Disclaimer: If you're American, a feminist, politically sensitive, and never lived or travelled long term abroad, you will be offended by this post. So "reader discretion" is advised :)
Opinion vs. Experience
I haven't lived in the US for 4 years, so I've changed and evolved since living abroad.
I know, some of you may think "people don't change" well I have.
Anyone can have an opinion, shaped by what they read and watch, by where they live and who their friends are.
But then, there are experiences, which can be very rewarding and expands one's perspective.
Nationality trumps Ethnicity/Race
Most of my life I was labelled as "African-American" or "person of colour" and "woman of colour."
Once I left the US, I was just "American" and it was absolutely refreshing.
In Israel, I was as an American.
In Thailand, I was foreigner and an American.
In China, I was an American.
In Germany, Finland, Korea, Japan,
Singapore and the other countries I've travelled to,
I was an American.
Americans abroad have a lot in common, moreso than they would recognise while living in the US.
Because abroad a lot of divisions like race, class, religion, region, love of sport teams, politics are not as important as nationality.
You have an American passport, you speak English, you're an American.
So for 4 years, I was just an American woman, starting a business in a foreign land.
Now that I'm back in the US, I feel that people are trying to "put back in the box" of "African American" and "woman of colour," terms I really don't understand.
Especially "woman of colour" why do people in the US need to categorise non-white woman???
I want to be clear: I'm an American woman.
Simple as that.
In my experience some cultures are more open to criticism and/or tolerant of free speech than others.
Now on a spectrum, of the most "blunt," "frank," and honest people I've met in the context how open they are to sharing their political, religious, and world views are:
Israelis, Germans, Finnish, French, Hong Kongese, and Dutch people.
However, I would say Israelis are the most straight-forward people I know (not a bad thing, it's actually nice when you know where you stand with someone) and they are very open becoming your friends, but with Germans, Finnish, and French people, they are more reserved to creating friendships.
On the other side of the spectrum, people that I've met who are more private or reserved are Thais, Chinese, Koreans, and Japanese.
Given the laws in Thailand and China, I do understand why people don't **openly** criticise or talk about the government, religious views, or share their opinions on current events;
but in the context of sharing thoughts when it comes to your appearance: weight, people are not afraid to tell you that you're fat.
Quick story, my first teaching job as a high school English teacher, some of my students and teachers used to remark how "chubby" and "fat" one of my students were. And to be respectful I asked one of my colleagues why was it okay for students and teachers to, what I understood as, "make fun" of our fat student.
She explained, if someone calls you fat, or points out that you've gained weight, it's not to be mean.
It's out of love and concern that "Why have you let yourself go?" "Don't you want to get married one day?" "Being unattractive is a poor reflection on your family " "How will you get a good job?"
At first it was hard to understand, but I do embrace it now, because if I really care about someone, I'm going to tell them they've gained weight.....and how can I help them get healthier.
So where do Americans fall in this spectrum?
American society has made it hard for people to embrace and/or accept constructive criticism, for all political spectrums (liberal, conservative, democrat, republican, etc.), so the solutions for a long time has been not to openly talk about political and religious views.
Also, in regards to religion, many people are NOT educated about Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism, Confucius, and Taoism;
even further many people have never met or interacted with people from different parts of the world.
Thus, many Americans live in a bubble.
And, culturally Americans believe: "American is number 1," "America is the most advanced society in the world," "America is the best!" "America has the best schools in the world"
Many countries are patriotic, and that's okay.
But, I've noticed, even with other American expats I've talked with, Americans don't like to have their world views challenged or disrupted.
Essentially, many are content with the bubble they live it.
Which is very sad.
So being back home, it's been very hard talking with family, friends, and strangers (I really don't mind talking with strangers).
Individualist vs. Group Culture
Americans are very individualistic, culturally, economically, and socially. Versus, in the "East" Asia and Middle East, it's very "group" culturally, economically, and socially.
What do I mean?
For example, in the US, when you're 18, you are legally considered an adult, many people move out of the home to study, work, and get a place of their own.
Whereas in say, Thailand, or Asia in general, many young people live at home until their married.
Some will study abroad, continue their university studies, work abroad, and depending on their social class, will live on their parent's property.
Individualistic vs. group culture has it's pro's and con's.
I would say pro's for individualistic: independence in thoughts and ideas, especially in regards to academic achievement and innovation. The con's are selfishness, hubris, and lack of empathy for others that are poor and struggling.
Example: the "American Dream" praises the individualistic culture, and highlights the few individuals that achieved success, and blames those that tried and failed to be successful that they are lazy and not working hard enough.
Pro's for group culture, are effort and support for many to be successful, especially if you analyse the "economic miracle" of Asian Tiger countries such as South Korea, Singapore, and Taiwan. The con's are in the classrooms, students struggle to think and work independently.
Example: When I was teaching my high school students I introduced weekly homework assignments, and some students didn't do the homework. So I made a rule, that if one person in the class didn't do the homework, everyone will be responsible. This strategy worked for a while, until I discovered many were just copying each other (cheating/copying is very prevalent in schools).
The extremes of "group" and "individualism" are definitely influenced by the economic and political system, of a country. So even in Western countries, like Finland, or Israel, though they are capitalist, they have many generous social welfare programs to help the society as a whole.
Whereas in the US, it's very capitalist, and one example is I received better healthcare as a **student** in Israel, than I received my whole entire life living under my parents insurance plan in the US.
There are many flaws in capitalist, socialist, and communist economies, but I believe that it's very sad that profit is put before health, education, and family well-being of a population.
Dating & Marriage
Okay, you've gotten this far. And this will be short, because I want to dedicate a whole blog to this subject.
Feminism, specifically in the US, only works for upper-class and wealthy women who have economic security, quality options of men to date and marry, and control over their time.
Feminists in, Finland, Israel, and even China, have the social benefits from their societies that support families, education, independence, and have higher standards for men when it comes to dating and marriage.
Ex) A man in China wants to get married? He must have a car, a house, good job, to prove to his bride's family that he can provide a create a family of his own. Men that don't meet these standards, will most likely be bachelors for life and not continue their family name (bring shame to their family, so men are motivated to work hard and continue their family name).
Ex) In Israel, if a couple, (Jewish, Palestinian, Bedouin, Christian) is struggling to have children, the state will help pay for In-Vitro
Ex) Finland has the lowest infant mortality rate in the world, the state provides "baby boxes" to every mother (married or not) so every child born has an equal start in life, mothers and fathers get paid maternity and paternity leave, childcare is subsidised, and a lot more benefits.
In America, not having generous social programs, or men meeting standards to be able to support a family is one of the primary differences that sets American feminists apart.
My observations: some controversial points
Many American women have low-standards when it comes to dating and marriage.
Many American women have lost their feminine energy...and looks.
Many American women are angry.
Many American women believe that their education, job, and materials makes them attractive.
Some American feminists want to be better if not replace men...
And it's not their fault.
Because feminism has really lied to a lot of women.
Demographically, there is not enough college-educated men for every college educated woman, and for religious women who want to marry within their faith, there simply is not enough religious men.
As for my observations with American men:
Dating apps have cheapened sex, so men don't feel the need to commit.
Divorce rates and lack of courts supporting father's have left men not wanting to get married and start a family.
Men may feel that they are not needed anymore, because "the future is female" women work, earn their own money, own their own homes, etc.
So many men don't know where they fit in society anymore.
In my next post I will go more in-depth explaining my observations of the dating and marriage scene in the US.
It definitely will point out some hard truths :)
If you've lived abroad and returned back home, what has been your experience?
Please share in the comment section below.
As always, thank you for reading!