illustrations: Ray Noland
Now is not exactly the best time to be an American expat. After the election results an Australian friend texted me “you had one job.” I knew he was joking but I could still feel the shame burning inside of me. Just because I wasn’t on the figurative plane as it barreled down to earth, my friends and family were, and there was absolutely nothing I could do to stop it.
Sure, perhaps I could have done more; like engage the few Trump supporters in my family or skip a night out to make campaign calls in swing states, but like many others, I was pretty damn comfortable in my bubble. I never thought in a million years that an orange, under qualified tyrant would succeed, so I didn’t feel the need to go out of my way. Instead, I just sat back and watched the disaster unfold from the safety of my Schillerkiez flat.
Immediately after I heard the news that he won, however, I felt shame. I worried about how the rest of the world would view the US. I worried about the damage that Trump would do to the environment, foreign relationships, and women’s rights. I worried about the future of my niece.
So, how exactly does one handle patriotic humiliation abroad? Well, if you’re anything like me, you might end up consciously (or subconsciously) doing the following:
1. Apologize immediately after telling someone you’re from “The States”.
2. Practice saying “it’s aboot time” and “eh” so that people think you’re from Canada, instead.
3. Retire your favorite US sports team paraphernalia for the next four years.
4. Attempt to defy the American stereotype. From now on, you will be either “real nice” or “real mean”, none of this “fake nice” quatsch. And you will only use your “indoor voice,” regardless of whether you are inside or out. Shhhhh.
5. Show up to every German class, even in the most frigid of temperatures, in attempt to finally be bilingual. You don’t need to be able to have philosophical conversations, but you would like to shoot the shit with the locals once and for all.
6. Avoid hanging out in groups composed of only Americans. When you do meet with fellow American expats, do so in a loud, smokey bar or better yet, in the privacy of your own home.
7. Feel relieved that you got out when you did and then immediately feel guilty for doing so.
One thing that helps me sleep at night is knowing that there are plenty of Americans back home who are committed to making sure that the country doesn’t fall apart under faulty leadership. Though I can’t do much from a different continent, I can (and will) continue to surround myself with people from different backgrounds and cultures, educate myself on current events worldwide, and stand up for what I believe in every chance I get. Sometimes things have to get bad, really bad, before they get better.
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Text: Nicole Paulus, Illustrations: Ray Noland
Nicole Paulus is a millennial expat from the States. When she’s not dancing at Kater, drinking beers at Tempelhof, or eating shawarma at Maroush, she’s busy running her own digital marketing company Nico New Media. You can read about her adventures on her blog.