Congratulations! You made the bold decision to leave your home country and live abroad. It was an incredible adventure, filled with challenges that forced you to grow as a person. You likely have tons of experiences and advice you’d like to share, and the internet is here to help! Thanks to the wonders of modern technology, hundreds of thousands of expats and immigrants have congregated to forums on social media and beyond. Here you can offer your assistance and comfort for any sort of troubles your fellow travelers might have. There’s just one problem with these expat forums- and that’s the type of responses you’ll find there. Curious? Here are the 5 types of responses you’re likely to find on expat forums.
- The “Not Me, But…” Let’s face it: people like to help others. While this is extremely useful for situations where a person is asking an expert or even a small group of people, it gets chaotic on a larger scale. That’s when you start to see these responses. “Not me, but my brother’s wife’s cousin’s son had this problem.” “Not your exact scenario, but something almost completely different happened to me 10 years ago.” “I heard about this possibly being applicable to your problem but halfway through writing my response I realized that it’s irrelevant and I’m too scared to bail on writing this block of text to stop.” If this is starting to sound familiar, take a deep breath, reread what you’re about to post, and delete it.
- The Random Tangent “Oh wow! I totally know what you mean and can help! But before I do, let’s talk about how weird the food is here, amirite?” Look, we get it- the average person’s attention span has been in a nosedive since the invention of TV, and social media definitely isn’t helping. But FOCUS UP and let’s get to the matter at hand! Maybe you could actually be of assistance! Instead the person responding isn’t entirely aware that they’re on a wild goose chase and thinks that all the information they’re kindly providing is necessary to get the point across. What can you do? Start from the end of your response and work your way back- odds are good you’ll find what you need before you reach the start.
- The “Helpful” Sarcastic Ohhhh we all like to think we’re clever, don’t we? That, given the appropriate amount of time, we can craft a witty retort. And when people read that response, they’ll have a sensible chuckle (“What a good response!”) and perhaps even tell their friends (“This is deserving of recognition!”). Who knew it was so EASY to be helpful AND funny at the same time?! But guess what- you’re actually a jerk! Your answer might be correct but you do more harm than good when you make another person feel like shit for a laugh. Reword your response and save that cleverness for when you’re alone and don’t have to worry about coming across as an asshole.
- The Angry Response You’re angry. Maybe you’ve had a bad day or perhaps you spilled coffee on your pants while typing and are now upset. Maybe you had posted something and that “helpful” sarcastic was the only response you got. The point is, no one benefits from a response to a question that has the specific intent to call someone out or pick a fight. People get angry, there’s an argument about something that shouldn’t matter in the first place, and before you know it you wasted 2 hours over something dumb. Even worse, that original question never got answered and someone who might actually be able to help feels discouraged from trying. The best advice here is don’t post angry. Or better yet, start a comedy blog and moan about your problems there.
- The Actual Answer
You read a post, and guess what- YOU honestly know the answer! You can help someone and genuinely want them to succeed! You’re not going to treat them like a moron for asking, you’re not going to give useless information; it’s as simple as posting two or three helpful sentences and their problems are solved. These responses, sadly, don’t often get seen. Why? Because they’re buried under types 1-4. You’re discouraged from even trying for fear that someone who doesn’t know the answer is going to call you out and try to start something. And so the cycle continues- post doesn’t get answered, people lose faith in the system, and no one leaves satisfied. What can you do? Try. Stay firm in your response, don’t take the bait, and wait for the original poster to thank you.
Wonder what it’s like on the other side? Read the companion piece “The 5 Types of Posts on Expat Forums”!
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