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Tea Leaves

Why expatriates should stop moaning

Reflections on the not-so-subtle art of living in a foreign country

A vendor sells food for iftar -- the meal that breaks the fast in the evening -- on the first day of the holy fasting month of Ramadan at a traditional food market in Jakarta.    © Reuters

I have spent much of my life as an expatriate in a smorgasbord of countries, including China, Indonesia and Japan. And the greatest truth I have learned during these years is that it is not skin color, accent or command of a language that gives expats away. It is their propensity to moan about their usually agreeable circumstances.

When I lived in China in the early 2000s, the gamut of expat complaints included how dirty the streets were and how difficult it was to make local friends. The inefficiency of service providers, the terrible traffic and the fact that flushing toilet paper often caused the toilet to flood were other mainstays of the expat moanfest.

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