Tuesday, June 21, 2016

5 Things American Expats Would Like You To Know

Living overseas isn’t an easy task, & it’s not for the faint hearted. I hear often from people who aren’t coping, who can’t handle it & are desperate to “get back home.” Often times, it has nothing to do with where the Expat is living as much as it has to do with the way they are being treated. 

I’m no exception. Living overseas is hard work. It’s made harder by a lot of contributing factors. There is nothing quite like hearing someone say, “Oh you’re from America..” to make you weak in the knees & your tummy start quivering. 

Here’s my top 5 reasons, many of which only fellow ex-pats will ever understand, that it can be hard living overseas:

If you don’t like something about America, that’s your problem not mine.  I’m talking politics, policies, laws, vegetables, & everything else here.
I once had a clerk ask me if I was American. When I said yes she spent the next 3 minutes telling me how she visited there once & hadn’t had a proper serve of vegetables her entire visit so now she hates the place. Vegetables? That’s your biggest problem? I mean, you didn’t think to walk to a grocery store & get more? I went to a family party where people I didn’t know happened to be.

I had a family member tell me how horrible it was, three years AFTER a certain hurricane happened, that the President hadn’t extended his hand to the city most in need. This family member was completely unaware, because it wasn’t reported in my host country, that the President had offered help, but that government of said state refused to declare a state of emergency.

I’ve been quizzed about past presidents, current presidents, gun laws, & the educational system. Got a beef? Get in line, I’m likely to be being berated by at least a half dozen other people.

When a crisis happens in America, I’m not interested in your political stance on the situation. I don’t blame you for your country’s problems, stop blaming me for mine.

Nothing brings out the opinions quite like a crisis! Every single time something happens, instead of offering me condolences, asking me if I’m okay, if I knew anyone effected, or any other 1 of a million kind, considerate, & polite questions or comments I could receive I am, instead, treated as though I caused the problem.

If you’ve never received notice from your local consulate to stay put, avoid going out, & do nothing to draw attention to yourself you have no idea what it’s like to be an Ex-Pat. That’s just a normal part of living overseas. Instead of berating me for what you think is wrong, consider the fact that I’ve just been told how much danger my children & I are in.

If you don’t have an American Embassy or Consulate on speed dial in your mobile device, there’s little chance you can understand the gravity of the comment above. It’s a normal part of living overseas. Don’t berate me when things go wrong, offer me a hug or ask me if I’m okay. 

Most Ex-Pats aren’t living overseas because they love the country they are in or wish to gain citizenship. Please stop thinking I left my country because yours is so much better.
Any normal human being is likely to feel patriotic to only one country, the one they were born in. That feeling you get walking down the street & hearing a familiar accent or saying can make you stop in your tracks until you find the source. 

I’m not saying we’re ungrateful to our host countries, we aren’t, at least not all of us. However, many of us are here due to jobs or spouses. On top of that, there were a lot of hoops we had to jump to get here. Have you ever stood in line for 3+ hours just so you & your spouse can remain in the same county together? If you have you know exactly what Im talking about.

We’re grateful the means & abilities are there for us to make the journey & face the adventure, but don’t mistake our love for our significant other, or the need for a job, to be confused with our sudden change of Patriotism for another country. 

Your snide comments, mean jokes, & pathetic insults hurt. We’re not immune, we just choose to pretend we didn’t hear. In reality, we went home, locked the door & cried it off.
I once attended a family party several hours from my home. I was aware people I wouldn’t know would be there which always puts me a little on edge. After being there for a while I was sitting on a bench watching my children play when a couple sat down across from me & introduced themselves. The man said, “Canadians sure do love it here.” I didn’t respond. I am not Canadian. He snickered & said, “You know that’s my little joke because Americans hate being called Canadian, I can tell which ones are the stupidest when I use that little joke on them.”

I sat there, stone faced & said nothing while he & his wife threw back their heads & rolled with laughter. When I got up to walk away they followed me around the park until I escaped into the women’s bathroom hid in a stall & cried.

My kids were at the park one day when a little boy walked up to them & asked if they were American. They nodded their heads & he said, “You’re a-holes then.” His parents threw back their heads & laughed. My kids had to come ask what the word meant. 

My kids have been called more names, & when the bully is finished my children smile & say, “You know we’re Australian right? We were born in America, but we are Australian.” 

My children are far more resilient them I am. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve come home from the park, the Dr’s office, or any one of another public situations & cried. It’s funny, you know, we’re told the reason we’re hated is that our countrymen are so rude, but nothing says loving like name calling & belittling.

Don’t ask if we’re homesick. I mean think about it, if we were would asking do any good anyway? If we aren’t then you only accuse us of not loving those in our family who aren’t here.

As soon as people realise you’re from another country this is the first question out of their mouth. I know a LOT of ExPats who are incredibly homesick. They’d give anything to pack their bags, head home, & wrap their arms around family members. Sometimes it’s just about being able to feel safe again, sometimes it’s just about knowing they can go to the grocery store without being called names.

There are also a large amount of Ex-Pats who are content right where they are. I despise being asked if I’m homesick because there is no right answer. When I say no, people presume I hate the family members I’m not living with. If I say yes they presume I’m not happy with where I am & demand to know what’s wrong with their beautiful country.

Of course we miss the people we can’t see, & sometimes we miss all that goes with it from family celebrations to jumping in leaves. We miss seeing familiar things in the grocery store, or finding beloved books on the shelf at the library. We miss hearing the thunder roll across the mountains, or seeing fireworks on Independence Day.

That doesn’t mean we are discontent & ready to jump the next plane home. I am amongst those people who are content where they are, despite the ups & downs. The hard days, the lonely days. We fill ourselves with the good & surround ourselves with those who understand. 

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