Top 6 questions expats hate answering.

We’ve scoured the plains of Singapore for Expats who have had the unfortunate displeasure of having to endure such loathing queries and found the Top 6 questions Expats hate answering!

I’ve been there before. It’s a nice Friday night and I’m having drinks at the local watering hole. A friend brings along a ‘new acquaintance from abroad’. I’m a nice friendly guy, I make conversation. I’m curious, I start asking questions – y’know, cause who doesn’t?

But I notice some hesitance from my new foreign friend; a heavy breath to every answer. Did I ask something wrong? Should I not have asked that question?

Why did you move here, of all places?

The expats we interviewed have told us that this question riles them up quite a bit. Singapore has a big ‘complain’ culture. By this, I specifically mean we love complaining about the city-state, amongst other things.

Business travellers that come over here feel that life in Singapore is not that bad at all. Sure, it is not perfect but it is probably the same case everywhere. When you’ve been in one place for too long, you need a pair of fresh eyes to see the beauty it holds.

The annoying thing is having to answer this same question whenever they meet a new local acquaintance!

“It’s understandable the first few times, but it comes to a point where you’ll hear local after local tell you about how much they dislike their country, then you’ll start to ask, Why do you hate it so much here?

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Don’t you miss your family back home?

98% of the time this question is answered with a resounding ‘Yes’ (borderline ‘Duh!’). Expat living is no easy task. When starting your life as an expat in a foreign country, you’ve got to deal with a list of new expat-problems. 

Planning future finances and having to experience culture shock is enough to worry about. Expats don’t need you constantly reminding them of visiting home and the family members they left behind. They miss their loved ones every single day. Sometimes it gets easier, sometimes they won’t even want to get out of bed.

“Of course I do (miss my family) but I have my reasons for starting a life away from home. It’s a struggle to keep these sad thoughts at bay so I’d rather not have to talk about them all the time.”

So think about it before asking these types of questions. A seemingly harmless bit of curiosity might trigger an unintended trip down memory lane.  

Do you like it here?

Here’s a question that rests on the fence. It’s not so much a question an expat dislikes answering but it’s one that leads to a series of thoughts an expat would rather not have to process. Allow me to explain.

Whether a business traveller likes a certain country or not would require him/her to build a mental list of pros and cons. This list would be compared to places they have visited or where they were raised (in this case, it’s the latter).

“I mean, I don’t hate where I am. It’s great! But home is always best, yea?”

Building the pros is a great way to help with the transition into a new country. The list of cons, however, is not a healthy way to get moving forward. Fresh and new expats are always advised to put aside negative thoughts about a new country of residence and stop comparing it to home.

It’s not a bad or selfish question. Some people would just rather not have to think about everything that comes along with it.

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What do you miss most about home?

The first few years of being abroad can be really tough. It usually starts when the honeymoon period of working overseas wears off and the reality of it all settles in. Your loved ones and close mates back home have come to terms with you being away and your mom doesn’t call every night like she used to anymore. 

This is when the memories of home and what was left behind start tugging heart-strings. Again, this question isn’t wrong. It’s just a little heavy to answer so willingly.

“There are many things I miss about home. Being overseas is tough and you have to constantly stop crying over what you once had.”

Our advice to travellers who are homesick is to not bottle up such thoughts and participate in such conversations. The more you talk about it, the more you will get to grips with it. Instead of sulking over what you miss, why not start building a list of the people and things you would like to see or do when you go back next!

Which brings us to the next question.

Why don’t you go back as often as you should?

Read the room before asking this one. There are many reasons why one would choose to work abroad. A lot of the time it is because of work. However, sometimes a new start calls for a new life beyond the horizon.

Personal issues might have led to the decision of having to work or move overseas. So it might be a little touchy to ask someone such a personal question in a room full of overly attentive ears. 

“Just because I don’t, doesn’t mean I don’t care. There might be issues of finance or impracticality that is holding me back. There could also be a reason why I left in the first place. It sometimes makes the process easier when you don’t go back too often.”

Ease into such a question and if you sense that your expat friend would rather not talk about it, then take the hint and try not to pry.

Oooo so how does it feel to be an ‘expat’?

It’s not that special, really. More a thing of the past; expat-packages or expatriate salaries usually include transportation, housing and dependants compensation. However, recent reports have found the disparity between expats and locals of similar professional statures not to be amazingly wide. 

So putting someone on the spot does make things awkward. It’s similar to the often avoided question of, “Hey, how much do you earn?”

Companies are now looking to localise the expat package by providing something more comparable to the local market. The idea of an expat working and living in a new country is also a form of localisation.

“I’m just like every human traveller. The label of being an expat shouldn’t give me any supposed superiority or inferiority over other people.”

Maybe hold off on the class segregation and allow your expat peer to become ‘one with the pack’. No one enjoys feeling like a social outcast, what more if it’s based on wage!