I just finished reading the newly released “Expat etiquette:how to look good in bad places.” It’s a great read for anyone heading to a developing country for the first time—especially if you’ll be staying for more than a few weeks.
Expat Etiquette is one of the most readable travel guides I’ve ever come across. It’s got some truly amazing anecdotes and enough humor to stay interesting, even when it’s listing out the various diseases you may need to diagnose yourself with. It’s totally pragmatic, with sections like “how to use a squat toilet,” and “how to choose a restaurant unlikely to make you sick, ““how to not annoy the hell out of other ex-pats,” and “how to not get killed on the road,” and other skills that you might not have known you needed until you got there and learned them the hard way. More than anything, adjusting to like in a third world context requires accepting a different mindset and orientation to the world—where things more often go wrong than right, scarcity is a daily part of life for most, life is wildly unfair, nice guys finish last, and that really, you’re totally on your own and no one else really cares what happens to you. This may all be true in your hometown, but here there’s no way to avoid looking these types of realities in the eye in places like Dhaka, Kabul, and Khartoum. The sooner you adjust, the sooner you can start to enjoy a new place and get things done. But as the book reminds you constantly, you'll still want to make sure you keep a stash of emergency toilet paper nearby, no matter how acclimated you become.
Nothing in Expat Etiquette is groundbreaking, but it’s the stuff that no one really tells you and is extremely helpful to know up front. There’s a few missing chapters that I have identified, so maybe I’ll write up an accompanying guide with fun issues like:
- How to avoid getting roped into other people’s financial problems
- What to do when you get lost (and determine just how lost you are)
- How to manage a maid effectively and avoid getting robbed
- “Your country please?” How to shut down unwanted conversations on the street
- Boil your milk and rinse your rice: how to avoid getting sick from your own cooking
For those who are headed to Dhaka specifically, I've written up some travel tips already. Comments welcome!