Anyone who’s traveled has likely ran into an expat community. Most cities tend to have them, and you don’t exactly need to seek them out when moving abroad. In fact, the more foreign the city, the more likely it is to have a thriving expat community. In Granada, where I previously lived, expats were everywhere. They didn’t exactly take over the city, but they had their own pubs and restaurants and generally stuck to themselves.
Wherever you go, that’s what expats tend to do. They bring their own culture with them and form an expat community within a foreign city. It’s really no different in theory than minority enclaves in major American cities. But what expats often do is co-opt the culture of a foreign city without actually interacting with it. In my experience, expats often shun the locals and have as little to do with them as possible when hanging around out with other expats.
In fact, I once met an expat in Granada who had moved after being inspired by a famous Flamenco guitar player. Originally from California, he had been living in Spain for three years. When I asked him if he ever performed, he practically scoffed at me. In this case (as in many others) he obviously had a deep reverence for the culture. But the way he had co-opted Spanish culture while still being an expat was almost a contradictory thing to witness.
The truth is, when I studied abroad in England I wasn’t necessarily much better. But in that case, I wasn’t an expat, I was a student. While I did interact with English natives (who spoke the same language) there was much i didn’t like about their culture. I found the institutionalized alcoholism and the concept of ‘taking the piss’ pretty off-putting. But even so, I did interact with the culture in non-superficial ways. And I did get a good understanding of how people in Oxford lived their lives, even if I wasn’t always a part of it.
For these reasons, an expat community always has value. Of course, when people of one city move to a different city, they are going to seek out vestiges of their own culture. But for me, that only goes so far. If I wanted to hang out with people like me, I would have stayed put in the United States. When travelling, I want to be open to having new experiences (and not brag about my experiences when I get home). Sometimes, that involves meeting expats from different walks of life, and sometimes that means interacting with locals. But to me, what it doesn’t mean is limiting yourself to an expat community. Because if you do that, you might as well have stayed home.