This question on German labour law would basically apply equally to German locals. An employer tells an employee to stay home (in this case, to run errands specific to immigrating; but the answer would be the same if the cause is different) and books this as "minus hours". The answer to this question is equally valid for locals as for immigrants.. Can it still be on-topic?

I would argue this question is off-topic, and belongs on The Workplace instead.

9 Answers 9


This question (...) would basically apply equally to (...) locals.

This could be applied to practically any possible question on Expatriates, with exception of VISA questions and maybe some other very narrow topic. This would practically render this site useless.

The point is, that while those problems apply more or less to locals, they apply always more to expatriates. Poor knowledge of local laws, customs and prices puts every expat on extreme danger of being tricked out. This site has a chance to be perfect match for such questions. As long as they are perfectly answerable, I see no problem here.

While that particular question might be on-topic on Workplace, I wasn't even aware of that fact. I don't know Workspace as well, but I see it as a home for very generic questions, localized questions are very rare, and even in that case, they are often artificially generalized. I see only 3 questions tagged [germany] there. I don't think Workspace is an environment where I would have high chances of being answered...

  • 2
    This, exactly this.
    – user100
    Mar 15, 2014 at 14:17
  • 1
    I am confused. Is this to say that since expats have limited knowledge of local laws, customs and prices that all questions pertaining to local laws, customs and prices are on topic?
    – StrongBad
    May 30, 2014 at 11:44
  • 1
    @StrongBad, that is how I understand it. Why would they be considered off-topic? As Tim Post below says, "If someone is in a situation that is exacerbated by their status as an expatriate, we should allow it. I can't imagine why we wouldn't."
    – adipro
    May 30, 2014 at 22:41

In general, yes.

If someone is in a situation that is exacerbated by their status as an expatriate, we should allow it. I can't imagine why we wouldn't.

If there's no twist to it due to being an expat, then it might be off-topic.

Please do not let the existence of another site become the impetus for closing a question.

We've worked out a few things:

  • There's a difference between visiting a country, even for an extended stay, and living in that country.
  • There's a difference between finance as a normal person, and finance with that crazy twist that being an expat brings.

We do not need to continue to work out how much we should overlap with any given site while in this critical community building period of the site. We have all kinds of overlap between sites, and I doubt this site would ever overlap as much with The Workplace as Ubuntu does with Unix, Super User, Etc.

Pretend we just shut down every site but expats, become jealous of this site, and work to grow it.

As I said before, I'm not going to migrate any flagged questions, so if you shut something down, it has to be for reasons other than a question being on-topic somewhere else.

Now, to the matter at hand...

This specific question doesn't have any 'twist' to it that I can determine due to the person's status as an expatriate - if it's closed, you'll need to be able to articulate that as the reason why.

  • So what's the point of having different sites for different topics, if all the topics are on-topic on expats@SE?
    – littleadv
    May 31, 2014 at 0:43

IMHO there will be many questions where the answer will be equally for locals and for immigrants, but that doesn't make them off-topic. It's the same on Travel.SE.


Here is a list of questions. Which of the following apply equally to locals, and which ones have special considerations as an expat?

  1. What is the easiest way to find an apartment in Japan as a foreigner?
  2. What paperwork do I have to file at my city office when I move in Japan?
  3. What is my recourse under the law if I feel I have been a victim of discrimination?
  4. What documentation do I need to get married with a Japanese national in Japan?
  5. What are my rights when routinely stopped by the police in Japan?
  6. What is the process of getting a mortgage in Japan?
  7. How can I lower my national insurance payments in Japan?

Don't peek now, take a guess at which ones apply equally to locals, and which ones have different aspects when an expat is involved?

Only 3 and 7 are the same process for both expats and locals. The rest are complicated due to not being Japanese and require things that a local does not.

Now consider your own country. For the list of those questions, are they the same as they are for Japan? If these things are varied by country, then many expats may not have the first idea of whether they apply equally to locals or to expats, and having that information itself makes them useful questions in my book. I see absolutely no problem with us having information for each country's laws on getting a driver's license, for instance, even if this is the same for locals and expats.

