Expats in Tangier

The New York Times’ Style Magazine published a feature a few months ago on Tangier, a northern Moroccan city that has long been a destination for European and American diplomats, spies, writers, and businessmen. The story focuses on the expat community there and their eccentric style. People who came to visit, and decided to never leave. An excerpt:

It’s an old story — as old as sailing and sex — yet there is always something new coming over the strait. Indeed, it may be the hunt for newness in an old port that brought them here, adventurers and outsiders — from Mark Twain and Delacroix to Yves Saint Laurent and Tennessee Williams — who merely broke the path for the uprooted of today. Deep in the Casbah and high on the slopes of Vieille Montagne, you find these people, these elegant, exotic plants who fill their days with lunch parties and gossip. They may be the harmless denizens of an old idea, doing it with style, living beyond their means but strictly within their taste. It is a painted city where ripe vegetables and aged spies litter the souks, where men of hidden consequence can always find a drink. Most of all, Tangier is a city where attention to detail is undivided, a place where you meet people just crazy for beauty.


In a large old room smelling of narcissi, Pasti sat me down and smiled through cigarette smoke. The tables around us were filled with strange shells, bones and Neolithic pottery. I looked around as he spoke and you could almost breathe the beauty: a piece of an Islamic column from Spain, an Italian Renaissance stemma, many Berber pots, pine cones and marble busts. Past a big 17th-century German armoire was a fireplace of the same period. An 18th-century Venetian screen held back a little of the evening air, which came, nonetheless, rosemary-scented and chilled. Painted Moroccan chests and side tables were dotted everywhere — “I love patina,” he said — and around the walls was a multitude of astonishing tile panels, some from Seville and Portugal and fired 200 years before the birth of Shakespeare. Pasti writes novels and makes gardens. He is both intensely sociable and extremely private. Walking from room to room in his perfect house, he seemed somewhat like a man in a fairy tale, lost in beauty, hiding behind windows in a secret garden. But then he laughed and puffed on his cigarette and seemed quite normal again. Pasti started as a literary critic and then began collecting strange fragments and rare bulbs, which he would plant in his garden in the Moroccan countryside, and also in pots at his house in Tangier. His first novel is the story of a botanical obsession. “I started collecting wild bulbs more or less 15 years ago,” he said. He sometimes sleeps outside among the plants. In some ways he considers himself to be a kind of doctor to sick plants and sees his place in the country as a kind of botanical hospital. 

You can read the whole article, and view a very, very cool video feature that goes along with it, here.

What we could all learn from expats

They’re friendly, adventurous… And they don’t mind a drink.

“Want to make friends? Move to another country. Maybe somewhere third world.”

It’s always fascinating for me watching people extol expats and expat communities (particularly those in “developing” countries) in general, as being largely good, positive influences on their local communities.

For context, let me explain that I lived as an expat for a year teaching English in Taiwan myself, interacted with tons of expats there and in Hong Kong, and, in all honesty, reflecting on my time there I can say that we’re almost all terrible. Not okay, not decent, not bad, just terrible. Expat communities are filled with racist, privileged, fetishizing, condescending Westerners on one hand or patronizing, “well meaning” Western saviors on the other who just serve to spit in the face of local peoples, their cultures and their agency. Expats in general are not even self-reflecting to the point that they can acknowledge the fact that they have privilege. For me even, arriving with little knowledge of the Western and white savior industrial complex, it took me months to understand the basic fact that I had privilege just by virtue of being a Westerner and American in particular. Although this may have been obscured somewhat in my eyes due to my overlapping experiences with antiblackness in Taiwan, it goes to show just how ignorant most of us expats are. 

And, of course, white expats tend to be even worse on average than the rest of us who already tend to suck. Their white privilege in addition to their Western privilege makes for a caustic, sickening concoction of unexamined pretentiousness and superiority or an even greater compulsion and need to “save” their poor communities from themselves. From the fetishizing, grimy white dudes in the club to the Nicholas Kristoffs and heads of Invisible Children of the world. And then you look at this article praising expats and of course it was written by a white male traveler. I’m not going to waste space here drilling into the details of the many experiences I had with horrible white expats abroad: but here are just a few examples.

