#179 Exotic holiday greetings
Submitted by Michael Keller, who is writing a book about aid organizations’ inefficiencies and has started Tweeting at: @AidHappens
The most efficient way for Expat Aid Workers to show off their level of local integration is by posting an exotic message on Facebook (because not everyone can see you dressing like the locals). And the laziest way of doing that is to wish your 746 friends a joyous holiday, provided that none of your friends at home have any idea what that holiday is.
For, as with so much of an EAW’s life on Facebook, the goal of the holiday greeting is not to spread joy, but rather to instill jealousy of your nomadic lifestyle. With a simple “Happy Vesak”, the EAW in deepest Sri Lanka pretends to share in her neighbor’s joy at the enlightenment of Gautama Buddha, while not-so-subtly reminding friends back in Western suburbia that her daily life not only involves dodging bullets and using weird toilets, but occasionally includes immersion in pagan rituals that her friends can only read about in National Geographic. No matter that the EAW has to check Wikipedia first to ensure that she’s vicariously celebrating the right holiday; the message has been sent, and any doubting comments can be deflected with mock offense that anyone would turn a celebration into a political issue.
Moreover, the exotic Facebook holiday greeting allows the poster in Bujumbura to pretend that he has mountains of local friends, with whom he connects on a level that folks back home could never comprehend without having their minds completely blown (because they’ve never had chauffeurs).
A few easy tricks, however, can upgrade a simple but impressive “Happy Diwali” to a jaw-dropping missive capable of shaming even the hardiest of crusty old EAWs. First, post your greeting long after you’ve left the country where that holiday is celebrated. This helps remind your new EAW colleagues that you have years of field cred behind you and think nothing of celebrating Nowruz in the jungles of Colombia.
Second, use the local name of the holiday. All but the fresh-off-the-plane newbie EAWs know that Eid al Adha follows Eid al Fitr , but only those who’ve put in their time in the Senegalese bush casually wish the world a “Joyeuse Tabaski” (or is it Korité?).
Third, for extra points, mystify your boring high school friends and simultaneously flash your amazing language skills by posting your message in the local alphabet. Nothing says “I am a better person than you” quite like “दिवाली की शुभकामनाएं, wish I could see you all at the temple this year you guys!”
Finally, for maximum bad-ass effect, post about a Muslim holiday and add that you want the world to know that Islam is a religion of peace. The people in your hometown will lose their shit, just like you planned.
So remember, for those of us who wouldn’t be caught dead wishing anyone a Merry Christmas (so pedestrian), there’s nothing quite as satisfying as wishing the interwebs an “Eid Mubarak”, even if you have absolutely no idea what that means.