Work Abroad but earn in USD

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Staying Connected or Letting Go?

There was a really interesting comment made a few days ago about "letting go" and just forgetting about the politics in one's previous country. It was a very interesting take on things and I wanted to take the opposing position.

Reader's Comment

One of my majors in college (I had 2) was Political Science. I use to be really interested in government, the inter workings of it all... Now, I really don't care what happens in the USA with politics. I don't follow it, I don't watch the news about it and you know what? I really don't care. Actually it's refreshing not to know or really care what is going on with the politics in the USA.

Expat Participation in Politics

One of the things I plan to do before the next presidential election is to register at the U.S. Embassy here in Buenos Aires to vote. I do still follow politics in the USA and even though I'm not living there, I still feel a strong connection with the country. Now, granted, I haven't been living here in Argentina as long as the reader who made this post, but I don't think my views will change.

I still find myself reading the New York Times online to keep updated about what's going on in the USA. I'm probably better informed about what's happening in the USA than most of the people living there. I'm curious as to what makes an expat lose interest in his country of birth. Living in the southwest United States, I spoke many times with Mexican professionals who were living in the U.S. and most of them still voted and kept abreast of politics in Mexico.

Crossing the Threshold

The reader has mentioned to me in the past that he probably will never return to the United States. I haven't yet crossed that mental threshold. I'm happy with Argentina for now (and for the immediate future, as I just signed a 2-year lease), but I haven't made the decision never to return to the USA. Who knows, someday in the future I may go back. I wonder whether there is a difference between expats who have made the decision to stay for good versus expats who maybe just want to spend a few years abroad.

Right now, I'm not sure which category I fit into yet. However, I do still feel a strong connection with the USA and I like to be informed about what's going on there. I still get very upset when bad things happen in the U.S. and during Katrina, back in late August, I had CNN running the entire time I was at work. I felt a lot of trauma by what was going on there... the same thing I felt on September 11th.

It was a different kind of trauma than what you feel when a disaster happens in another country. You feel more connected, more hurt by it. I haven't reached the point yet where I can see a disaster happen in the USA and feel the same thing for a disaster that happens in Pakistan. The U.S. still feels "close" to me and I'm still concerned about what happens there, much more so than some other random country.

I wonder how other expats feel about this issue. Do you still feel a closeness with your country of birth or do you feel you're able to ignore it to some extent?

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Blogger rickulivi said...

Currenlty, I live in the USA, my home for over 30 years. When I left Argentina in 1975, there was political violence of all sorts as well as economic instability. I was happy to leave but a little bit troubled too. After I left I resented the country because I had to emigrate. When people used to ask me where I was from, I would answer: "I WAS from Argentina".

California and the US have been wonderful to me. I was able to have a stable and challenging career, and have raised a great family. I love California and the US.

But 30 years have gone by and I find myself longing to live in Argentina, again. I rationalize that all the old problems that I experienced as a young guy, the political violence, and so on, are no longer present. I tell myself that the country has progressed greatly, so I should return. But I am afraid. The wounds and later scars that Argentina left in me run deep.
This blogg has been very helpful to me in understanding my feelings towards living in Argentina.
In sum, as much as California is my home, it is not. As much as Argentina is my home, it is not. I think that one of the huge pitfalls of becoming an expat is that you never really belong anywhere. I emigrated, and benefited greatly, but I also paid a huge price. As a friend once told me, the moment I step off the plane in Argentina, I want to return to the US. And the moment I step off the plane in the US, I want to return to Argentina.

3/08/2006 04:25:00 AM  
Blogger familiaoconnell said...

I have always been a political person and needed a good hour of the NYT before I started my day. Like a lot of other things, since arriving here, I have let that go. I go through periods of being intellectually connected to things in the states. The internet makes that easy enough with various big city papers online. I was streaming radio programs non-stop during the 2004 election. So if and when you want to be you can know whats happening.

Unfortnately, there are no english speaking papers worth reading (the BA Herald is edited by my three year and her friends)so the tactical experience purusing a paper for hours is limited to my
daily struggle with La Nacion.

