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Five Years of Language and Culture Comics ?

Expat Gone Foreign - Clipart - Muffin, Cupcake, Sweets, Hip magdalena

Five years ago, I was in a bit of a hassle. I had a full-time job, I was on the final lap of my PhD program, and still reeling from continuous relocation. “I should take up a hobby to decompress.” – I thought.

I was too lazy to exercise, and too impatient to knit. So I resorted to an old past time: drawing. When I say it OLD, I mean it 1.

Expat Gone Foreign, drawing, cartoons, hobby, past time, expat comics

Despite my questionable drawing skills, I decided to illustrate my everyday adventures abroad, a humorous graphic diary of language phenomena, culture clashes and awkward situations. That way, I could immortalize memorable moments as well as unravel the foreignness around me. A pretty exciting project.

So, today five years ago, I sat at home and came up with a concept. In the following days, I did some artwork, set up the website and Facebook page, and invited my family and close friends to follow my graphic journey. But then the unexpected happened: in a short time and for reasons that escaped my mind, a bunch of people all over the Internet had joined the intercultural party.

Expat Gone Foreign, Language and travel comics, life abroad, expat humor, mind-blown

And here we are.

The 5-year anniversary merited a special post, so last month I threw a poll in the Expat Gone Foreign – Airport Lounge Group 2 to ask you guys what the content of this special occasion should be. Thy wish be done, my dearest friends!

Expat Gone Foreign, Language and Culture Comics, Anniversary, Birthday Cake


1. Learning by doodling

Although most comic strips are the result of spontaneous language observations or social interactions abroad, I tend to get curious about the topic I’m illustrating, and this curiosity often leads to in-depth research. Whether I’m trying to unravel why British sinks have separate taps or figure out the origin of crazy German idioms, extensive reading, contrasting information and asking locals is always required to create accurate content.

Expat Gone Foreign - Language and Culture Comics, Clipart, Books, Learning, Pile

Accuracy is important, but so is self-preservation. One brain fart, one cultural slip of the tongue, and the Internet will jump onto you like those hysterical hellhounds from Resident Evil.

Learning by doing – or in this case, learning by doodling – I have come across many fascinating facets of languages and foreign cultures as a result of illustrating and composing the articles.

Expat Gone Foreign - Language and Culture Comics, Clipart, Drawing, Art supplies, Cartoons, Starionery

In addition, and this is the coolest part, your comments and posts have taught me a great deal of cool stuff. Your experiences have given me an insight into different world views, and sometimes you’d make me see an issue from a totally different angle.

For instance, when I drew the time zone math, I was only thinking about the inconvenience of talking to friends who live on the opposite side of the planet, but it was brought to my attention that time zones were an absolute nightmare for programmers. I have a new found sympathy for them now. And this is ultimately what learning is about: going beyond your bubble, reaching out of your own reality and seeing the world from a different set of lenses.

Expat Gone Foreign, Discovering the world from a different perspective, new lenses, glasses

You have been wonderful, and I can’t thank you enough for letting me borrow your glasses every once in a while. Which brings us to the next point:


2. Together alone, united apart

Most relocation stories begin the same way: you bought a one-way ticket, packed your life in a suitcase, and now you are standing in the middle of your new yet daunting home, so scarcely furnished that your voice echoes all over the place. The emptiness is palpable, and the inevitable realization suddenly creeps in: you are on your own now.

Expat Gone Foreign - Language and Culture Comics, Clipart, Suitcase, Relocation, Moving, Alone

You may be alone, but you are not the only one. We can be alone together, and that’s where Expat Gone Foreign comes in. In the past five years, we have become a quaint little community where you have shared your relocation experiences, daily struggles abroad, linguistic challenges and cultural interests, and in doing so, connected with other kindred spirits in a similar situation.

Since Expat Gone Foreign set sail, I have met a myriad of wonderful people 3, from language enthusiasts to inspiring migrants. Some of you I have met in person, some are online regulars that feel like long-time friends, and some have sent me lovely emails and encouraging words that have made my day on many occasions. Messages like “This comic helped me get over the initial culture shock, just when I thought I was going insane” or “This post gave me the final motivation kick to learn this language” are just priceless, and a constant reminder to keep doodling and bringing folks together.

The world is full of magical people. They may be scattered around, but we are getting closer.

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3. Haters gonna hate

With almost eight billion humans out and about, you are bound to bump into a considerable number of people who have different backgrounds and world views. And that’s great. Wonderful things can happen when we all put on our thinking caps and exchange ideas.