Expats from other countries will undoubtedly contend that “you can’t generalize like that, since that wasn’t the case during my stint in (insert name of "poor” country here)!!“ There is something to that in terms of the particularities of a given experience, but I think that you can in fact generalize to an extent because there are larger hegemonic structures of oppression at play here that are shared by most expats across the globe. Western hegemony and privilege, US-centrism to varying extents, white supremacy, long, damning exploitative histories of colonialism, Western imperialism, missionary activity and the craven exploitation or "salvation” of POC bodies… These are global systems of oppression that expats draw upon and which shape their experiences accordingly. The country you come from matters (expats from other “developing” countries don’t benefit in the same way), your race and gender matter, but in general, as I learned in Taiwan, expats just tend to be horrible, and people writing articles like this which glorify them just serves to feed into their insular cultures of privilege and neo-colonial exploitation.

Shit like this from the article:

They’ve already left their friends, their homes, their comfort zones and probably most of their possessions in another country to begin a new life abroad. That takes guts. It’s only a certain type of person who’ll do that.

Which the anonymous follower who sent me this piece summarized so well by saying: “So when bored white people do it, they’re magic. When economic migrants do it, they’re taking our jobs.”

I was talking to one of my friends about this article who also lived abroad and we agreed that one of the biggest failings of expats beyond their typical inability or desire to learn about the local languages and cultures, or, if they do, a tendency to then turn around and fetishize that culture and cast themselves as an “expert” on it. Beyond all of that, probably their biggest failing is a general incapacity to self-examine themselves and the role of their country of origin in the history of the world and their “adopted” country in particular. As my friend put so well:

The expat phenomenon is so closely tied to the horrible colonial history of these countries. Like that’s the cost of expat enjoyment and for people not to see that and also to actively rail against is just another attitude of colonization.

It’s only by acknowledging your privilege and wrestling with the damaging realities of that and the brutal legacy of colonialism and exploitation that you are following in the footsteps of as an expat that you can hope to make your presence in said country okay rather than just terrible. What we could all learn from expats is the danger that happens when one does not do as such; and sadly, this is something that the vast majority of expats never even come close to grasping, with articles like this just encouraging these expat cultures that encourage exploitation on one hand and deter any serious self-examination of their privilege on the other.

“Colder winters, warmer beer, but more money for my science.” — Abigail Ferrieri, 28, Germany
—  As part of The Xpat Project, NPR asked American expatriates to answer — in 10 words or less — the 10-word question: What does it mean to you to be an expatriate? Here are some of the responses.

The American sculptresses working in Italy in the 19th century really didn’t give a hoot if you liked them (unless you wanted to commission a sculpture, of course). Today, we’re talking about the group of women curmudgeonly author Henry James dubbed “the white, marmorean flock.”

Photos (all Corbis, clockwise): Emma Stebbins’s Bethesda Fountain in New York’s Central Park; Vinnie Ream posing with her Abraham Lincoln bust; Edmonia Lewis’s “Death of Cleopatra”

Long-term Canadian expats can't vote in federal elections, Appeal Court rules
Ontario’s top court has decided long-term expats have no right to vote in federal elections

Allowing Canadians who have lived abroad for more than five years to vote in federal elections would be unfair to those who live in Canada, Ontario’s top court ruled Monday.

In a split decision, the Court of Appeal overturned a ruling that had restored the right of more than one million long-term expats to vote.

Canada’s “social contract” entails citizens submitting to laws because they had a voice in making them through voting, the ruling states.

“Permitting all non-resident citizens to vote would allow them to participate in making laws that affect Canadian residents on a daily basis but have little to no practical consequence for their own daily lives,” Justice George Strathy wrote for the majority court.

“This would erode the social contract and undermine the legitimacy of the laws.”

Strathy said the relevant part of the Canada Elections Act aimed to strengthen the country’s system of government. While it infringed on the rights of the expats, he said, the infringement is reasonable and can be justified in a free and democratic society.

Two Canadians living in the United States — Montreal-born Jamie Duong and Toronto-born Gillian Frank — launched the constitutional challenge, arguing the five-year rule was arbitrary and unreasonable. Both argued they had only left for educational and employment opportunities and still had strong attachments to Canada and a stake in its future.

Continue Reading.

Looks like Harper got his wish; more Canadians will be unable to vote in the 2015 Federal Election.

It really annoys me when foreigners go to Korea and comment/say how “rude” or impolite Korean people are. I’m like…excuse me? You’re a guest in THEIR country, and just because their cultural norms are different than your country’s, that doesn’t necessarily mean they are being “rude”. It’s not up to them, your hosts, to change; it’s up to you, the guest, to learn the cultural norms of the country you are in.

are there any american expat bloggers out there in korea that do not blog about prostitution or about trying to hook up with someone at this new night club, or about some new raunchy advertising trends in the subway or in kpop, or about the new craft beer place that just opened up in hongdae? i mean don’t you even think about or keep up with your home country anymore? and all the bullshit that’s going on back home? and the bullshit going on in korea with your home country or even all the bullshit going on all over the world because of your home country, america? why are you even in korea?

