I’m feeling preachy today. You have been warned.
I’m often told – to my great surprise – that “In America, it works like this …” as if I don’t know what it’s like to live in the U.S. Hmmmm… pretty sure I grew up there, went to college and post-grad school there, and served in the U.S. Army. The thing is – the “American” making that statement often doesn’t know what it’s like to live in America either. Hold up! Before you get super angry with me and send me hate mail, let me explain.
The United States of America is not a federation in name only. Nope. It is a true federation where states have rights. Everything from your right to vote to your right to drive to gun carry laws are decided on a state and not federal basis. What I’m trying to say here in a bit of a legal nerdy way (sorry, recovering lawyer here) is that what it is like to live in America depends entirely on WHERE in America you are. If you’ve only lived in big cities, your perspective will be completely different than someone coming from a small town in the Midwest.
My husband LOVES to tell the story of meeting some old guy at an airfield in Ohio. Once this man heard my hubby is Dutch, he had to comment on how dirty European cities are compared to the U.S. My husband, being the natural smart-ass that he is, asked him if he’d been in any U.S. cities. He hadn’t.
So, when you move to a foreign country and start comparing it to your own country remember to use some perspective. Are you now living in a small town but lived in a big city in the US? Or is it the other way around? You’ve always lived in New York City but now find yourself in a small town in the province of Limburg in the Netherlands. If so, aren’t you comparing apples to oranges?
And don’t forget language barriers. Foreigners often complain about Dutch rudeness, and even I can’t deny they are very, very direct. They also often have a smart-ass type of humor, which can be subtle. When friends relay stories of Dutch rudeness to me, I often have to hide my chuckle. They only understand (some of) the words and not the nuances behind them – which is where the humor is. What they find rude is someone trying to make a joke!
So, before you start complaining about how things in your home country are way better than your adopted one, take a deep breathe and remember to use some perspective.