Expat Guide: Mean Girls Style

So in the movie Mean Girls there was that scene with the map of the high school cliques that sat in segregated tables in the lunch room. Remember that? There were the Plastics, Asian Nerds, Cool Asians, Burnouts, Sexually-Active Band Geeks, Varsity Jocks, etc? Well, as we’ve been meeting various people in Chișinău, we can’t help but form our own “lunch table guide” for internationals in this city.

At Tocano – an American style coffee shop that is a haven for all internationals despite the “clique” to which they belong. Here you can sit at any table and fit in.
  1. Entrepreneur ExPat
    • Most often a former Peace Corps volunteer, this person is both embracing Moldovan culture and attempting to improve some of its persistent flaws (ie corruption). Often tatted, trendy, and perhaps married to a native – this person usually has started their own business or is working in some other non-traditional capacity. This type of ExPat can be very generous with sharing their connections and knowledge of Chișinău. They live the life you sort of wish you lived, but maybe are glad that you don’t. They also seem to have a good working understanding of either Russian or Romanian. Seek out this person for a non-conservative conversation or advice on the best restaurants in town.
  2. Embassy Person
    • In Chișinău for only a 1-3 year stint, this group has the most traditionally “American” lifestyle. Usually married with children, embassy people hold stable work hours in an office-type setting. Less open to new relationships than the Entrepeneur ExPat, this clique is best accessed through a church or some other organized group. They have their own system for integrating into a country and may not be as friend-needy as yours truly. Also, they probably live in a real nice house!
  3. Missionary
    • Ironically, this group may be 1/3 of the membership of the international church in town. They have been in the country anywhere from several months to many years. Containing a surprising number of retirees (who may or may not be trying to learn the local language), they make for an endearingly oddball group of folks. Definitely access this group if you need a motherly figure to offer you tea along with a slice of American culture and a heartfelt inquisition of “how are you really doing?”
  4. Super-Rich International Business Person
    • We don’t know any of these people, we just know they exist. Our only interaction with them is to marvel at their FANCY cars as they drive by. Who are they? How do they make their money? Is it legal?
  5. Millennial Vagabonds
    • So maybe we made this category just for ourselves. We aren’t actual entrepreneurs or formal missionaries, nor do we work for an embassy. We could have been “super-rich international business people” but we left our Land Rover back home. Being in Moldova we just want to learn the language and be of service to those around us. It seems so simple, but it can actually be hard to explain since we don’t fit in any of the above boxes. And yet….simply by making this particular category just for ourselves….we truly are being soul-crushingly millennial. “Other people just don’t understand us! We are uncategorizable!” – we complain to no one in particular as we proceed to put everyone we barely know into boxes of our own choosing. I sense a post on “Learning Humility in Moldova” coming up…