Back when I was obsessed with life in Saudi Arabia (don’t ask), one of the questions that came up was, If I ever did move to Saudi, would I choose to live in a compound or within the larger Arab community somewhere in the city. Ironically, one of the running jokes with my friends was, let’s move to Saudi Arabia when all hell broke loose in our lives. I say ironically, because one of the main reasons I decided that it would be hell to live there is that boys and girls can neither be friends, nor can they be seen together and that’s precisely what happened in Hungary. Which isn’t the only similarity.
I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again. Expat communities are all the same no matter where you go. And just to clarify, here’s what I mean when I say expat: a person who left their country for a while with every intention of coming back. A person who stays in their own group and complains, mainly about not being able to fit in, when they themselves make no effort to do so. Moving around made me less shy, because I didn’t have the patience to wait for people to approach me. I’m by no means perfect, but I know full well that things are going to be different from back home (wherever that may be). Which brings us back to the compound.
I’ve never lived on one. The closest I came to it is dipping in and out of army housing whenever I visited my friends. My godfather lived among the Germans, so he didn’t really count in that sense. But I hung out with plenty of expats on plenty of occasions (which is inevitable) and gradually a pattern emerged. The same places were recommended again and again. Need a place for beauty? Go to Expat Hair. Need an accountant or a lawyer? Expat Ed will take care of your needs. A place to hang out? Expat Home. A language school? Expat Tongues. And so on and so forth.
I have nothing against places where likeminded people can congregate. But it’s interesting how the minute you post a question, they pounce on the comments like vultures, recommending Expat Whatevers as though it were a cult. Which in many ways it is. Say something negative about any of that, and the cult followers trash you, barring you from having your voice heard if you had a negative experience. These places are no doubt excellent and offer good service. And it’s important for newcomers to know where to look. But not all things work for everyone.
I imagine life on the compound is a but like that. Agree with the majority, and you’re all set. Disagree, and your life is hell. I might be wrong, so please correct me if I am.