Expats Explain How Their Views About America Have Changed After Moving
Image by Masashi Wakui from Pixabay

This might come as an alarming shock to some people, but everywhere is not the United States.

Living in the U.S. can place you in a filtered bubble to what the rest of the world is like. Growing up in a suburban neighborhood with a grocery store, sushi place, and fro-yo shop all within a 5-minute drive is not the universal world experience. Turns out the quickest way to burst that red, white, and blue bubble is just live somewhere else for any length of time.

Reddit user, u/Itisallmyfaultinnit, wanted to know how you're perspective has shifted when they asked:

American redditors who live abroad, how has your view of the world changed since you moved out of the US?

There can be a kind of cultural calm when you travel and live abroad, living away from the loud noises of the United States.

Slow. It. Down.

"Spent some time in Italy, I went from Florence to Rome and stopped in tons of tiny villages on the way, life outside the United States is a lot slower paced. People aren't running from one place to another to get things done. This might be for Italy only but everyone was just slowed down compared to the states."


Talking About Everything But Politics

"I've been in Mexico, Germany, Kuwait and Afghanistan. Everyone I met are wonderful people, minding their own business and trying to live their lives. They were all friendly, willing and eager to show me their culture and share food. We'd all share similarities between our countries and differences and no one ever took offense. Politics were the last things we talked about and if it was brought up, they told me things in their countries they didn't like"


All About That Tea

"I have lived in England for 17 years originally from the East coast of the US."

"I have no problem walking around at night in my town or most cities here in England. Back in the US I wouldn't do this."

"My world view expanded. I know more about stuff outside the US now. I work in a global firm and it is obvious who has never been outsider the US when you talk to them."

"I still can't make a proper cup of tea. But I prefer green tea and coffee."

"The book Watching the English helped me understand the people here a bit better. The book The Culture Map helped me understand people around the world a bit better."

"I can find just about any food over here now so I don't even miss that."

"We have the NHS, less work hours and a better work life balance overall."


However, there are some radical differences when you live in another country. Some of those aren't so intrusive, allowing you to gain wonderful firsthand experience about the world at large.

We're Really Not That Old

"I lived abroad for about 8 years all together (New Zealand, Netherlands, and Canada) before moving back to the USA for a job I couldn't turn down."

"First of all, there is a really good adage that "in Europe, 100 kilometers (or miles) is a long distance, but in America 100 years is a long time." The Netherlands is so tiny that you would be hard pressed to remain within its borders if you drove just 3 hours in any direction from where I lived, with cute towns the entire way, and that was just the standard distance I drove to get home when I was in university (with nothing in between). Meanwhile, the house I lived in was built in the 1600s and there was nothing weird about that, which is a sheer marvel to any American who visited. I suppose both of these applied on some level when living in Canada/NZ too- maybe it's more an "Old World" versus "New World" distinction. :)"

"The other one that's worth noting is how a lot of American politics and outlook is a bit like how if you throw a frog into a boiling pot of water, it will jump out immediately. However, if you slowly raise the pot to a boil, the frog will never jump out. There's a lot of things in the USA that are horrific and, IMO, it's just a culture afraid of so much these days. It certainly wasn't when I was younger, and a lot of the politics would be incomprehensible even a decade ago but are part of mainstream conversation. That's a real shame."


Do Your Best. Always.

"I'm in the States now, but I lived in Japan for a few years when I was younger, and it changed a lot of things for me. Mostly, I realized the value of things like socialized medicine and a social safety net in general. I also came to really admire and adopt the cultural attitude that doing something "great" is less important than simply doing your best at whatever you do -- ultimately, it shed me of my tendency to mentally classify jobs as "respectable" and "not respectable."

"OTOH, my upbringing taught me to question authority and value truth and individuality, and many of the conflicts I had with Japanese culture ultimately reinforced all of those things. ...Although at the time, I hadn't realized how many of my fellow Americans could and would ultimately take those values to bizarre and dangerous extremes. :/"


Having Trouble Getting Everywhere

"For me, it was just how abysmal public transportation and urban planning are in the US."

"We have such awful public transportation and we design most of our cities in a way that makes it nearly impossible to ever get around without a car."

"Giant parking lots, 10-lane highways, no sidewalks, huge roads with cars moving at highway speeds, non-existent bicycle infrastructure, zoning that bans density, etc."

"Did you know that Atlanta and Barcelona have similar populations (in their metros) but Atlanta takes up 10x as much land? That's how bad sprawl is in the US, especially in the Sun Belt."

"Walkable cities and good public transportation are just so good for quality of life, in my opinion."


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Of course, the differences can be so radical that nothing you think or do will ever be the same.

Halt The Grind

"There's so much less daily pressure in my adopted country. It's hard to explain. It's like walking out of a crowded, harshly lit, loud room into a calm cool night. My phone isn't exploding with telemarketers. I don't live in fear of my healthcare disappearing. I can bike to work, where I make a living wage that lets me actually live. My weekends are respected. I can live simply with no expectation to hustle and grind. I feel free."


We're Not Thought About As We Think

"One thing that strikes me is that everyone else in the world has an opinion on the US, often strong emotions, both good and bad. I was sitting in Seoul airport and a Korean man chatted me up, asking me where I'm from. He was very grateful to US soldiers when I told him I was American. Other times Europeans think we're really stupid because of our lack of worker protection and universal healthcare (and they are very cognizant of things like our higher maternal mortality rate which most Americans don't know)."

"I think that changed my view of the world: America is entangled in everybody's business. Our soft power with things like movies, songs, and video games and products like Coke and Starbucks penetrates the whole world. The reverse is not often true - many things that are near universal don't make it into the US."

"Getting off the American thing, I realized most people want the same things in life and most people from any country just want to get along. It's the government and the elite that try to pit people groups against each other. I consider China and Russia to be outright enemies of the US, but I'm friends with people from those countries and they're good people, trying to live their life, raise their kids, and have a little fun."

"Also, everybody is racist. In the US, we're displaying that in public and there's an actual effort to fix it. That's not always the case with other countries - some are perfectly content to remain biased against other races."


Never Go Back

"I've realized that people in the US know really NOTHING about other countries and couldn't really care less. (My son''s MIL asked me if I had indoor plumbing.)"

"I've been living in my new home for about 20 years and for the last few years, I want to kneel and kiss the ground here and be so happy that I am NOT still living in the US. I still have family there but I don't even want to visit the country."


It's fine to want to live in the U.S. That's not the issue. The issue is the misconception that the U.S. is the only country in the world that matters. Taking the main thesis from the above people's stories it's easy to see we're not alone in our world, doing our best, trying to live our lives.

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