17 Expats You’ll Find in Haiti

Before we all get our imported undies in a knot, this list is meant to be light-hearted and by no means offensive. We’ve all got our reasons for going to Haiti but usually they’re much more about ourselves than anything else (which isn’t always a bad thing, see my last post). Sometimes this results in creating a cast of foreigners in the country that more closely resembles the cast of a trashy reality tv show, which really just keeps things interesting. So before anyone gets their feelings hurt because they think I’m picking on them for fitting one of these descriptions, just know that I fit some of them myself, or have in the past, or probably will in the future. I’m friends with all of these characters and enjoy working with many of them.

At least you're not Mr. Fanny Pack (or maybe you are, in which case thanks for always having a pocketknife, sanitizer, and snacks on hand.)

At least you’re not Mr. Fanny Pack (or maybe you are, in which case thanks for always having a pocketknife, sanitizer, and snacks on hand.)

Actually, what I’m hoping that you can read in this is the fact that it takes us all together regardless of our quirks or motivations or eccentricities to work with each other with an understanding and acceptance of one another. And in fact, I’ve found that this is usually how Haitians who don’t know us well refer to us.  “Who?” “You know, the blan.” “Which blan? There’s so many of them anymore.” “You know, the old one that doesn’t do anything.” or “that crazy one that’s always drinking and dancing.” or “that one with all the kids that just keeps adding more.”  Of course, we all know that these aren’t the things that define us, but you gotta keep us apart somehow. The varying fashion faux pas help. Stereotypes do, after all, help us categorize to make things easier in our minds. We’re all just a bit nuts, those of us that actually choose to spend time in this country, so let’s embrace our nuttiness with a healthy dose of awareness. And if anyone wants to pitch that concept for a reality show to some networks, let me know. I think it could be a hit.

1. The Earnest Evangelist “Do you know Jesus? Oh you do? Oh. Well, let me tell you about him anyway. Maybe if you hear about my Jesus you’ll choose to follow him instead of your Jesus. What’s that you say? It’s all the same Jesus just different interpretations? Well, okay. I’ll pray for you so that you’re heart may see the light.” Always has the best worst t-shirts and continually sees things that are unremarkable everyday occurrences to Haitians as monumental advances of the Gospel.

2. The Laid Back Hippie “Yeah man, this helping people thing is hard work. But it’s all good. Let’s just get some of that pot, it’s cheap and easy enough, and we can all just chill, and maybe sing something together.” Adapts very well to the Haitian attitude towards time. Dirty dreadlocks, probably didn’t pack any deodorant.

3. The Mid-life Crisis Humanitarian Instead of a sports car or an affair, trying to save the world should do the trick to put off feeling so old. Gotta prove they can still do it just like all those young bucks out there making a difference. Probably burnt out with the corporate world and decide that the remedy to their monotony is helping the poor Haitians. A polo shirt tucked into their jeans and the clueless look on their face gives them away.

4. The Check-it-off-my-list Traveler “Just like that one time in Burundi, or Bangladesh, or El Salvador or…” This one’s been everywhere and really doesn’t care about Haiti but needs to spend some time there just to prove that they can. The last notch in their belt before making it to globetrotter heaven they can’t resist comparing it to everywhere else they’ve been and fail at finding anything unique about it. You’ll find them under the floppy hat to protect them from the sun (because it’s everywhere).

5. The Retreating Retiree Felt guilty about spending retirement playing golf and antique shopping and always wanted to do something like this but never had the time with the work and family and everything. They try to do some good but realize soon that it takes more than good intentions and just spend most of their time relaxing on the beach and tell everyone back home that they’re “investing in the community” or “cultivating meaningful relationships” at least with their security guard or cleaning lady. Maintain the retiree uniform of Hawaiian print shirts.

6. The Starry Eyed Recent Grad So much hope and determination to change the world. So little basis for their idealism. Probably wears TOMS.

7. The Lovestruck Lifer Came for some very noble purpose, but would never stick around if they weren’t getting any on the side with some hot Haitian, or maybe many hot Haitians. Fall in love with the country, fall in love with someone in the country, and the good work outside of the relationship becomes a justification of the relationship. Inescapable, sometimes beautiful, sometimes dangerous. Eventually wearing maternity clothes or a “#1 Papa” t-shirt.

8. The Sad Storyteller Makes sure you know the tragedy that they’ve had to endure simply because they got involved in this wondrously wretched place called Haiti which they love but has torn their heart out and ruined their life. But there’s no other place they’d rather be. But they’ll make sure to tell you everything that’s gone wrong for them as they wear their greys and beiges with a bottle of Barbancourt in their hand  to wash away their sorrows.

9. The Confident Businessman Has the most successful organization around, at least judging by their financial statements. Runs their programs with meticulous efficiency thanks to their smartphone, ipad, and very well labeled folders of paperwork, not to mention their address book sans competition. Ask any Haitian about them though, no one can tell you who they are or what they do. Haven’t even heard of em. Doesn’t own one piece of clothing purchased in Haiti.

10. The Burnt-out Cynic Would have given up on this “helping Haiti bullshit” a long time ago if they had anything to go back to. So they stick around just to make sure to tell all the others that they’re wasting their time. Also gave up on shaving or putting any effort into their appearance a long time ago, cuz really what’s the point when nothing ever changes anyway? Prestige is their best friend.

