Monday, April 9, 2012

Five Facts For Foreigners - Vol IXb

Encounters of the Not-So-Forthcoming Kind

When living or traveling abroad you may, on occasion, run into other expats or tourists that share similar interests, which can add a whole new and enjoyable dimension to your trip.

My husband and I became fast friends with another couple that we met while on our honeymoon in Mexico. They were living in Canada, and we were living in the U.S., at the time. We had such a blast with them that we keep in touch to this day.

Something to remember is that not everyone you meet is friendly – or worse, isn't on the up & up. By the same token, sometimes you may just have nothing in common with them (they may bore, offend, or annoy you) and it would do everyone good to seize the next long pause as a cue to exit stage right.

There are other fish in the sea, and we don't all necessarily ride the same currents ...and that's okay.

This brings to mind the only night on our honeymoon that we didn't "double date" at dinner with our new buds because we arrived a few minutes late, at a restaurant in the resort where the staff was in charge of the seating arrangements. The waiters sat our new friends with another couple, while we were seated with a couple from the UK.

For whatever reason, there just wasn't any spark... and our five-course meal seemed like it took five centuries! We all tried to do the polite, small talk thing, but it soon became apparent that there was just nothing there. We couldn't wait to excuse ourselves, and meet up with our friends.

It’s nice when it happens that you can connect with others on a similar journey, but it’s really rare. More rare still is the (hopefully) once-in-a-lifetime run-in with that couple that seems to be just a little bit off

Here are the top 5 clues you’re in the company of a slick pair of con artists, spies of the Get Smart variety, or real-live cult members. (Let the good times roll!)
  1. This couple has an awesome job locally ...only they can't explain what they do, where it is located, or even how they came about getting it. They also claim that neither one speaks the language, yet somehow have the aforementioned awesome job (where strangely enough... no one speaks their language, either). Ohhhh-kaaay.

  2. There is an entire group of what the locals assume must be "foreign church people or spies," who have been living in a compound in an out-of-the-way town for about 20 years. They have a strict don't-interact-with-the-locals policy, but when asked once what they were doing here they claimed to be missionaries who weren't working in this region (but another that could never be confirmed). This compound is simply their home base, that is allegedly used as a jumping point to even more remote [again, let's stress unconfirmed] nowhere-near-here regions in the country. Of course!

  3. This couple claims that neither one “knows the area," even though they've been around awhile, drive everywhere to run their errands (including to & from their top secret job location) ...but the go-to answer to anything you may ask regarding the city will be another big question mark and awkward blank stare. Although you may simply just want to know how to get to the local mall, they may see this as a test to 'out' them.

  4. Despite the fact that this couple may appear around the local language school for a semester or two, they will never learn the language, nix any social activities with other expats, and will avoid making any friends [to avoid loose ends]. The partner in charge may also veer across 3 lanes to take the inner left curve of the traffic circle when you, by chance, see them in traffic and wave hello - even though you were about to take a right, anyway. Weird.

  5. When you accidentally run into this couple a few years later in another international city airport, they will not only have changed their names, but their nationalities - so it is clearly a case of mistaken twin couple identities. Sure!

Best advice I can offer: Plead delirium (you're off your meds, again) and if you are getting on the same flight as these people, watch your drink! Have your travel buddy take first watch.

All pics found on Google images.


  1. I have noticed that people I've met seem to be unable or unwilling to "come clean" about themselves. I've come to the conclusion that it may have something to do with the obsession with class status. Perhaps the idea is to maintain an air of success through mystery.

    I've just returned from my vacation to Goias and this trip was GREAT!

    What made this trip great was that I met Brasilians who had returned after years in the States.

    I was nice to have conversations with Brasilians who had no preconceptions about life in the USA. There was nothing intimidating about our conversations, we simply spoke about life in both places.

    These returning Brasilians were grateful for the opportunities they had in the USA and happy to bring both their savings and the knowledge of a better way to get things done back with them.

    I hope this catches on and this problem of "phoniness" becomes a thing of the past.

  2. I've just returned from my annual vacation to Goias and this trip was GREAT! What made it so good was the number of Brasilians I met who were returning home after a decade or more in the USA.

    There were no misconceptions. Nor was there a social status issue (third world vs. first world) BS.

    We spoke as equals and without inhibition. It was soooooo relaxing.

    It was wonderful to know that these people were grateful for their time in the States, the savings they brought home and the knowledge of a better quality of life that they wanted to pass on to their countrymen.

  3. That's great! Glad you had a great time. :)

    It's nice when we are able to connect on a deeper level, other than spending our time dispelling misconceptions, etc.

    I've also run into several Brazilians that returned home after years abroad. That's always fun. It's neat to exchange stories.

    I laughed when i saw your comment on people trying to be mysterious to have an air of success... I've noticed that, too. :D However, sometimes there's an Alfred Hitchcock sort of mysteriousness (as noted on this post) that makes me realize that i've never really been an inquiring mind - and there's no need to know now! ;)

    Até vocês voltam...


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