Why I hate being an expat

Just sometimes.

1) You’re caught between. People talk to you about American politics, sports, fashion, literature, as if you were an expert. You are expected to be up-to-date on every bit of news and gossip from both America and Hungary. If you fall behind with your American news and gossip, you’re a bad American / what-kind-of-American-are-you? If you fall behind on your Hungarian news and gossip, it’s slightly more excusable because you’re just a dumb little foreigner.

2) You’re not allowed to be either. If you have a strong opinion about America (let’s talk about Obamacare!), it will be ignored because, after all, how would you know – you haven’t lived there for years, so you’re not really American. If you have a strong opinion about Hungary (Trianon, anyone? or shall we talk about other ethnic minorities?), it will be ignored because you’ve only lived here a few years, you’re not really Hungarian, and you can’t really understand the details of the situation.

3) If you hang out with other Americans, then you’re a loud, obnoxious nationalist. And besides, are you really friends with them, or is it just because you’re stuck in this foreign country together? If you hang out with Hungarians, then you’re a culture snob, you’ve “gone native”. And you know, due to the language barrier, they’re not really true friends anyway.

4) Language sucks. Go ahead, study Hungarian intensely for years, you’ll still never be a native speaker. Meanwhile your English is going to suffer. There’s no avoiding it. You can try to prevent it by reading English books, watching American movies, listening to English music – and every time you do, there will be that slight nagging at the back of your head, the one saying “you ought to be doing this in Hungarian instead to practice.”

5) Family. It’s easy to justify it by thinking that many people living in the USA still live far away from their families. But the reality is that you are thousands of miles and thousands of dollars away, and uncertainly so – if something happened tomorrow, what are the chances that you would be able to get a plane ticket – and at what price? Emotionally, a thousand miles of ocean is somehow farther than a thousand miles of driving.

Just sometimes; rarely, luckily.

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One Response to Why I hate being an expat

  1. Joe Cross says:

    We had the exact same experience in Prague. It’s weird watching the latest episode of Seinfeld at a bar with other expats and then trying to explain why it’s funny to my Czech friends. And trying to learn Czech is only slightly less ridiculous than Magyar 😉

    But in the end, we found a great mix of locals and expats that shared similar interests and passions. I imagine you have, also.

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