Expat Sat: Writing Prompt #6: Giving Directions

Welcome to Expat Sat, the culturally kooky, map nonspecific, sometimes bewildering, always fascinating intersection of expat life and writerhead. And where every Saturday, I offer tips for writing, publishing, and thriving to expat writers around the globe.

This is #6 of 10 in a series of writing prompts for expat writers. So listen up, my nomadic pals. Then grab your keyboards and start writing.


In retrospect, the first time I was able to give directions to someone in Shanghai was no big deal. I was crossing Wulumuqi Road at Anfu Road and a bewildered Scottish bloke needed to get to the Ambassy Club on Huaihai Road…just a few blocks away. (Granted, I gave him directions in English. The first time I successfully gave directions in Chinese is another story, another Expat Sat.)

Anyway, I realized as I gave the guy directions that I knew my neighborhood really well. I told him he’d pass the frog-tying guy and possibly (checking my watch) the ice-block delivery woman in front of the fruit/veggie shop. I also explained that once he passed the Iranian Embassy, he’d be fairly close to the intersection of Wulumuqi and Huaihai roads, where he would need to turn right.

When you get down to it, giving directions isn’t really about knowing where to turn left or right. It’s about knowing landmarks and points of interest. It’s about knowing what catches someone’s eye and knowing your own digs. And so, your writing assignment for the week…

Writing Assignment: Open a guidebook or a newspaper for your host city/town. Pick a popular destination. Then write out the directions you’d give to a bewildered Scottish bloke who needs to get from your house to this destination. (Remember, the Scottish bloke is a newbie to your town. He’s clueless.)

Tip: Write in 2nd person point of view…you  know, the “you” point of view. (for example, if you’re in Ireland, “When you get to the third castle, you know it’s time for a pit stop in the pub.”)


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