I do care about the politics and current events in the States for two reasons. While I am not there, and may never return to live, I have family an love ones, so it is natural to be concerned. The other reason, for good or bad (mostly bad these days), what happens in the US does have an affect on the rest of the world.

3/08/2006 09:21:00 AM  
Blogger johnny said...

My thoughts on this subject are mixed. I definitely understand the reader who has given up interest in many things "american", though I wonder how "invested" he was originally in american politics. Since arriving in BA, while I still follow current events in the states, certainly not to the degree I did in the past. Number 1, it is more difficult to do, and #2, there is a steep learning curve here, and I think I will be better served by castellano lessons, learning the culture etc. Combined with my work, it is hard to cover it all. Also, despite my long, abiding interest in politics, sports, the arts and other aspects of american culture, it might be good to take a break, and decompress. Especially with so much news from the states being so bleak, as regards the foreign and domestic policies currently in place. A contradictory stance I know.

3/08/2006 09:59:00 AM  
Blogger Dr. Pancrácio said...

Excellent comment, rickulivi.

3/08/2006 06:25:00 PM  
Blogger ABA said...

I agree with all of you. I admit that every year for the past several (even while I lived in the USA), I got less and less and less interested in politics. Granted, I was never really involved but at least I voted every year and I stayed really abreast of the current situation.

I started traveling around the world in 2002. I mean hard core traveling. I acted like I only had 3 years to live and quite literally tried to live like that. If I had 3 years to live, I wouldn't care if a democrat or a republican was in office. It wouldn't change my life much.

I do know that what goes on in the USA affects other parts of the world but spending so much time outside of the USA on all my travels, I began to really see the beauty of not really focusing so much on politics in the USA.

Elizabeth makes excellent points. There are no decent English newspapers in town. The BA Herald is a joke and I'm not totally fluent in Spanish and reading it completely would take a while and honestly I work 15-17 hour days as it is. As Johnny mentioned, I spend much of my days doing the same thing he does.

Honestly, looking back on the last 10 years... it really didn't matter so much to me, my friends or family if a Republican or democrat was in office. Life didn't change so much for the upper middle class or upper class. I'm not saying that is good or bad.

Rickulivi is a good case example. I know MANY, many Portenos that moved to the USA and thought life there would be much better than Argentina. You know what?? Most of them that I know have now moved back.

The truth of the matter is that YES there are more opportunities to make money in the USA. But I truly believe and I know many from all over Latin America that will agree with me. There are much better places including Buenos Aires with a higher quality of life even if you don't make so much money.

The USA is probably the easiest place in the world to make a little bit of money and one of the most difficult to make a lot of money. In the USA you live to work. Many Portenos think the USA is this magical place with money falling off trees like leaves on a tree. It's not so. The reality is that many of them had to work 2, 3 or 4 jobs just to really live. Paying high rents, having to have a car, paying high medical insurance and medical bills for themselves and their kids, expensive schools or being forced to send their kids to horrible public schools.

The USA I'll always say is one of the best countries in the world. I'm very very very proud to be American. I'm just saying it's not everything that people think it is.

So, in the really don't care so much if a Republican or Democrat is in office..these days it's all pretty much the same thing. Most Americans lives aren't going to drastically change one way or the other and unfortunately...that is the truth.

3/08/2006 10:59:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What really makes it so hard for portenios to adapt to life in the U.S. is the fact that "truchadas" do NOT work well in the States.

I work in Federal Court and I know of hundreds of cases of argentines involved in auto-insurance fraud and general crimes of embezzlement nationawide, but particularly in CA, Fl and Eastern board. I mean it's an amount statistically worth mentioning.

These are people who discover that making progress in the US requires time, effort & patience and they usually lack all three. They came to "hacerse la America". It's a very backward national trait they have. No work ethic at all.

And then there's the "nostalgia asesina" thing that plagues argies.Since they believe that "todo tiempo pasado fue mejor" they live in an immature 'state of arrested development of sorts'. Just like the nation itself. Always longing for the past "y los buenos tiempos".

Always longing for a past that not only is forever gone, but probably didn't even exist to begin with!.

7/13/2006 01:03:00 AM  

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