Do expats judge their “own” more harshly?

Interacting with foreigners of any kind is an interesting cultural, character-study: 50-something-year-old German women with that unique purple-red hair color; Chinese businessmen surreptitiously smoking on planes; binge-drinking Brits.

All simply splashes of unique “local color.”

But upon encountering a fellow-American, the cross-cultural interest falls away and I more swiftly evaluate, label and judge. Better-understanding the “markers” of Americans — conservative/liberal, East Coast/West Coast, hyper-religious/non-religious, SUV-driver/bike-rider, Pepsi/Coke — facilitates swifter categorization between the like-minded potential buddy or to-be-avoided weirdo.

Conversely, I can suffer a mildly neurotic foreigner for a much longer time before deciding one way or another.

Is it just me?

23 responses to “Do expats judge their “own” more harshly?

  1. It’s not just you! With the lovely lilt of an accent, a mildly neurotic foreigner is transformed into someone quirky and interesting that you invite to a dinner party in order to get to know better. The fellow-American is often the person at the same party whom you feel you either have to apologize or make excuses for…

  2. You can meet some weird foreigners out here. It takes a certain type to leave their country and everything behind. I don’t hang out with very many Americans but don’t really have a reason why. I will definitely give more time to a random person than I would back at home , and yes I am rather quick to do a judgement in my mind. I was in shock when I arrived in Shanghai from the hinterlands of Tianjin. I was staring at all the foreigners I saw! Now in Shanghai , I have a Dutch friend who has a rocking pair of red pants he had made at the tailors. Is this a Dutch thing? I thought Pan was just weird . Haha.

  3. I am definitely a lot quicker to judge Germans (particularly abroad) than any other nationality. I reckon that’s partly (mostly?) because I feel their behaviour in some way reflects on me. And I don’t like it. A loud American or a binge-drinking Brit might be annoying, but a rude German is embarrassing – and that’s worse!

    • This is a really good point that I hadn’t considered: our fellow countrymen reflect positively or negatively on us and so we’re hypersensitive to them. Thanks for brining this up!

  4. I’m getting better at not classifying people by country – but it’s still a struggle. One question I get often when I come home is “do you hang out with a lot of Americans?” Then I sometimes have to think about the nationality of my friends before I answer. One thing that I do notice I judge harshly are the asian folks from the US who come back to China and my mandarin is better than theirs – they look like they fit in much better than me – until they open their mouths!

    • Funny that here in my corner of Hong Kong, I actually don’t know very many Americans at all. We’re planning a trip back to Zhuhai in November in order to share Thanksgiving with a few Americans (and friends of Americans) that we still know there.

      The power of speaking the language is a thrill! Nice feeling be able to use it when others who local Chinese might actually think can, actually can’t.

  5. Great post and observation! I think that many different groups of people are more quick to judge one of their own, and not just Americans. Maybe it’s a natural human characteristic, no? When you find someone who might look/act/speak like you in the midst of ‘foreigners’, it might be natural or second nature to ‘size’ them up, so to speak. I’ll often find myself wondering how strange it is to meet a fellow American expat living abroad (in the same odd city as I’ll be in), and quickly I’ll start to wonder what made them leave home etc…

    Loving your blog. Congratz on being mentioned at the Daily Post from WordPress.

  6. like your post very much! somehow i couldn’t use my gravatar to “like” your post, just want to say the “dutch trousers” imagery is vivid. your comics generator characters are surprisingly expressive!

  7. Maybe familiarity does breed contempt. I am also guilty of passing quick judgment on people with similar cultural background as myself from time to time. On the other hand, I am usually less judgmental when on foreign soil and be more observant to local custom and sometimes end up practicing the same thing which may deem inappropriate here at home 

    • I suppose we all adopt a “chameleon-like” ability to change moving back and forth between places and cultures. I know my accent, choice of words, and even choice of clothing, change very slightly depending on where I am.

  8. (Horrified shudder) Expat American you meet abroad prefers Portland to Seattle?!… I heartily second your “poser rot” response! πŸ™‚ I know PDX has its own TV show and all, but honestly, I also think they’re also trying a bit too hard as well. But of course, I’m biased πŸ™‚ (We’re No. 2!!)

    Keep up the great work Jen, and way to represent the US and SEA in HK!

    • Sadly, Seattle’s international claim to fame these days seems to amount to “Sleepless in Seattle,” “Fraiser,” and “Grey’s Anatomy.” One of these is mentioned every time I mention “Seattle” to a non-North American. All pretty drippy. (I’m sure you encountered the same in your time in HK). We have our work cut out for us representing Seattle abroad…

  9. Pingback: Ten Tiny Tales from Chiang Mai, Thailand | Expat Lingo·

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