Expatriates in Hong Kong have hideously hectic working and social lives – so we should magnanimously forgive them if they sometimes seem a little out of touch with local events and lacking in empathy for the population of the city where they enjoy their gilded existences. Take, for instance, the woman who moaned on a popular expat mums’ website about not being able to get to her Pilates class on Hong Kong Island on a Sunday morning in June when a million or so people suddenly and inconveniently poured out onto the streets. “I’m having to do star jumps at home,” she whined indignantly. To her credit, when another member of the forum apologised sarcastically and explained the reason for this deluge of people inadvertently blocking the path to her exercise session, the woman said sorry and explained she had been far too busy to pay attention to the news. She then presumably went back to her star jumps. There are plenty of historical precedents for such crass levels of expatriate aloofness and ignorance. If you did the research, you could probably find letters home from a diplomat’s wife in Saigon in April 1975 complaining that the all-you-can-eat Sunday buffet at the Continental had been cancelled at short notice. Or an expat businessman in Ukraine in 1986 griping about having to pay his driver to keep washing weird glowing red ash off the bonnet of his company Mercedes. The brutal reality is that expatriates in Hong Kong and everywhere else in the world live largely in a bubble and only start paying attention to what’s actually going on around them when it either costs them time or money, or upsets their precious weekend routines. And that is why the suggestion that malign foreign forces are somehow behind the recent protests may all be the result of a laughable misunderstanding. Now it is true that small groups of agitated foreigners have been spotted behaving oddly deep amid the largely peaceful demonstrations, gesturing and remonstrating with the crowds and in some cases barging them to one side and sending them scattering off course to the alarm of watching police. Spies? Agent provocateurs? Maybe. But more likely it’s nothing more sinister than a hot-and-bothered huddle of expat parents trying to simultaneously digest their smashed avocado toast breakfasts and barge their way through the crowds to get to the ferry pier in time for the junk trip to celebrate little Trixabelle’s ninth birthday.