Magazine article The Spectator

Confessions of a Travelling Non-Dom

Magazine article The Spectator

Confessions of a Travelling Non-Dom

Article excerpt

Perhaps it goes with the territory: if you have decided to live your life between two countries you must accept the consequences.

And no, I am not talking about Darling's taxation treat. I am referring to what most non-doms endure on a monthly if not weekly basis. While the average UK citizen may undergo the travel dilemma a few times a year, usually during the summer and winter holidays, entitling them to complain about Heathrow's Terminal 5, nondoms have been forced to evolve past such trivialities. Over many flights we have not only had our bags lost, mangled or sent to Uganda, but been stripped down to our bare essentials and made to hop on one foot while the sole of the other one is being examined.

More importantly, though, we have been tamed to the point where we have learned amicably to accept our airborne neighbours.

Personally, I have become an expert on the man seated next to me.

I have met the annoying Pseudophilosophers who think that Nietzsche's death has left them a vacancy and make it their mission to convert you to their way of life during the flight. The Sleaze, who assumes that because you are a female and happen to be seated next to him, you must be impatiently waiting for his round of unoriginal chat-up lines -- 'You are the spitting image of a French tutor I fancied back in my school days. Parlez-vous français?' The Travel Guru, usually under 35 years old, has travelled the world and is dying to share his experiences with you; whether you are interested or not is of little importance.

(Beware: it is often the case that this type does not bathe regularly. ) The 'And Then' neighbour is easily spotted as he will usually ask the flight attendants a thousand questions before taking his seat. My best advice is:

avoid eye contact. If you speak or pretend to speak no English they will probably try your native tongue, and that can be more painful than if they spoke plain English. I recently had some older English chap scream pigeon Italian to me all the way to Rome. Sadly, Italian is one of those languages that everyone thinks they speak a little of, so the 'sorry, no speaka English' method may prove more effective if your lingua franca is Mandarin.

The Businessman has come up with the best new business idea and is travelling for some terribly important meeting that will cement the future of his company. He will happily talk to you about his work on a nonames basis as 'it is all very confidential', and he may even opine on the general direction of the post-credit-crunch economy (although you may be forgiven for thinking this sounds uncannily like this week's Economist editorial).

And finally the Bore, someone who, like you perhaps, has had one too many bad neighbours and has decided never to utter another word on board of aircraft again.

These flight veterans can last up to nine hours without so much as a single word passing their lips, apart from 'chicken' or 'vegetarian'. I believe them to be the least of the various evils. Nevertheless, remember to be on your guard at all times, as the odd cross-over does occur and your average Bore could transform into a Bunny-boiler by the end of the flight.

On my last flight from New York to London I initially assessed the male next to me as harmless. Dressed in a crisp white shirt, designer jeans and freshly polished black shoes, he was rather quiet during taxiing and take-off. But at 35,000 feet his courage grew to new heights. …

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