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Thank you for all who responded to the posting, both via the forum and via the emails sent privately.
Many of the emails expressed shock at the idea that some expats have experienced tension with other expats within a host country, many also found this concept offensive.
The point of article, (as written in crystal clear terms as a reply to some of the postings), is not to try and collect material proving that all expats hate each other and cannot get on with each other.
It is to represent both those that have and have not experienced this, and those which do and which do not feel that this is an issue. Therefore, the views of those which DO NOT find that this is an issue, are just as relevant as those that do. The original posting therefore deliberately used the words:
“I am looking for feedback from any expats who have witnessed this or have views on this”
Many have expressed views on this (though few were prepared to put their full names next the same words they claimed to feel strongly about). These views (ones which take offence at the idea that inter-expat tension exists) are just as relevant as the views of those who feel that it does exist. Both views / extremes of thought / experiences are necessary for a balanced article.
It is COMPLETELY understandable that many expats would feel offended by the suggestion that there any form of tension exists within an expat community.
As many of the responses show, there are many expats who have no problem getting on with each other. Moreover they feel that living as expats and associating with the expat community, gives them a deeper, enriching insight into other cultures than they might not acquire were they simply living in their home country. (Having been raised in England by an English family with strong Irish roots and living within a community of Irish expatriates, spending teenage years split between Brittany, France and Germany, and lived on and off in England, Austria and Germany, and living now as an expat, again, in Germany, I also feel that this enriching, wonderful experience means I have a profound tolerance for people of different nationalities).
Therefore, the many expats equipped with these noble notions of tolerance, acceptance and goodwill, the suggestion that any expats are not tolerant or accepting of others, could well seem inaccurate, offensive or ludicrous.
These views represent one end of the spectrum, which should and must be acknowledged and reported and it is right that those who feel that it is not true (i.e. there is no / little tension between expats) should be able to express their views and to also know that their views are both respected and noted and that their story is told.
On Friday evening I interviewed American national Derek Evans, a former <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />US military worker who now works at the army air force exchange force, and who is now the head of an English speaking club in Stuttgart.
He feels that there may be the occasional tension between the “wrong sort” of expats, but that his “bringing together of people of all sorts of nationalities” serves to do away with any potential for hostilities. Though he has directly witnessed inter-expat tension, he therefore does not agree that it exists to any great extent. This is his view, and so it has been noted and will appear in the article.
In exactly the same way, that it is right and proper and it must be so that that those on end of the spectrum are listened to and acknowledged and that their story is told, it is also right and proper and it must be so that that those on end of the spectrum are listened to and acknowledged and that their story is told.
On the same day in which many posted emails expressing shock / outrage at the issue (that some expats have experienced tension with other expats within a host country), I later interviewed a Turkish Alivi, Hakan Yilmaz, (a person who, unlike others felt strongly enough about what he feels to put his name against what he says).
Hakan, 28, who lives in Berlin, is married to a German girl, Maria, and was shocked that he was able to secure a job for a Turkish marketing agency but as soon as he revealed that he was an Alivi, (an ethnic Turkish minority) he was suddenly treated very differently, people began to ignore him and after just two weeks his working atmosphere that he felt he had no choice but to quit his job.
Any suggestion that all Turkish expats treat Alivi expats like this – or that a Turk and an Alivi will automatically dislike each other, is both ridiculous, offensive and plain wrong to both Turks and Alivis alike. At the same time, it is exactly as ridiculous, offensive and plain wrong to not report what is happening even if it is an uncomfortable issue for others to accept. Hakan Yilmaz exists. I have met him and his girl friend and spoken to them at length. He has experienced what he has experienced, and so have his other fellow Alivis I have interviewed.
No journalist should be prepared to ignore or to choose not to report on what is happening, even if it causes offence to others – and anyone else who expects this therefore is ultimately asking for a false, biased article. Those who feel inter-expat tensions exist in some form (and who are prepared to put their full name next to their quotes) must and will have their views expressed and story told (like Derek Evans). Those which do feel it exists, must and will have their views expressed and story told (like Hakan Yilmaz).
The following quote, as written as a response to some of the people who expressed shock / outrage at the wording of the posting, hopefully summarises this point.
“…Thank you for your response. In terms of you not agreeing with what I have "alleged" to be true - I have not alleged anything. I have reported on what I have witnessed after years of life as an Expat in Germany and in Austria, and also reported what interviewees (so far 27) have told me.
I completely accept that not all, even the majority of expats use common sense to avoid awkward topics, or just out of pure goodwill rub along nicely together. It would be simply inaccurate, however, to claim that there is no tension between any Expats in any host country.
The Turkish / Kurdish riots here happened and they were ugly. I have interviewed 4 British expatriates from Austria who have said that they did not get a job in an Irish bar and were told that they were unlikely to because they are English. The comments on the Austrian / German issue are also from interviews, and this evening I am interviewing a Turkish Expat who comes from an ethnic Turkish minority and who therefore is shunned by other Turkish Expat support groups in Berlin.
Obviously it is inaccurate, and plain wrong and offensive to suggest that if you are Turkish or Kurdish, or English and Irish, you are automatically going feel hostile towards each other, but I think it is just as inaccurate, wrong and offensive not to report on what has happened to many expats. The article is not being written with a view to trying to slam one nation and promote the other, rather to look at what sorts of tension have occurred, what the causes might be, and then look at ways round it.”
Instead of taking a knee-jerk reaction, and choosing the easy, simple and therefore untrue (not the full picture) approach which is just to slam the situation when expats sometimes express, directly or indirectly, a form of hostility to other expats, I feel it is more interesting to investigate why this is happening.
US national Dave Sperling of www.esl-cafe.com was one of several EFL experts who told me in an interview earlier this year, that although British EFL teachers can easily secure work in America, the reverse is not true. The article then proceeded to look at why this might be happening, instead of being childish about the situation by pointing the finger of blame at someone.
Granted, discrimination is wrong and not to be condoned – but can the reasons why it takes place be explained. Surely only then can the situation be more fully understood and a more adult, enlightened way forwarded be conceived by all parties.
British-run schools abroad may wish to promote the image of a clear-cut English accent institute, and therefore fear they may lose money by employing Americans. Is this right? - No. Can you understand why they do it? – To some extent. A solution? – Maybe the British schools should also try to incorporate aspects of American English (vocabulary into their lessons by acknowledging it as an existing and widespread form of English), which would therefore mean after time they would not risk damaging their image by employing Americans instead of English.
When I interviewed head of AngloInfo in Brittany, Bob Pearson, he seemed nervous that his organisation would be misrepresented or portrayed as promoting an English ghetto. It wasn’t. Both sides of the argument were presented, as they must be.
I therefore continue to welcome feedback from ALL sides of the spectrum, but only from those who feel strongly enough about what they claim to, that they are put their full names next to what they say, where they are from and what they do now, so that the source can be verified.
For further details on the years of journalistic experience, Published Articles (including the interview with AngloInfo), see http://www.robhydeglobal.com
Telephone: +49 (0)173 186 1164