Cold, clear and dry with blue skies.
I've been a permanent resident in Carmine Superiore for a number of years now. Long enough to not remember exactly when I signed on at the Ufficio Anagrafe and first held in my hand my very own Italian ID card. Long enough to consider myself an expat, even though I don't have the hoopla salary or the palatial living quarters that most proper expats have. I'm not on contract, I haven't been seconded, I don't want to keep the peace and I'm not on a mission. I just live here.
And now I think I've lived here long enough to have earned the right to offer some advice to those fresh off the boat. To list, without futher ado, some of what I see to be the do's and don'ts of expat life:
1. Don't think you can get away with English and a winning smile. Make an effort to learn the language, and even if you become fluent, always apologise for speaking so badly. If you think you might not be up to the language-learning bit, squeeze out several children and throw them into the local state school. That way you'll always have an interpreter to hand.
2. The first words you should learn in the language of your adoptive country are : "Please speak slowly. I don't speak very good French/Italian/Gujarati..." As your linguistic ability increases, this can be upgraded to : "You can tell I'm foreign because I'm wearing M&S easy-wear jeans and I just used the wrong tense. You could easily answer 'yes' or 'no' to my question, so why the hell do you insist on talking nineteen to the dozen with a lump of Turkish Delight in your mouth? Cavolo!" (If you're in Italy, one mention of cabbages, and you'll have them where you want them...)
3. Don't imagine you're making friends among the local population until you've been invited into their homes. Children's parties don't count. But key parties do.
4. Be nice, very nice, about the country you are living in. Sshhht! Not a word, not even a single criticism. Clamp that mouth shut! Gaffer tape works...But if you absolutely must, write a blog - an anonymous blog.
5. He's from your home country, but it's okay if you don't become bosom buddies. You may share a nationality, but it doesn't mean he'll necessarily share your love of collecting decorative handcuffs or carving eggshells.
6. When making appointments with bureaucrats, always ask what particular documents you need. Then take everything you can think of - resident's permits, birth certificates, passports, ID cards, 'O'-level certificates, receipts for shoe repairs, your granddad's 100th-birthday letter from HM. In triplicate. Short (and sharp) courses on 'How to Deal with Bureaucracy' are available at any Indian railway station, and in the holding cells attached to Nigerian customs.
7. Buy local. In particular, don't import white goods from your home country. It'll annoy the local supplier you ask to fix them when they go wrong. Either he 'can't get the parts' or he genuinely can't get the parts. Either way you'll be doing the washing up by hand.
8. Don't allow yourself to get nostalgic about the Motherland. It stank when you left. And it still stinks. Probably more.
9. And finally, don't believe what you read in expat handbooks. They're written by people like me.