Language is a beautiful thing but it does have its quirks. I spent 20-odd years in the States then moved over here. I am undeniably American in culture, outlook and of course accent (we’ll get to this later). Traveling and living abroad is great because it broadens your perspective and has changed my viewpoints on various issues. However there are some points I’ve observed about interacting with locals and what I try to do myself in terms of welcoming and feeling welcomed. I’ve framed some of these below through the common questions I get asked. Obviously the big disclaimer to this post is that *these are my own views and opinions and do not necessarily represent views and opinions of other expats.*
“Are you [insert nationality here]?”
Some people get offended if you get their nationality wrong. I have been guilty of this myself, and have been on the receiving end as well. However I find it hilarious when people think I’m Canadian or Irish (both true examples). Even if you’re 99% sure, the better path is to just ask…
“Where are you from?”
Don’t guess, just ask!
“What do you think about Trump/Obama/other political figure?”
This can go either way so tread carefully! I used to not get asked this very often. However the past six months of this crazy US election season, I’ve seen a massive upswing as EVERYONE is now asking me about politics. I don’t mind and see it as an opportunity to share what’s actually going on in my country beyond the news bites. The main thing is ask with an open mind and view to opening a dialogue.
“Don’t you miss home?”
This question is problematic on so many levels for me. My only response options being, No, I’m a heartless automaton that doesn’t miss home, or, HECK YES I MISS HOME! DAFTEST QUESTION EVER. Instead I suggest asking…
“What do you miss about home?”
Rather than feeling homesick, this then gives me the opportunity to tell you about all the awesome stuff about my country like Southern hospitality, crawfish boils, stable weather day to day, jambalaya, iced tea, college sports, Thanksgiving…
“What was the biggest difference or the hardest thing to adjust to when you arrived?”
This is a good one. The expat can voice an opinion/beef and the questioner learns something new about both countries.
“Do you get to go back?”
Another that can go either way, depending on how close your next trip home is.
“Your accent hasn’t changed much.”
I usually say something like, give it another 20 years, then it might. I spent the first 21 years of my life in the US, so of course I sound American and that doesn’t change with a plane ride! However my family says my accent has changed and it definitely gets thicker when I go home. So check back with me on this one in say, another 15 years.
Agree? Disagree? Let’s start a conversation in the comments.
Next week, my expat wannabe stand-up routine.