4th of July: Random Thoughts from an American Expat

My husband and I have lived in Prague for three and a half years now. I have lived in Prague longer than I have lived anywhere else since High School. We love living in Prague, but there are plenty of things we love about America too. Living in a foreign country has given me a totally new perspective on my own native home. I love America more because of the time I’ve spent away from her. I respect America more because of the time I’ve spent away from her. I am embarrassed by America more because of the time I’ve spent away from her. I worry about America less because of the time I’ve spent away from her. My feelings towards my home country are far more diverse, varied, and broad then they ever were before I left.

In some ways living overseas has made me much less nationalistic. People are people no matter where you are. Nations don’t really matter. Nations rise and fall. People are what really matter.

But, living overseas has also made me more patriotic. People may be the same wherever you are, but societies are different. Cultures are different. Those differences can be stunningly beautiful and so incredibly valuable.

Random Things I’ve realized about America/Americans/American culture since living overseas:

  • Americans have the best “can do” attitude in the world. Ok, maybe not in the world, but definitely in contrast to the Czech Republic, where the favorite phrase seems to be “not possible” or “no”. As Americans we value making things happen and we are often willing to think outside the box and compromise in order to make things happen for ourselves and for others. That’s not necessarily the case in the rest of the world. I often miss this kind of positive thinking.
  • Everything is available everywhere all the time. There are localists who would say this is a negative thing, but I have to admit that I really miss this about the states.
  • American news coverage is often self-centered and biased. I knew that before moving, but you realize it anew when you are abroad. When people talk about the latest news here it’s not just what’s going on in their own country its stuff that’s going on all over the world. News will always have biases, but the biases seem less intense in news sources from outside the US.
  • The English language is a beautiful thing and I have learned to appreciate it so much more living in a non-English speaking country.
  • The stereotype about Americans being loud is often and generally true, but this isn’t always a bad thing and there are a lot of other loud people as well. British guys in Prague for a stag party have a tendency to be far louder than any group of Americans.
  • Americans in general are truly friendly people. We smile at people we meet, and we enjoy small talk. Sure, not every American does, but on a whole as a culture we do. This became strikingly clear living in a culture where that is not true.

Ok, so there could definitely be more to this list, but these are the first few things that came to mind.

How about you? Have you traveled outside of the US? If so where to? And did you learn anything about your own culture while there?

Happy 4th of July everyone. I hope your day is filled with fireworks, fresh strawberries, BBQ’s, hanging out with friends and family, and lots of gratitude for the positives and the beauty that is American culture.

Rejoicing in the journey- Bethany Stedman