For all those enriching discussions, positive experiences and entertaining moments, there are always a few trolls lurking around. Of course there are different breeds: some are just bored passers-by that come at you with “this comics is stupid” (too bad, go draw your own comics then), others are douchebaguettes who seem to use social media only to smack and instigate fights.

The internet can be brutal, but soon enough I learnt that its creators provided us with brilliant mute options and block features. My advice: do your thing and don’t waste a second of your time on troubled souls. If it doesn’t spark joy, block it away.Expat Gone Foreign, Getting Rid of Negativity and Toxic People


4. Let gratitude [ˈreɪn]

Unraveling foreign cultures and connecting with people has been great, but there is a more valuable lesson that Expat Gone Foreign has taught me: gratitude.

For starters, I used to sail the internet without a second thought on how content got out there. Blogs, videos, podcasts and learning resources just happened to “be there”. Realizing how much dedication it takes to put articles and illustrations together has drastically changed this conception and the way I interact online. Now, whether I look up a cooking recipe, a language video or a post explaining how to fix that annoying computer error, I feel compelled to leave a “thank you” comment. It’s the least I can do in exchange. I mean, they could have kept their knowledge and skills to themselves, but instead they took the time to create something and put it out there. Like I said, the world is full of magical people.Expat Gone Foreign, Penguin watching videos, How to Fly, Comics

But gratefulness goes far beyond our online habits. There’s also an offline world out there.

As I write these lines, I’m sitting comfortably at my desk, sipping homemade lemonade, listening to background music. I have a roof over my head, fresh produce in the fridge and running tap water. What we take for granted is not a self-evident reality, but rather, an inherited privilege. Yes, we worked hard for what we have, but think about where you started. Our lives may not have been the easiest, but I have met people whose poignant stories make my harshest experiences sound like a joke in comparison.

I don’t think we 4 realize how incredibly hard we hit the geographical jackpot when we were born, and how little thankfulness and solidarity we practice. Anytime is a good time to start.

Expat Gone Foreign, Puzzle pieces, solidarity, working together


5. Do what you love

Many readers think that I draw cutesy cartoons for a living. The fact is, doodling is just one of my hobbies 5. I work in the field of applied linguistics, and conduct independent research and language publications.

By independent I mean that I grew tired of churning out countless, time-bound academic publications that only a handful of scholars were ever going to read. And that’s the fifth lesson that Expat Gone Foreign has taught me in these five years: why create tedious products only for a reduced circle of erudites that are already experts in their field, when you can present your knowledge and share your skills in an entertaining, digestible manner, so that you spark the interest of the many?

Expat Gone Foreign - Clipart - Lightbulb, idea, project, create, follow your passion

If you are good at something, put it out there. Write, visualize, compose, create… you name it.  There’s some truth to the trite cliche “Follow your passion”.

Now, I’m not saying that you should quit your job to start that gardening YouTube channel you have been dreaming about. One still has to be realistic. To this day, Expat Gone Foreign doesn’t make enough revenue to even cover the website hosting fees, let alone buy art supplies (although if you are feeling generous, you can always donate some gold or get some cool merchandise).

And that’s alright. I don’t expect it to ever become a sustainable income, but maybe someday it can generate enough profit to pay for itself and even advertise the comics, so that more people around the world get to enjoy them. Who knows? The world is our oyster.

Plant the seed. Do what you love, and eventually, every piece will fall into place.

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Even if you are a penguin.


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So long, and thanks for all the bliss.

Stay tuned on Expat Gone Foreign’s channels!

Comic strips and discussions.

Random, unfiltered thoughts.

Pretty words in pretty places.


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Mediterranean Hospitality

Warmth, friendliness and exquisite cuisine. If this is what comes to mind whenever you think of Mediterranean countries, you are not wrong. Southern folks certainly have their amicable ways going for them, and they also pride themselves on their local produce and delicious homemade meals. Whether you are visiting your relatives or meeting some friends in the warm South, you’ll realize soon enough that Mediterranean hospitality is no joke.Expat Gone Foreign, tXc, culture comics, Mediterranean, hospitality, living abroad comics

I have always wondered what would happen if you were to respond: “Yes, please!”. Would they then shovel a double portion onto your plate? Would they be pleased or taken aback by such a gluttonous response?

In addition, if you happen to be in a small city where everyone knows everyone, neighbors and acquaintances will promptly invite you in for a chat if they see you wandering around. Offering a bite to your visitors is not a choice, it’s a a well-rooted lifestyle. And by bite I mean an enticing feast with enough food to sink Noah’s Ark.

