#129 Disparaging the Expat Bar
submitted by Matt Guttentag
The Expat Bar. The last bastion of that elusive taste of home for wanderers, lost souls, and of course, aid workers. With its unchanging cast of characters, the place manages to be both seductively familiar and depressingly corny at the same time.
On any given night, a mid-career EAW can look around The Expat Bar and see with disturbing clarity him or herself at every past, present, and future stage of professional life: the rambunctious backpacking college student, the doe-eyed grad student intern, the top-of-the-world manager and, alone in the corner unmoving except to raise his bottle at mechanical intervals, the hardened and misanthropic lifer.
Despite spending more time at The Expat Bar than any other local establishment, the discerning EAW knows better than to show any enthusiasm for the place. In fact, a true EAW will go out of the way to scorn the watering hole as much as possible. Friends passing through and want to know where to grab a drink? “Well, worst case scenario you could stop by The Expat Bar, but I only go there when I have to.” Home office staff in town? “I guess we can go to The Expat Bar tonight since you probably want Guinness, but I really don’t go there very often.”
Indeed, for a true EAW, the inevitable regular visits to The Expat Bar must be followed by a Rite of Aid Worker Penance to achieve a return to Local Authenticity Absolution. At the subsequent gathering of expat friends, in a voice loud enough for all to hear, the EAW will point out that The Expat Bar is “cheesy” and “a bore” and that he or she only went because they were showing the European football match/they have a pool table/visitors were in town who wanted imported beer. The EAW would have “much preferred to go” to the unlicensed hole in the wall in the worst part of town where the liquor can blind you and shaking with the wrong hand can get you stabbed. The most hard-core EAWs will extend this ritual to its logical conclusion by performing it while still at The Expat Bar itself, loudly proclaiming the inferiority of the very establishment they are concurrently patronizing. These EAWs manage to break right through the expat bar love/hate dichotomy, achieving a state of meta-cynical expat nirvana.
All week after making an appearance, the EAW will deride the overpriced beers and clichéd décor of the place. While spending $15 for a box of instant oatmeal at The Expat Grocery Store, the EAW will point out the other regular patrons of the bar, remarking with a sneer that they are “always at The Expat Bar” and making sure to imply the EAW’s own superior knowledge of local drinking spots.
Come Friday night, of course, the EAW and friends will be deciding what to do. So few options in town…and besides, the Man U game is on tonight…and it would be nice to have a game of pool as a distraction…and really, aren’t you in the mood for a darker beer?…and gosh, I know we all avoid going to that place…but I guess we can make an exception just for tonight…