Sunday, February 9, 2014

The Expat Syndrome

"'Expat Syndrome' is a condition whereby many expatriates see mostly either the best of their own nationality & the worst of the locals, or see the opposite." - T Crossley

So on this, the 9th Day of our blogger's challenge, I am to analyse the above quote.

I have been blessed with wonderful friends everywhere I go.  It's the people that can make or break you.  But if I had to place myself on one or the other side of the "Expat Syndrome," I suppose I would say that I see mostly the worst of my own nationality and the best of the locals.  Obviously, these observations are my own.

I grew up in the South.  In the Bible belt.  Now that I've been away from that culture for a really long time, I see things that you sometimes don't see because you are too close to the situation.  It took my leaving home to realise that there is still quite a bit of racism.  I think this became glaringly obvious in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.  Yes, there was a lot of heroism to be seen, but there was also a lot of racism to be seen.  And this racism didn't only come from the people in the South.  Unfortunately, it was widespread throughout America.

Now, there are a great many things to be proud of being raised in the South.  I happen to think that we are the friendliest people in America.  :)  I've moved around a bit and the nicest people are in the South.  I also think we have the best food.  LOL

Which leads (sort of) to my next observation...

I find that a lot of people in America can be openly judgmental and hostile towards obese people.  And not only obese people, but also people who are just plain different.  If you look differently, dress differently or think differently... chances are these things will be pointed out to you.  There is definitely widespread discrimination.

Now, when I moved to Sydney, I noticed that people behaved differently.  Perhaps it's because of all the diversity here.  There are people here from all different nations.  And each one is unique.  I think (for the most part) people are respected for their uniqueness.  This doesn't mean that I'm naive enough to think that there is no judgement or discrimination here.  I realise that there is.  I just think it's more subtle.  And after being discriminated against and judged for most of my life, I'm thinking that I prefer when people on the street don't notice me or openly look at me with disgust.

These feelings I have may change over time.  They already have in some ways.  I've come to accept my own role in the judgment of both myself and others.  I've done it.  Subconsciously, I'm sure I'll continue to do it.  I'm not proud of that.  And I try very hard to notice when I've done it and think of why negative thoughts sprung to mind?  Was it a reflex?  Something I've always subconsciously done since childhood?  I think that it's programmed in us.  But I'm trying to overcome it.  It's not fair to the person who is being judged and it's certainly not helpful.

I guess I'm just one of those people praying for acceptance.


  1. Yvette, I really enjoyed reading this thoughtful entry, and I appreciate how you have been analyzing the differences, strengths and weaknesses of the various cultures you have experienced. I really liked your closing line, and I look forward to your future posts!

  2. I agree that there is a lot of racism in the USA and that's experienced differently according to where you live. I'm from Miami, which is very ethnically and culturally diverse, so the racism there doesn't always seem so blatant. I think there's a lot of racism in Melbourne, and I don't think Aussies are very aware of it. I've often told my Aussie partner that one major difference between Americans and Australians when it comes to racism is that Americans know they are racist, but Australians don't.

  3. It's generally difficult to make people see that they are at the very least encouraging racism by their acts, not just their words. And perpetuating the hate is damaging to all of us.

  4. My new year's resolution last year was "be less judgemental." I just started noting how harshly I judge a lot of people based on little things, often. I think you're right that it's really ingrained in us, and I too am constantly seeking to judge less and accept more. It's an uphill battle, but one worth fighting - a good thing for you to point out!

  5. I'm glad you feel more comfortable & less judged here in Oz. :-)