Botswana is home to many expats from a variety of countries. I’m British and I can count on one hand how many fellow Brits I have encountered in the few years I’ve been in Botswana. I can’t speak for expats from other nations, but in my own personal experience, British expats seem to be void of any emotion when they comes across a fellow Brit. Unlike expats from other European countries, America and Canada, who I have found to be very friendly?
Botswana is a “who you know” culture and developing a network has so many advantages from both a personal and professional perspective. If you arrive in Botswana as a working expat, someone who has a decent job and impressive accommodation, then you might find a different reception from the expat community. However, if you arrive under different circumstances and might require a little help or advice, then you might receive the cold shoulder.
In fairness, I feel something happened, there must have been a series of bad experiences that have deterred Brits from embracing other Brits (and/or other expats). I became acquainted with a Brit via an online expat community and at that time I was still very new to Botswana. I was looking at establishing a social network and naturally wanted to try and make friendships with other Brits. The guy was initially very hesitant in meeting with me in person, this was because he had had a bad experience with another Brit. Unfortunately, the relationship was short lived. We had a month or so of regular meetings and discussions about possible business going forward. Then one day all communications ceased and I never heard from him again.
The truth is any expat is susceptible to dodgy experiences and not just from fellow expats. There’s a common belief in Botswana that Brits/expats are generally very wealthy and opportunities come easy for us, as such there are people who want a piece of the action. I’ve had numerous bad experiences and people offering ridiculous business proposals. My initial 12 months was quite intense with various companies contacting me with “investment” opportunities. So I can understand why expats are protective of what they have and why they choose to keep their distance from others. I suppose it’s not too surprising, it’s not unusual (in the UK) to live next door to someone, see them every day and not know who they are. There’s also the North/South divide and the class system, which is something I had hoped to leave behind.
The thing is, we all have to start somewhere and at some point we all need a little help. Most expats in Botswana came here decades ago, Botswana was a very different country back then, and the spirit of botho was alive and well (not so much these days). If you are planning to relocate to Botswana, I would suggest you try to establish some sort of familiarity with your respective expat community beforehand. Don’t wait until you get here my fellow Brits, you may find you’ll be disappointed at the reception… or lack of.