11. The Identity Seeker “I don’t know who I am anymore. Maybe I can find out in an exotic location full of people that I can help.” Probably not. Does yoga and hums a lot. Fashion changes every week depending on what they see being worn around them trying to figure out what they feel right in.

12. The Party Animal “Beach? Hell ya! Rum? Hell ya? Beer? Hell ya! Dirty Dancing? Woooooo! Bring it on! Loud music? Wiiiiiiiiiiiiii! Helping marginalized children? Oh, well, we can do that tomorrow as long as I’m not hungover.” Stress relief is necessary to a point but to some it becomes a lifestyle. Something that looks good under black lights if anything at all.

13. The Fugitive Would be in prison if they weren’t in Haiti. Here they can do drugs with the police and if they want to deal just give em their cut. Hang out, stay high, but keep a low profile. Don’t make friends with any of the other expats because they’ll ask too many questions about “what you do here” but have some sort of story always prepared just in case. The only expat in XXL Fubu.

14. The Scholar Looking for reasons to everything and spend their time trying to explain the unexplainable with words that have been spoken or written by hundreds of intelligent scholars before them. But it all ends up making less sense to them in the end then it did before. When they were getting their PhD’s they learned formulas for why the world is the way it is and they believe they can find the reasons why Haiti doesn’t fit those formulas. They made sure to get the transition lenses in their glasses before coming to Haiti.

15. The Family Raiser Wants to make sure their kids grow up being able to understand other cultures and rejoice in the earth-shattering moments when their kids make innocently beautiful realizations about race and ethnicity. Probably works for an orphanage or school. Dress their kids up way more ethnically than their Haitian neighbors dress their kids.

16. The Open-minded Voodoo Disciple The anti-missionary. They’re there just to prove that voodoo has value and is a really vital part of Haitian culture. They really don’t believe it all, at least not the same as the Haitians, but it’s trendy, so they jump in with all the lwa possession they can muster, mostly because there are too many Christians already in Haiti. “Faux mambo” the Haitians say and watch em gyrate and offer and summon with smirks on their faces. Can be seen wearing a colorful moomoo or a shirt 2 sizes too big and a wild look in their eyes.

17. The Superhero Came here because they saw an ad or heard some speaker or read some facebook status that told them that they could “Save a life, change a life, make a difference in a life, or even give life” Now they constantly update their own status to let everyone know how they are changing lives on a daily basis. Their liberal arts bachelor’s degree didn’t do squat for them in the US but as soon as they land in Haiti they’re a teacher, rock-star, doctor, agronomist, expert on everything. They have a tattoo somewhere on their body of a quote from Mother Theresa or Mahatma Ghandi and wear t-shirts that are better designed than the Evangelist but twice as cliche.

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13 comments

  1. Some more types that we find in Honduras (that may or may not be on your list.)
    1. The retiree married to a Honduran who has an answer for all the political and social problems of Honduras which usually means supporting those who supported the coup in 2009. Writes a blog.
    2. The retiree who is here because it’s cheaper than living in the US.
    3. The missionary who is not interested in converting people since he thinks God’s already working here, but he wants to help the people realize what they already know. (Sounds like me and writes two blogs.)
    4. The radical journalist/anthropologist/scholar who is on the side of the Resistance and considers all the other groups “golpistas.”
    5. The entrepreneur who is working to exploit Honduras’ resources (labor, gold, water, etc.).
    6. The bilingual school teacher who enjoys life here, despite mediocre pay. Usually young.
    7. The young person working in an orphanage.
    8. An oldtimer (in his forties) who came years ago, has stuck around, helps in an orphanage, and has some work to generate funds.

  2. I’ve got one too and I deny any resemblance to myself… 😉
    The bleeding heart do-gooder, very closely related to but not to be confused with the Superhero. Thinks everyone should care as much as she does about Haiti, wants her Haitian-American kids to really “know” and “give back to” the country of their heritage, struggles with guilt from enjoying the luxuries in the US, tries to convince herself that the “Made in Haiti” tag in clothing (particularly undergarments) really does mean that good money made its way into the hands of a Haitian, secretly not sure anything she does will do any good but shoves those fears away by self-righteously touting her org’s strengths 🙂

  3. I was once told that the expat list in Haiti amounted to “missionaries, mercenaries and misfits.” Oh, and FWIPs – “f***ing well-intentioned people.” Thanks for the expansion!

  4. Sometimes all of these blogs about Haiti seem a little self-focused? Even as we are mocking ourselves for being self-focused?

    1. Thanks Sandra, I try so hard sometimes to move on from the Superhero to become the Confident Businessman but I’m not near organized enough. I just pray someday I don’t turn into the Burnt Out Cynic.

      1. Typical US women answer, think your a unique special snowflake too.bWishbyou types would stay in the USA.

  5. True, Haiti gave volunteerism a bad name. The rapid influx of personnel after the earthquake was well intentioned, but misguided. One has to do more than just “show up.” Your list is funny and true, but not anything I really gave much thought, as it applies to people I’ve met in situations all thru my life in general. You know, those people exist. Okay, so what. That’s life.
    There were also people there who were competent active souls, with a sense of purpose, focus and skillset. They “do” Haiti, so the last thing they want is to “talk” about it. In other words, some events in one’s life are deep and personal, and things that are deep and personal, well, should remain just that, deep and personal.

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