What can comedy teach us about expatriation?

I’ve always found humor to be at the forefront of tools that I turn to when I don’t Humor and Expatsfeel so well about my life. It helps so much, in fact, that I included it in my three strategies of managing culture shock. And so when at the last night’s writer’s group we had a session on how to write humor, I thought – why not find a few jokes that can help expats take another perspective on whatever is troubling them?

And while humor isn’t my talent and there are not that many (or any!) comedians that focus specifically on the always-on-the-move cohort, I found a few jokes that can still serve their purpose and help.

Feeling like you’ve given up a lot to move half way across the world? A job, a career, a family, and friends? Not to worry:

Cheer up! Remember the less you have, the more there is to get. (Unknown)

Having a frustration-full day? Cannot communicate with anyone? Want to lock yourself up at home and never come out again? Consider this alternative thinking:

Eat a live toad the first thing in the morning and nothing worse can happen to you for the rest of the day. (Unknown)

Experiencing guilt that you don’t have to clean your house and can hire someone to do it for you while all your friends at home don’t have that luxury?

Housework done properly can kill you. (Unknown)

Terrified to move to yet another place? To pack, to unpack, to start completely anew in finding friends? This may help:

I have a new philosophy, I’m only going to dread one day at a time. (Charles Schulz, “Peanuts”)

Worried about your next destination? Heard a few things you didn’t like and spending hours making assumptions on how they will affect you? Leave those assumptions behind because:

I’ve suffered a great many catastrophes in my life. Most of them never happened.  (Mark Twain)

This one needs no introduction:

There’s no such thing as fun for the whole family. (Jerry Seinfeld)

Tired of constantly receiving wise advice when complaining? Sick of too many expat coaches out there telling you to learn from your experience? Well, you don’t have to listen to them all the time. And not everything has to be for learning. Because:

“Sometimes the road less traveled is less traveled for a reason.” (Jerry Seinfeld)

And finally, there will always be times when your days will suck, when the outside looks grey, and when watching old re-runs of your favorite comedy shows is the only thing you want to do. Don’t worry. We’ve all been there. Give yourself permission to NOT be perfect and learn to swear.

Life’s disappointments are harder to take when you don’t know any swear words. (Unknown)

Any good additions?

7 responses to “What can comedy teach us about expatriation?

  1. This post is so great! 🙂
    But I do have one question. What if I feel exactly as described in some of those examples although I have been an expat for 15 years now? When will it get better? I definetely need new swear words!!! 😉

    • Hi Sofia,

      LOL, new swear words will definitely help! Which specific examples still get you?


      • Hi there Margarita,

        let me think… I don’t want to sound too negative though!

        But I guess one of the things that always gets me is the way “politeness” is defined in a totally different way here when compared to my home country… And also the difference between my original culture and the very individualist mentality in the country I am living as an expat. That still makes me blue and I miss our collectivist attitude a lot!

      • Thanks, Sofia, for responding. It sounds like the individualist mentality goes against things you hold dear — your values — perhaps the value of connectedness, or the value of caring, or the value of nurturing, or the value of respect. Or all of them! It’s really hard when the place where we live isn’t similar to us in terms of values. It’s easier when it’s simply habits or attitudes or behaviors. But with values it’s different — because when we live without honoring our values, we feel awful. And since changing the surroundings isn’t really an option, another thing to do is to find other ways to honor the values that are suffering. If the values I named above are the values you find important, what would be other ways of “nourishing” them while you live where you are?

        Does this make sense? 🙂 Hope it helps somewhat…

      • Dear Margarita,

        The examples you named not only made sense, they made me feel very emotional too. It seems like you completely understood my feelings and I guess it is hard when one puts it that way…

        Honestly I don’t know how I can improve this and nurture my values from here. I suppose I could if I had friends with similar backgrounds.

        I would be very grateful in case you have any suggestions for me. And I thank you for this post and the dialogue 🙂

      • Hi Sofia,

        One of the suggestions would be to sit back and think of how much you are honoring those values now on a scale of 1 to 10 (1 — not honoring at all and 10 — honoring them a lot). Do it for each value separately. Once you get those numbers down, think about how much you want to honor them, again on a scale of 1 to 10. For instance, let’s say you are honoring your value of connectedness at a 3 right now and want to get to at least 7. The next step is to visualize/imagine what your life would look like if you honored that value at a 7 — and really be creative and open-minded. It doesn’t have to be “realistic” at this stage so don’t censor yourself with negative voices as you create that vision. Write that vision down. Then look at it and see what’s possible to do — in tiny, little steps perhaps — in the next couple of weeks to start going towards getting to 7.

        You mention finding similar-thinking friends. That can be one of the ideas. Or perhaps, finding “your people” — groups of people that share your hobbies and your interests and your aspirations. They don’t have to be friends at first, but people who you’d feel connection to. If you don’t find those groups, perhaps organize one yourself. But start with writing down your vision and you’ll get some thoughts/ideas/insights once you do that.

        Hope this helps!

  2. Thanks for the chuckles! Humor is indeed a great tool for dealing with stress. Goes without saying that humor often gets lost in translation. For this reason, I’m always looking for humor than works universally, and occasionally stumble onto it. (It helps that I studied Japanese Rakugo in college.) For readers interested, here’s a piece I did a few years ago on “Culture and the Humor Gap.” Enjoy! http://wp.me/pnmlQ-sZ

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