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The Ex-Pat Experience

This is very long, but I think it's a good read. Just in case, though, I'll sum it up for you:

You get out what you put in. So you probably want to go with a sense of humour.

During the Festival, we had a woman staying in the hotel who I shall describe as "difficult". She had an American accent, and was wearing an American pin, which becomes very relevant to this story or I wouldn't bother mentioning it. She wanted to use the internet, but the hotel didn't have internet available. She became increasingly frustrated that we couldn't get her online to submit a review of the play she had just seen.

Now, I'm saying this in polite terms, but frustrated really isn't the way to describe it. She was shouting, she was stomping her feet, she was saying how this was "the worst thing that had ever happened to her in her life."

At one point she pulled me aside and said, "At least you understand. You're from North America. Scottish people are nice, but they just don't get it." This was before she started insisting that she should be able to go online (no matter that we just didn't have internet) because she "knows people from the Pentagon!" She "knows Donald Rumsfield!" She actually said "Do you know who I am?"

(About here was when Kenny came out. He was looking at her, and she just lost it. She was a tiny little woman, and she just about climbed over the counter to glare in his face. "I'm not name dropping, I am someone important, you can check!" she shouted, and I still have no idea what the hell he did that got her so upset.)

After she stomped up to her room, I looked up her name. When I got the chance, I did a google search of her. And yes, she is a journalist, and yes, she has published quite a few interesting articles. She was born and raised in the US, but adopted UK citizenship and currently calls London home. And she's written about her experience as an ex-pat American living in the UK.

Which, according to her, has been awful.

She tells stories about the rude treatment she gets everywhere, and how all Americans are treated atrociously in the UK. She talks about people screaming at Americans on the bus, about people screaming at her in the street, about people hurling abuse at her once they find out where she's from. She talks about taking off her beautiful American pin so she can walk around without fear.

I read this in complete disbelief.

See, yes, I have a Canadian accent, but if you're not from North America, you're going to just assume I'm American. (Unless you assume I'm from Australia, strangely enough, but that's only happened twice.) When I left the hotel, there were still people I worked with who thought I was American. It's natural.

No one has ever been rude to me here.

I find people here are unfailingly polite, I've gotten directions when I look lost without having to ask, I have people who will smile at me everywhere I go. And these people, for the most part, assume that I'm American. No one treats this woman badly because of where she's from. They treat her badly because of how she behaves. But she'll never see that, because it's easier, when you're an ex-pat, to assume the problem is that you're a foreigner rather than that you're an ass.

{Editor's note: her article, which I won't link to, has a bunch of comments from other Americans living in London. They're floored at her "experience" as well. You'd think this would make her second guess things, but no. They're just the type who have adopted British ways so much that they don't seem American anymore.}

{Editor's second note: people here keep apologizing to me for assuming I'm American. I find this very strange. But then I found out that sometimes people just freak out when you get their country of origin wrong. As though everyone in the world should instantly recognize your accent or something. Gah.}

{I was going to add more to this, about the situation in China and what it's like being a foreigner there. But it's such a different situation and culture that, although the underlying message is the same, the specifics are vastly different, so I'll save it for another time.}


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I know...

In a fit of generosity, send the woman's publicist (she *must* have one, if she's *so* notable) a collection of John Stuart Mill's works.


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