Having reviewed a couple of books over the last two weeks, I thought I would do something completely different this time and look at a Facebook site.
I am a huge fan of social media, especially for expats. I realise it has its downsides – I worry about how it will impact on our children when they get a little older (a very little bit, we have a nine-year-old so this time really is only just round the corner). And I also totally acknowledge what a time-sucker it is: it’s amazing how much more I write when I go somewhere with no internet connection.
But when you’re far from home, when you’ve recently arrived somewhere and the only adult you’ve spoken to all day is the woman at the check-out till at the local supermarket, it’s a wonderful thing that you can still keep in touch with your nearest and dearest via the web. Email, instant messaging, Facebook, Twitter, not to mention Skype and Facetime – all fantastic ways to still feel a part of life back home, even when you’re thousands of miles away.
Sometimes, though, there are things you don’t want to talk to the people “back home” about. You don’t want to bother them, or there are things they simply don’t understand. When you’re having a bad day in paradise (or even in Kazakhstan or Antananarivo), it’s difficult to get anyone to listen.
There are “anonymous” forums you can turn to, but it can be hard to find one that includes enough people who will “get” you. So this is where a group like Grumpy Expat can really come into its own.
Started initially as a forum by an American expat in Switzerland, the page is still fairly Swiss-expat heavy but has been expanding rapidly to now include expats from all over the world, attracted by the notion that here is a place they can grump and not be judged for it. At least, not always be judged – there are occasions when discussions take a slightly unpleasant turn. But founder and moderator Alison Trainer always makes sure to jump in and sensibly negotiate proceedings if she thinks people are starting to be unfriendly to each other – this certainly isn’t what this site is about.
Instead, what it is is a place where people can let off steam. As the “about” section states:
There’s a limit to how much “complaining” any of us want to do on the standard expat forums, lest we be told “if you are so unhappy, why don’t you just go home?” No one will tell you that here. Instead we will tackle expat frustrations with humour, energy, mutual support, and creative solutions.
As the page was started originally by an expat in Switzerland, there is a heavy emphasis on grumpy expats from that part of the world (and from following posts, I have learned an awful lot about what it’s like to live as an expat in that country – who knew doing the laundry could be such an issue!). But dont be put off if you live elsewhere – there is also a lot of general expat “grumpiness” from other places, as well as a lot of support, advice and real-life friend making.
I also wouldn’t want you to think this is a place full of moaners. I am fairly sure that most people use this page simply as a good place to get something off their chest – and thus be able to carry on in a more cheerful manner back in their “real life”. For this, it’s a great idea. Anyone who has been an expat will realise that there will be frustrations, wherever you live, and that part of the “culture shock” cycle will mean we will almost all encounter those frustrations at some point. Having a place to off-load those frustrations could be just the thing to help.
Grumpy Expat is a closed Facebook group, so you must ask to join. To do so, visit their Facebook page here. Recommended for: grumpy expats everywhere, but particularly those in Switzerland, Germany and other northern European countries (as this is where many of their members are based).
Photo of Grumpy courtesy of Mike Carbonaro – https://www.flickr.com/photos/11950mike/