If you are a subscriber to our weekly newsletter, the Displaced Dispatch, you’re already in the know. But if you’re not, listen up. (Hey, why aren’t you? Off with your head!)
Every week, when that esteemed publication comes out, we present contenders for a monthly “Alice Award,” most of whom are writers or other kinds of international creatives who appear to have a special handle on the curious and unreal aspects of being a global resident or voyager.
Not only that, but this person tries to use this state of befuddlement as a spur to greater creative heights.
Today’s post hono(u)rs September’s two Alice recipients. They are (drumroll…):
1) DANIEL ROUSE, Shropshire-born expat living in Toronto, Canada, and Telegraph Expat blogger
For his post: “Class doesn’t matter in Toronto,” for Telegraph Expat
Posted on: 19 September 2014
Back in Shropshire…it wasn’t uncommon to have friends with nicknames deriving from their occupation; that’s how they are identified. It can be to the extent where a job is married with a first name without pause for breath: “you know my mate Ronnie-the-plumber.” I am guilty of this….
Over here it doesn’t matter what people do for a living, so people from all walks of life socialise together. Being worth a decent conversation is all that matters.
Citation: Daniel, we had rather assumed that the British class obsession would be fading by now. It’s been quite a few years since Maggie-the-Grocer’s-Daughter assumed power, followed by John-the-Circus-Performer’s-Son. Then there was Tony-the-Grandson-of-Actors-&-Grocers. And let’s not forget Kate-the-Party-Planners’-Daughter. But it seems that with the ascendance of David-the-Descendant-of-William IV (albeit via an illegitimate line), class considerations are permeating the land again—having now reached Shropshire. Some may say it’s a good thing—long may class distinctions flourish! A society can’t function if people don’t know their place. And besides, as Downtown Abbey has taught us, upper and lower classes have always been the best of friends. We must confess, however, that we do not find this very sensible. Rather, we think that names, rather than being associated with professions or parents’ professions (and therefore educations, incomes, and class profiles), should be reminders of what a person looks like. The source of our wisdom is the redoubtable Humpty Dumpty, in this exchange with Alice:
“MUST a name mean something?” Alice asked doubtfully.
“Of course it must,” Humpty Dumpty said with a short laugh: “MY name means the shape I am—and a good handsome shape it is, too. With a name like yours, you might be any shape, almost.”
Now some may think Humpty Dumpty has prosopagnosia, but surely he’s just being practical? We also believe that expats would do well to employ this kind of mnemonic device when they first go abroad and are immersed in a phantasmagoria of new faces, body shapes, clothing, hair styles… In your part of the world, for instance, we could imagine epithets like “Big-Boots-xxx” or “Bushy-Beard-xxx” coming in handy. (Listen, you say you know your Canadian friends really well, but we still don’t advise using these nicknames to their faces, just in case…) Congrats on this fine post, Daniel, and we look forward to re-encountering some of this material in your short stories!
2) LINDA RUBRIGHT, former expat in Europe and the Caribbean, and founder of the travel and lifestyle blog the delicious day
For her post: “8 Secrets No One Tells You about Being an Expat,” for Sherry Ott’s new career break site, Meet Plan Go
Posted on: 25 September 2014
Secret #4: You are the punch line to a lot of jokes.
…The tiny differences are enormous differences, and what can you do about it? Expect a lot of laughs—in your direction.
Citation: Linda, you are so right, and have such a good way of putting it: how truly strange a culture can look when you are stuck in its “deep catacombs” (see Secret #2). For sure, “catacombs” are a telltale sign of having fallen down a rabbit hole. And we agree with your premise that exploring said catacombs without a compass can induce “profound loneliness and feelings of complete incompetence” (#2 again) not to mention homesickness (#8). We’d further like to point out that even on Alice’s through-the-looking glass adventure, when she stays above ground, such feelings of discombobulation continue, especially when she repeatedly tries to climb the hill near the house to the beautiful garden—only to find herself back at the house. Did an encounter with the Red Queen shed light on her frustrations? Hardly:
“Well, in OUR country,” said Alice, still panting a little, “you’d generally get to somewhere else—if you ran very fast for a long time, as we’ve been doing.”
“A slow sort of country!” said the Queen. “Now, HERE, you see, it takes all the running YOU can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!”
Still, at least the Red Queen was kind enough to attempt an explanation of basic cultural differences. She didn’t laugh at Alice. Which is more than we can say for you that time when you witnessed your Spanish boyfriend’s first attempt to pump gas in the United States and apparently found it uncontrollably funny that, being from Spain, which is 100% full service, he was also not used to gallons, credit cards, or zip codes, and kept fumbling with the machine. But we have news for you, Linda: the joke may be on you in the end. Little did you realize that the most successful expats are gluttons for punishment, and the eight points you list as drawbacks to the expat life in fact don’t perturb us all that much. Why do you think your BF is now your husband, living with you in Colorado? He loves being the object of your humor! In any case, thanks for this great post, and good luck to the pair of you with your travel advice site.
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So, readers, do you have a favorite from the above, or have you read any recent posts you think deserve an Alice Award? We’d love to hear your suggestions! And don’t miss out on the shortlist of Alice contenders we provide in each week’s Dispatch, which are sources of creative thought if nothing else! Get on our subscription list now!
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