at 3:23 am

    That picture is terrifying.

  7. naomi June 16, 2011 at 12:20 am

    love this …. definitely brilliant!

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