The Expat Guess Who?

The husband and I were sitting in Bussorah Street devouring a delicious lamb pide and observing the passing crowd. Ladies wandered pass in headscarves, brushing shoulders with backpackers wearing not much at all, who were walking alongside men on their way to the mosque for evening prayers. As the crowd moved along we spotted a couple, and the husband and I looked at each other and simultaneously mouthed ‘Australians’ to each other.

I’m in the process of writing a university assignment centred around national identity and I’ve been struggling to define what Australian national identity is but, somehow, I can usually spot my own countrymen in a crowd with above average accuracy. The only sure-fire identifiers are Southern Cross tattoos or a football jersey (from any code!), and maybe the wearing of rash shirts when swimming but the other clues are less objective. More ‘the vibe’ of the people. Perhaps the way they’re dressed? Or the tan? There’s just something about the way your own people look that makes them stand out amongst a crowd.

I have less success pinning down the nationalities of other people, but I still like to play “Expat Guess Who?” every time a moving van pulls up and starts unloading out the front of our condo.

Shipping container? New arrival to Singapore.

Local movers? Been here a while.

The next step is to try and read the surname scrawled in black marker along the side of each and every box. At the very least this will indicate if they are from Asia (written in characters) or a Western country.

Bicycle with wooden child carrier on the front? Dutch (outside chance of German).

Sleek, pine furniture? Somewhere in Scandanavia.

Tiny bikini bottoms worn at the pool? Brazillian.

Electric voltage transformer boxes? American.

The woman screeching at her children, overwhelmed by the stress of the whole moving everything and everyone to a new country? Australian. Me.

Can you pick your own nationality out in a crowd? What about other nationalities?





14 thoughts on “The Expat Guess Who?

  1. I’ve got much better at this, my husband and I do it too. šŸ™‚ But as you say, your countrymen are the easiest to spot. I can spot an American from a mile away.

  2. This is something I always did when I was tour guiding, and like you got very good at it. Dutchies (on holiday) will without fail be wearing matching outfits, usually in the form of zip off cargo pants and hiking boots and little matching day packs.

    Brits will be wearing as little as possible, and Americans usually have the most monstrous cameras that they’re carting around.

    I can always spot Australians too, but never quite sure what it is that makes me pinpoint why. If there’s one cafe in town serving brunch, you’re guaranteed to see it full of Aussies. We’re just seemingly more casual than the rest of the world for some reason.

    • Zip off cargo pants and hiking boots are absolutely the fave dress of the northern Europeans! Our safari guide in Botswana was bewildered by Danes on our trips wearing these “safari pants” as he said no-one in Africa ever wore them! Of course, I was dressed Australian-y – big, baggy t-shirt and shorts.

  3. Yes! I can’t put my finger on what it is either, but I think dress and hair styles have more to do with it than might at first seem reasonable, especially since I don’t follow fashion. I remember getting my hair cut by a local hairdresser soon after we moved to the UK and just staring at myself afterwards and thinking, “Wow. She’s made me look English.” Until eventually the pause got long enough to be truly awkward.

  4. Oh yes! All it takes is one syllable uttered by an Aussie anywhere overseas and my head whips ’round to look for who made that sound! And there’s something about the way Australians dress when travelling. I guess one word would sum it up … badly.
    Happy Easter, gang!

  5. Love this KJ!!! So funny and true and right on. What’s funny is now that we’ve moved “home” I can spot an expat to the US from a MILE away and guess what I do? Go running after them and ask if they want to be my friend!

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