Top 20 posts on #stuffexpataidworkerslike


If you’ve ever spent time working abroad you may find the following post amusing. For those who haven’t, you’ve been warned.

Two nights ago I logged in to Twitter to…well, tweet, when I came across a very amusing hashtag on my feed (for those of you not savvy in twitter language, a hashtag [#] is used to identify a key theme or phrase and help aggregate and organize discussions around that topic).  While I usually pay little attention to trending hashtags, this particular phrase caught my eye and ended up consuming the better part of an hour I could have otherwise spent doing real work.  The phrase? #Stuffexpataidworkerslike.

Having spent a considerable amount of time working abroad in South Africa and Mozambique, I felt inclined to take a look and soak in the endless list of amusing observations about people’s experience entering new geographical, cultural, and political settings with the similar goal of doing ‘aid work’.  Having also spent a chunk of my undergrad studying post-colonial literature, however, I am sure there are also many who will look past the humour of this list and have something legitimate to say.

Regardless of what side you are on, I thought I would compile a list of the most frequently ‘retweeted’ posts and let you make up your own mind. (Also, I know a number of people who have spent time ‘doing development’ abroad that will find this amusing).  A full, and instantly updated, stream of comments can be found on twitter by searching #stuffexpataidworkerslike.  You can also visit the newly formed blog, which is responsible for this burst of international insight:

Now, without further ado (and in no particular order):

The top 20 posts on #Stuffexpataidworkerslike!

  1. Having to explain why I need to work on poverty alleviation somewhere else when there’s too much poverty back home.
  2. Not telling people in your home country that you basically push paper but in a more exotic location.
  3. Being an expert in anything in your home country once you land in foreign one.
  4. Wearing Cargo Pants.
  5. Trying to explain what an INGO is to parents and ending up with: ‘its like working for the UN’.
  6. Proudly displaying Canadian flag (when American).
  7. Baiting local US Diplomats about what they might have said and when it will be leaked.
  8. Bargaining for 1 hour to drop the price by $1 because it’s “local price”.
  9. Romanticising their experiences with tropical illnesses.
  10. Arriving at your 8am board meeting to discover the board room is overrun by peacocks.
  11. Complaining about how *other* expats “erode local capacity”, but boasting about having “gone native.
  12. Using the local word for “white person” (& thus referring 2 self in the third person).
  13. Accidentally letting a word or 2 of a local lang. slip into your English back home:  “Oh, I was just in…”
  14. People from the US pretending they like Premier League or understand Rugby.
  15. Differentiating between ‘the field’ and ‘normal’ life.
  16. Drinking contests with the boss at the homebrew beer kiosk out front.
  17. Getting photo’d with Clooney or some other celeb in town, and being all ironic about enjoying it ‘.
  18. With bag of Afro-trinketst talking about how “authentic” their experience & not a tourist.
  19. Driving 5km down a sidewalk in a minibus taxi to avoid Joburg traffic.
  20. Their job? (amusing tag but almost all aid/dev workers I know are decent folk with largely admirable motives)

The list above represents 20 comments in a larger stream.  If anyone wants to share their own observations, please feel free to comment below, log onto twitter, or check out


Categories: Technology


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