Through the eyes of an expat

2:41 AM

There are several blogs out there written by an expat. One blog in Spanish became really popular in 2013 when a Spanish woman moved to Germany and started blogging about her life there. She can pen a great read and have you spitting your juice over the coffee table at her tales of a hot-blooded Spanish woman living in the efficient, cold-blooded Germanic country. The only problem is that when you take the humor away she was just constantly criticizing the country and its people about everything. Even though it got a bit tiring for me, she is coming out with a book so that isn't the case for many people.

The thing is that it is easy to criticize another country. We all do it all the time. One of the crosses an expat has to bear is hearing about their mother country from the eyes of outsiders. Especially during elections! Gah! Opinions run wild and news in the host country can go so far as to outright lie. It can be exhausting to listen to and try to defend.

It goes the other way too, though, and expats have to be careful, mostly when around other expats, not to mistake human nature for a societal flaw.

Like the time a friend of mine was driving home, almost to her house, only to be blocked by a delivery truck who couldn't have cared less about the traffic he was blocking. I was proud of her when she said she finally got out of her car and in broken French asked the guy to move over so she could be on time to pick up her daughter. The guy was a jerk though and it took another driver calling the police for the delivery man to move over. And then my friend did the easy thing: she blamed the whole experience on how rude the French are. Now, I do question the French theory that they are the most polite of all Europeans (and in their opinion WAY more polite than Americans) based on some observations of my own. For example the fact that they constantly butt in line at the metro. Or they never want to give up a seat on the bus or metro even to a pregnant lady. They won't get out of the way for a stroller. They refuse to pick up their dog's feces even if it is at a child's park.....

But back to my friend. I asked her if it was possible that the guy was just a jerk? Of course she said yes. But it didn't change her opinion of the French.

It did however change my perspective on how I was talking about and drinking in my experience in France. During my first year in Spain I had a hard time coming to grasp certain differences in the culture. Much had to do with my disillusionment in job hunting, getting a job and then the company dissolving and then being pregnant while jobless and basically friendless in a big city. Needless to say I had a lot of time on my hand to find things to criticize.

While it may sound asinine to say, I reinstated in myself that day that ALL COUNTRIES AND CULTURES ARE DIFFERENT. That even goes for the Western, modern countries where everyone dresses like we dress in the States (if not better) and lives in house and has electricity and running water. While in the back of our head's we all know that every is different, but when we see that we all dress alike and are all addicted to our iphones or androids there is a push inside us to believe that we are really all the same. Humans may be the same, but cultures are not. And when you decide to live in a different culture you are going to find out just how different they are from you. And there will be oh so many things to easily pick on.

But picking on them just might ruin your stay. If you say it often enough you start believing it, right? So keeping that in mind when looking at the other culture, I tell myself to try not to openly criticize all the time, but perhaps step back and see it from a different angle. In the end, my culture isn't right about everything. And their culture doesn't have it all wrong. Is is possible that we could learn from each other? Of course, once we stop rolling our eyes!

I'm looking in the mirror here!

Have you ever had an experience with another culture? Was it good or bad? Was it what you expected?

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