Fair Play - Rules of Behavior with New Arrivals and Expats. Part of the Defining Moves - The Art of Successful Relocation Series

Fair Play – Rules of Behavior with New Arrivals and Expats.


Fair Play - Rules of Behavior with New Arrivals and Expats. Part of the Defining Moves - The Art of Successful Relocation Series

My sister was recently invited to attend a local badminton club, and to cut a long story short, she wasn’t exactly welcomed with open arms. Thankfully, she is made of pretty stern stuff and like a phoenix from the ashes, rose above adversity to bring us the 8 Noble Truths of playing nice with local newcomers and expats alike..

1. Behave like an adult.

What is it about someone new in the group that makes everyone regress to high school? Seriously, we have all seen new people before, and we promise not to steal your boyfriend, copy your homework or start rumors about you. We may have different clothes, hair, skin or accents, but we are here because we believe that individuality should be celebrated, not castigated. So if you could just treat us like an intelligent, normal human being rather than an alien with three heads, that would be marvelous.

2. Don’t make us look foolish, just because you can.

We are your guests, and are on our best behavior. This makes us easy targets for ridicule, but aggressively smashing feathered objects back across the net to try and intimidate us says far more about you than us.

3. Tell us the rules before you start.

We are new to this, so if you have particular codes of conduct that you would like us to adhere to, we are happy to be told. If your way of deciding who is going to serve first is to tap the shuttlecock in the air and see who it points to when it lands, we can accept that. But if you don’t tell us, and we leap athletically into action to return your ‘serve’, don’t tut, roll your eyes and stomp off. We’re not mind readers, and we’re just trying to play the game, for pity’s sake.

4. Forgive us our trespasses.

The trouble with unspoken rules is that they are, well, unspoken.We are going to make mistakes and step on your toes. So if you have strong feelings about which part of the court is yours, let us know. And use words, please, rather than swiping at us with your racquet.

5. If you invite us to join, include us.

When you put up posters advertising for new club members, implicit in that notice is a certain inclusivity. For those of you who may be unfamiliar with that word, it means that the odd kind word is not only appreciated, it’s pretty much expected. If that’s too much effort for you, don’t put up the damn posters and waste both of our time..

6. Play fair.

We’ve been around the block, and so we know when you are just inventing new rules to make us look bad. We are trying to please, we are turning ourselves inside out to conform, but the fact that we are new doesn’t give you the right to take advantage. So please don’t leave us to pack up the equipment alone while you all head off to the pub.

7. We’re here because we want to meet you.

We may seem standoffish or awkward or unimpressed, but it’s because we feel uncomfortable. However it may seem, we really do want you to talk to us, and any overtures of friendship are greatly appreciated. So please don’t all huddle together in the corner like you’re being invaded – if you think you feel uncomfortable with someone new, imagine how we feel when everyone is new.

8. A smile is all it takes.

We don’t need intellectual dialogue, detailed resumes or witty repartee to make us feel included – simply acknowledging our existence with a smile or a hello is enough. So next time you see someone new walk in the room, make eye contact and smile. It costs you nothing, but to us, it’s priceless.


Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress

10 thoughts on “Fair Play – Rules of Behavior with New Arrivals and Expats.”

  1. OMG – OMG – I have to go back for the second night tonight – I’m really praying they don’t read this blog. 🙂 or maybe I do then maybe they’ll give me a chance – or at least some credit for the fact that I made my poor friend help me practice my serve for an hour on Friday (instead of our usual nutty knock about) – in the hope that I might just fit in 🙂

  2. Oh how I can relate. We had a very unfortunate assignment to Los Angeles. We were used to the friendly atmosphere of Dhahran where all children are special. Not in LA!! The head of our Little League was the heiress to an office supply fortune–after a loss, she particularly objected to the way my 9-year-old son played and hit me with her umbrella. I have never bought Axxxy office supplies since. (Please don’t sue me, madam! I am, after all, just the dirt under your feet)

    1. Larry Miller does a brilliant stand up routine that talks about Little League – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qcPf3IpIBn8, 4.55mins for a snippet.

      “But Larry, isn’t Little League all about the kids and sunny days and friendships that will last a lifetime?”

      “well yes, but only in the sense that prostitution is all about working outdoors and being a people person”.

  3. Ha, ha, painfully true! I remember being told the International Women’s Club in Baku wasn’t accepting new members when I first arrived. God almighty, I ask you, what kind of expat club closes it’s doors to new members??? Fortunately after literally months holed up in my apartment I did finally connect with a friendlier crowd. These rules may seem obvious, but sadly they are sorely needed.

  4. Hurray – I had a happy time – the serving practice clearly helped as I was no longer the annoying loser who can’t even get shuttle over net. Also someone pointed out that one member is a little hard of hearing so my interpretation (being ignored) was actually ‘can’t hear you’. So always best to blunder on in and give things a second chance 🙂 – I LOVE badminton club. (I did get hit once on the forehead and twice on chest so maybe they still not decided on me yet though 🙂

  5. Funny that. I’m sure Sarah was being her usual charming self, but i’ve been on the receving end of a couple of those swipes and it was a revelation. The person you know as your sister who is ordinarily perfectly charming and lovely to spend time with, turns into a completely different person on court. If ever there was a study in split personality …

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