But hey, Mediterraneans certainly enjoy providing their guests with delicious meals as much as I enjoy devouring them. So, who am I to turn down their hearty generosity?



If you liked this strip, check out Home Sweet Yummy Home.

Are you a foodie who holds Mediterranean cuisine in high esteem? Read the article Exotic Kackendorf Food and other Culinary Violations.

On Migration, Identity and Colorful Earthlings

If you have moved abroad 6, the following scenario might sound familiar: you are at a social gathering, sipping your drink and having a pleasant time. You meet a bunch of new people and engage in small talk. You talk about the weather, food or common interests. They seem friendly. Everything is going well.

But the locals notice that something is off. Maybe you look different, maybe they sense an accent, maybe your body language deviates from the norm. Then the inevitable question arises.

Expat Gone Foreign, tXc, life abroad comics, cultural identity, colorful, worldly, displaced, dépaysement, adaptation

They are genuinely curious to know more about your background, but you realize that the question is somewhat flawed. They ask “where are you from”, and I wonder if this is what they picture in their minds:Expat Gone Foreign, tXc, expat comics, home country, living abroad

But you are not a tourist from country X in country Y. You are not even a long-term guest. In fact, you’ve been away for so long, that right now you are much closer to Y than X. You are at a loss for words.Expat Gone Foreign, tXc, life abroad comics, TKC, cultural baggage, background, assimilation, acculturation

In addition, your birthplace, the cultural background of your parents or the country where you grew up might be totally separate variables. For the sake of simplification, let’s say those three elements can be stacked up in one pile. It still feels wrong to say I’m X. Instead, I picture something like this:

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You are in that green area, fluctuating between two worlds, really belonging to neither. Too foreign here, too alien for home.

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The conversational partner seems to be getting impatient. Maybe I could say that I’m both X and Y, and call it a day. It wouldn’t be a lie either, for I am a dual citizen.

I slightly lean back and take a look around. I spot my husband, who happens to be Z, talking to a middle-aged man, fighting the language barrier in order to explain what he does for a living. I know the struggle. We have all been Z at some point. He also puts his cultural luggage on the table, making our household an XYZ home.Expat Gone Foreign, tXc, third culture, cultural background, foreign couple

However, there’s more to this equation than X, Y, Z. There’s also A, B, C, D and E. All those places where I have lived, all those people that I have met, all those different world views that I have collected over the years.Expat Gone Foreign, tXc, expat comic, comic strip, international relationships, life abroad

The mental diagram keeps growing 2. With every new added circle, the “me” intersection becomes tinier and darker. So tiny that it feels restrictive. You want to break free, yet don’t know how to sew all the pieces together and stitch up a unified self. You are a patchwork of traits without defined identity. A shattered mirror where every fragment reveals one particular reality, and one runs the risk of getting lost between its cracks. You are part of everywhere and nowhere at the same time.Expat Gone Foreign, tXc, life abroad comics, foreigner, vivir en el extranjero, im Ausland leben, AusländerThen the sudden realization strikes. It’s the question that was wrong all along.

You may be from somewhere, yet feel part of something else. Your identity is a fluid construct, a colorful coalescence. You are all the pieces of the puzzle, and those that are yet to come. You don’t have to settle for X when you can be the whole damn alphabet 3.Expat Gone Foreign, tXc, TCK, patchwork, global awareness, world citizen

So, next time someone asks where you are from, think big.

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Dedicated to everyone who has ever felt out of place.

British Politeness

“Getting around in the UK will be a piece of cake, I’m already fluent in English!” – Boy, was I wrong. I had to learn how to read between the lines, a skill only found in the British genome.

You see, successful communication in Britain is all about the implied meaning rather than what is actually said. In fact, Brits are the best at not getting to the point. But worry not! Here is a comprehensive guide to decipher the cultural enigma of British politeness.

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If you liked this strip, check out British sinks.

Foreign, not deaf

Human interactions are fascinating, especially when the people involved in the linguistic exchange don’t share a common language. Picture the following scenario: a native speaker attempts to communicate with a foreigner. The native says something and the non-native looks puzzled. Then the native repeats the exact same thing in the exact same order and speed, just 30 decibels louder. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

Expat Gone Foreign, tXc, language comics, life abroad, native speaker yelling to foreigner

My hearing works perfectly, thank you very much. I’m foreign, not deaf. Shouting is not going to magically make me speak your language or understand words that I haven’t previously learnt. Rephrase, use simpler structures, find more basic vocabulary… anything but yelling.

Two people don’t need a common language to communicate. They just need to be willing to understand each other.