Danielle Rubi-Dentzel

Paris’s New Korean Joint, From Some of the City’s Coolest Expats

Emerge from the metro at the Strasbourg Saint-Denis station and you can’t help but instantly catch sight of the neon pink sign beaming the word “Hero.” The neighborhood’s colorful, late-night reputation might lead some to assume the sign marks yet another sex shop or dive bar. Instead, this spot beckons a hungry crowd.

See more here

Angry Canadians are rare. But Patricia Moon qualifies.

Until 2012, Moon was actually an American – albeit one who had lived in Canada for 32 years. She settled in so well that in 2008, she added Canadian citizenship to her US one.

But Moon cut ties with America three years ago, after new banking laws aimed at tax evaders required expats like her to file more thorough US tax returns. She was five years behind on the news. “I was terrified we’d lose all our money,” she says.

After back-filing years of tax returns, Moon renounced her US citizenship in 2012. It was a defiant act she describes as being one of the first canaries to leave the coalmine as US banking laws make life more difficult for American expatriates. She wasn’t pleased she had to do it.

“It was like cutting off my right arm,” to not be American any more, says Moon, who only became a Canadian citizen in 2008. “Now, I’m simply angry.”

In February this year, the US and Canadian governments signed an intergovernmental agreement to co-operate on Fatca. The Foreign Accounts Taxation Compliance Act required all foreign banks to disclose the financial information of any American with assets over $50,000 sitting in banks outside of the US.

Steep penalties add muscle to the law. If a foreign bank – not just in Canada, but anywhere – fails to report even a single US citizen as a customer to the IRS, the US Treasury department would withhold 30% of the banks’ US income as penalty.

Foreign banks, some of whom earned a reputation as tax scofflaws, are now deeply afraid of the Internal Revenue Service.

The US government is policing foreign banks aggressively as it comes down hard on any company that helps tax evaders, money launderers and other criminals.

Scared of running afoul of US banking laws, foreign banks are taking extreme steps to limit US citizens to a narrow range of services.

The result for expats has been a chaotic brew of closed bank accounts, mysterious excuses and a scramble to find local banks that would allow them to park their money.

Even those Canadians who might be called ‘accidental Americans’ don’t like the long arm of the IRS.

Courtney Welch’s Canadian bank found out that he was, in spite of possessing a Canadian passport for the last 41 years, a dual citizen of US and Canada. He was naturalised as a child when his parents moved to Canada, but retains a dual-American citizenship because he was a minor.

To avoid breaking any laws, Welch will have to renounce his US citizenship and file five years’ worth of tax returns as well as possibly thousands of dollars to the US government in taxes on income he earned in Canada. He will have to foot bills for airplane flights and miss out on wages – and that’s not counting the $2,350 fee to renounce a citizenship he never assumed in the first place.

Welch, who has no intentions of living in the US, finds the idea that he has to pay taxes to the US government ridiculous.

“I feel about the same obligation to file US tax papers as you would if the supreme court of Uruguay all of a sudden decided you were a citizen and had to file a tax return there,” he tells the Guardian.


As an expat in the US, I often feel like American boys only want to date me because I am foreign.

Almost all the guys here who hit on me bash “manly” American girls & fetishize “feminine” girls from other countries. 

The hilarious thing is, if they actually got to know me they would know I have all the traits they supposedly despise in girls from the US; I am opinionated, bold, loud, and flirtatious…

but above all, 

I am a feminist. 


anonymous asked:

Do you not like foreigners to be in Korea?

no, i love foreigners to be in Korea! especially the us military, they should keep building up those bases there, kick out more locals and farmers and create more private water and theme parks and carve more multi-million dollar private golf courses on the side of the mountains, they need more private bowling alleys and movie theatres, and shopping districts just for the us military, more private high schools and grade schools for these us military servicemembers and their families.

they should also really build a really huge us military base on jeju island too!

they should also modify the SOFAgreement, allow more freedoms for us servicemembers too! omg, the us servicemembers are just sooooo oppressed over there! it’s reverse racism goddamit!

save the american expats and the us servicemembers in korea! someone call amnesty international now! OMG! bring them home now! #saveourexpats