Furthermore, this is an English-language resource. If one of you moves to Japan and wants to know if you can get around paying the national insurance payments (or reduce their cost), me pointing to a site on how the insurance system works (in Japanese) and closing the question isn't going to help you or future visitors. We have the opportunity to make clear no-nonsense answers to these sorts of questions in English to give people practical information that solves their problems.

Obviously questions should still be good questions. They should be appropriately scoped, well-written, and clear about what the content of what they're asking is. But I don't think we should be closing solely because the answer is, "You couldn't find info on it because it's the same as for the locals" -- I think having that answer is better than having a closed question. After all, do we really think that people will only ask the question once? Just answer it, and close as dupe. That scales. Closing doesn't.


OP clearly compares to his home country and tries to compare. I would say it is on topic, even if the law applies to all.

I would assume in general the law is equal for all.

  • I would prefer that questions comparing two countries be considered off topic. The example question to me seems to be about the German workplace and has nothing to do with being an expat.
    – StrongBad
    Mar 13, 2014 at 15:17

I think it depends on how likely the given situation would apply to locals.

I don't know about german labour laws, but I think what the company is asking is a bit shady, and they might not do it against someone who is a local. Therefore I think it's still on-topic.

If you however ask something that has the same chance of being an issue for a local as well, then it's off-topic and should be closed.


It seems to me from reading the answers here that there is much ambiguity in deciding what is on- or off-topic. I feel that the criteria the moderators have imposed, as seen from their answers, might be overly strict.

The academia.se has recently proposed some closing/migration criteria, which to me are less strict, and I hope could be adopted here as well.

It might also be useful to point out that academia.se receives questions from time to time about software recommendations, which would be applicable to non academics as well, and which would make no difference if it were asked by non academics. In other words, the answers to those questions are equally valid for people outside academia as for those in academia. It appears that these questions are usually considered on topic at academia.se.


I would propose a "what do 4 friends in a pub / cafe / etc" say test.

Imagine asking your question in a social setting to a group of locals, and see what they say.

If they all universally reply with something that leads to a situation like:

You - I just can't figure out how to do X

Them - Just use/show your Flobber

You - What's a Flobber?

Them - You know, that thing you got when you were 16 and have used ever since?

You - reads the wikipedia page

You - I still don't know what a Flobber is, nor how I would get one, and I'm fairly sure I've never heard of it before this moment...

Them - But surely everyone in the world has a Flobber?

You - I'm willing to be the cost of the next round of drinks that they really really don't...

In that situation, it's a great fit for here!

Alternately, consider:

You - I can't figure out how to do X

Friend 1 - Hmm, that's a tough one

Friend 2 - Can you even do that?

Friend 3 - Do you know Dave? He did it last year, it wasn't easy

Friend 4 - I think they run courses on that in the library, it catches everyone out

Friend 1 - Budget a month for that...

In that situation, it seems it's a common problem for locals too, and there's nothing special about being an ex-pat, so it isn't on topic here.

I'd say that if between 2 and 4 of your group of 4 questioned give the same "it's easy with this thing you've never heard of" answer, it's a good fit for here. If 2 or more people say it's hard for them, probably not expat specific and belongs elsewhere

  • 2
    How would I know a priori what my friends are going to answer?
    – gerrit
    May 30, 2014 at 2:19
  • For the first few things, ask them and see! Then come here to seek help if they answer with case #1 rather than case #2. Speaking to locals is important for moving to a new place, so use this as an excuse :)
    – Gagravarr
    May 30, 2014 at 8:55
  • Would you propose your test to be applied to all questions asked here?
    – adipro
    May 30, 2014 at 22:39
  • To some extent, yes, but it's mostly for the "as an expat" type ones we're discussing here
    – Gagravarr
    May 31, 2014 at 10:34

I would like to see us as a community of experts about being expatriates and not experts of life in all countries. To me the distinction between on and off topic is based on if the answer is frequently different for expats and locals. If there is no difference, or the difference is simply that the expat is just unlikely to know the local nuances or customs, then the question is off topic in my opinion. Basically, my test is if I remove all the references to being an expat and end up with the same question and same answers, then it is off topic in my opinion.

  • 4
    I disagree. There are a lot of questions that a local would not even ask because he knows and that would help an expat. There is a difference between living and immigrating but there is also a difference between what an expat would ask and what a local would ask.
    – Vince
    Mar 14, 2014 at 19:28

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