The One Question You Shouldn’t Ask an Expat When You Meet Them

You can do better than that

Photo by Sound On on Pexels

I am Portuguese but have been living in Hungary for 3 years now. I met dozens of new people here and every single one of them asked me the same question. Every. Single. Person.

So, why did you move here?

While I understand people might be genuinely interested in the reasons that brought me here, I have come to hate this question.

It was alright for the first three months. Then, I started getting slightly sick of it. And after six months, I immediately lost interest in continuing the conversation if someone started it by asking:

So, why did you move here?

Use your brain for a little bit: you are trying to establish a connection with someone new. This person is a foreigner in your country. Asking her why she moved there is the most obvious question. If it’s so obvious, how many times do you think she has answered it?

Starting a conversation by asking…

So, why did you move here?

…is plain lazy. Try a little harder, you can do better than that.

Yes, I am a foreigner in the country I live in. But I am also a woman, a traveler, a writer, a former journalist, an IT professional, a vegetarian, a yogi, a daughter, and a sister.

Being an expat is just one facet of my life, and I am tired of being defined by it. I am not the Portuguese in Hungary. I am Diana, with all the multitudes that live inside me. Nice to meet you.

This is not to say that you should never ask…

So, why did you move here?

I will gladly answer this for you. Once we’ve gotten to know each other a little bit. Once I’ve realized that you’re actually interested in me, and not just having the most basic chit-chat. Once you’ve passed my “test of lazy conversationalist” — it’s really easy to pass it. You only need to do one thing, don’t make this your first question:

So, why did you move here?

I am sure nobody ever asked me this with a bad intention in their hearts. People are curious. Heck, I’m curious about the reasons that lead people to move as well! You can uncover so many awesome stories with this question.

But if you are just starting to know someone, lead with a good impression. Put yourself in their shoes. People like to talk about themselves, but they don’t like to repeat the same story to exhaustion every time they meet someone.

So, why did I move here?

I can’t finish without answering this, right?

I guess I was part of some wicked government scheme where they make you fall in love with Hungarians. Then you move here and start paying taxes in the country. Eventually, the Hungarian breaks up with you. But you like your new city, so you stay and keep paying taxes. It makes sense, right? It does to me, judging by the number of times I heard this story told by other expats here in Budapest.

See, I ask this question too. But sure as hell, I never make it my first one.

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Categories Articles, Expat Life

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