Sunday, July 29, 2007

A defining moment...

However many potential destinations there may be (refer the very first post), at this early stage the point of the blog seems to be to examine what it is to be an expat - and if that word conjures up classic images of colonial "lotus eaters", then let's look at a definition. According to my Collins English Dictionary...

Expatriate: a person who lives in a foreign country.

Perhaps we can stretch the definition a little to take in those who live away from their origins, if we want to develop the notion that there can be great cultural differences when simply relocating within a country. I am uncertain as to whether this can be truly the same state of living as the real expat but we can come back to that.

So, I hope to share and exchange thoughts on the state of being an expatriate (or similar) and how one reaches that situation - the experience of uprooting from one's culture and familiar surroundings - the process of getting there, like any journey - and what it means to arrive on a one-way ticket.

Photo: Chance Agrella

Friday, July 27, 2007

Lovely weather...

The peak summer months of July and August see the rural areas of Mediterranean France at their finest and a particular joy are the village fĂȘtes - far from the afternoon garden parties seen in the UK, these take the form of open-air partying going on through to the early hours. These can be attended by hundreds of people (of all ages) from surrounding towns and villages who are entertained each evening by professional bands of musicians, singers and dancers - attending one's first village fĂȘte here is a stunning experience! Of course they are possible because of the wonderful summer weather which is most likely to stay warm and dry through the evening and night during the summer months.

Just now, climate is very much on the mind with the media dominated by headlines of heat waves in Eastern Europe and very severe flooding in the UK where many are temporarily homeless, and there are power cuts and shortages of drinking water. If it is the case that such disasters are actually a part of a change in the global climate, might we see this impact on our decisions as to where we live? Of course there are already major disaster zones, such as where deserts are taking over once fertile areas - but where situations are not yet quite so severe, how much would we tolerate before leaving our homes permanently?

Many people do in any case relocate in search of the sun but perhaps we might see a new trend of people making the move purely to escape a deteriorating climate. I think that could be happening already although I must confess to a personal interest here, having been flooded out of house and home some years ago in the UK! Once the water is in your home, there is no choice but to accept the situation and I still have vivid images of the emergency services arriving to find us with the table set for dinner (no power, so candles and take-away pizza!) and sitting in the fading light in our wellington boots - with water almost up to our knees!

Now a "fond" memory, but the aftermath was a nightmare - and that experience, if not the major consideration, was unquestionably a factor in deciding to make the move to the South of France not much later.

There are undoubtedly already desperate "climate refugees" driven from their homes in extreme circumstances but I have to wonder if we could now see more affluent climate migrants - enabled by ease of travel, tele-working, etc., it is far easier now to chose where we want to be. Perhaps climate change alone could become a reason for living somewhere else, regardless of other factors - how many of us would move home, and even country, purely to escape the weather?

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Welcome to 245 AND COUNTING...

Idly browsing a little while ago I came across a Wikipedia article, as one does, stating the number of countries in the world as 244*.

Apparently, this includes full United Nations member countries (currently 192) and many others with, or claiming, the status of "country". Looking through the list I noticed, to my horror, that my own country of birth, Wales, is not actually listed but rather grouped under the United Kingdom entry! So, with patriotism stimulated, I have to make that total at the very least 245 - and counting...

That is a lot of potential destinations - and ever changing.

As a Brit relocated to the warmer climes of the South of France (a country enjoying full status on the Wikipedia list!), I often reflect in idle moments on the challenges and attractions faced by those of us who live in a country other than that of our birth. How do the experiences of others compare to my own? What are the reasons for choosing to change environment, culture, language, etc.? How does reality compare with our expectations? Would we go back? Or would that be the last thought in mind? Or perhaps such a move has been forced on us in which case how do we adapt and accept it?

Do we in fact need to shift countries to experience great cultural differences? There is surely huge diversity within vast countries such as Australia, India, the USA, etc., so this now gives more such destinations than we can contemplate!

Perhaps I want to find out if I am making the most of my move. In any event, I hope that the reflections and questions here will be more than a "diary of a Brit in France", although there are sure to be incidents and anecdotes to share. However, I hope that readers around the world will help this exploration of being somewhere else...

* source: Wikipedia -