Friday, March 20, 2009

Never Happened to Me, and, If it Happened to You, It is Because You Are an A**hole!

Never Happened to Me, and, If it Happened to You, It is because you are an A**hole!

This is probably a most boring topic to discuss, and I kept postponing talking about it, but I will still publish it, albeit very briefly. When different expats talk about the countries they live in , some begin to relate the tales of some kind of abuse at the hands of the locals, while others arrogantly exclaim-“ it never happened to me”, or, “I never had any problems”. “Those things happened to you because you were an a**hole”. “The people there are great, the country is great”. “I love it, never any kind of problem”.

I for one, find Japan to be a very difficult place to live because of extreme xenophobia and the fact that most landlords will not allow foreigners to settle there. I myself tried to look or an apartment there, and it was like looking for an apartment in a white area of Alabama with you being a black man looking. It was a very traumatic experience for me, actually, one of the most traumatic ones in my life.

However, I met other guys who had lived in Japan all their lives and they grin from ear to ear and state with smiling confidence- “Never had any problems! My landlady was great! I have thousands of friends there. The people are super nice. I am married to a Japanese. The girls there love foreigners, the people are super hospitable! If those things happened to you, it is because the problem is YOU. YOU are the A**HOLE!” Our conversation is thus finished.

The same goes for crime and things of that nature. I have been to certain countries where I was robbed, beaten, and the same happened to other people that I know. Some guys I knew got rolled over, cheated by business partners and had to leave by doing an instant flight in the night-and I did, too after a company did not pay me my salary and could not get me a visa. Again, when I post that on the internet on some bulletin board, I get attacked- “You racist! That never, ever happened to me! I have been here for 20 years and never had any problems. The problem is YOU! You are the stupid a**hole that is why people treat you bad like this!”

Even if I bring out the topic of different parts of the US and how I do not like living there, again I have people attack me. I find New England to be extremely boring, for one. I never had any friends there, and I understand it takes a long time to make them, in some places, over a decade. I have lived there, I know. But, again, the “you are the a**hole, that is why you can’t get along with people there” argument comes up when I start talking to various individuals about it.

The reverse is also true. I had a friend, a French guy who went to live in a tropical paradise of a country. He always complained on me that he could not get a date. I, on the other hand was tripping over dates and had no problem whatsoever. He was rich and good looking, and he cold not understand why he was having such a hard time there.

The “ it never happened to me; therefore, it is not true and if it does happen at all or, if it does, it is the victim’s fault” is a sophistic, fallacious and stupid way to prove a point. Can you imagine coming back from Iraq and attending a funeral of a soldier who had fallen in battle there and smugly saying to the widow of the warrior- “Oh, I was in Iraq, too, and it never happened to me. He must have just been an a**hole, that is why he got shot”.

There is however, a combination of factors that decide what destiny will befall the expat in a certain place. These factors are as follows:
1) the general attitude of the locals towards his/her kind people, meaning nationality/race or what you are perceived to be. One would not want to be an American expat in an Al Qaeda –controlled area of Iraq, for one. Yeah, ‘it never happened to you’ but you are gonna get your ass killed pretty soon if you don’t get the hell out of that place like right now, and yes, you are the stupid idiot to be there, although the Al Qaeda people are not exactly angels, either. And yes, trying to get a date there is not desirable. You will get shot, for sure. On the other hand of you are in a safe place as Japan, are of handsome appearance with a good job and proper introductions into the right circles, with the company paving the way for your future life there, you should be OK. If where you and what you are lies somewhere in between, the results would be mixed and varied.
2) Your other physical appearance is another factor. A very big one. Your neatness or the way you dress and move is another one. A nervous person who is in a hurry and has no time is normal in the UK, but is seen as a nuisance in warmer, more relaxed and tropical areas. An intellectual person is well received in South America but is seen as an irritation in Thailand. Some cultures like well-dressed people, some like those who are casual, some appreciate that you speak the language, and some see it as an affront to their culture. Some like talkative people and some, discreet and silent ones. All of those factors decide how you will be perceived. And, of course, in every country, they do not like poor people but like people with money.
3) Your own positive/negative attitude and your perception of things. How good are you at taking and dealing with bullsh*t? How patient are you? A positive attitude will not save you from Al Qaeda’s RPGs, though, I can guarantee you that. It will also not save you from getting your ass kidnapped or being sentenced to death if you, say, try and teach a wrong religion in a wrong area. However, if you are a na├»ve person ( yes, it can be a plus) who does not have to depend on anyone financially, who does not learn the language, you may have a pretty good time because you will not understand what the people are saying, and will only hear English spoken to you, and usually the locals will not be able to curse you out in English.
If you are not a person who is well aware of his environment, you may mistake scornful smiles for hospitality, and, if you like to minimize your contact with the locals to only a few people you know, then it is also a plus. Usually, those who keep to themselves and limit their activities in society o buying things and services seem to be the happiest anywhere. Ignorance is bliss.
Negative people, who like to see bad things around them and, subconsciously, even look for them, will find other things to complain about when they are abroad. However, one should not blame all bad things that can happen to them on their negative attitudes. The people outside are also a variable in the equation.

4) How well can you “feel” the local ways of doing things, the language, know of dangers and benefits, how well do you understand the reality there, and how basically street smart are you?. That is a very, very important factor. How prepared are you to react to different things happening here? How mature? How wise are you in dealing with their ways and in surviving in that environment?

5) The amount of time you have been there. Yeah, if you are in a place for two weeks and you have money, you will probably think it is the best thing since sliced bread. But if you start doing business there and working or staying there longer and dealing with the local bureaucracy, corruption and your skin is not thick enough, you may not like it anymore. I have been to many places on vacation, but once I tried actually living there I understood why so many locals like to emigrate from the country.

5) The overall most important factor of all is luck, luck, luck. Its presence or lack of it will be the decisive factor in how things will turn out for you. In fact, I think 60% of all your experiences there, and how things will work for you in your new place depend on your supply of luck. Without luck, even if you are positive, things can go bad, you can run into some very bad elements, and suffer injury, being swindled, meet with deceit and even your premature death without doing anything particularly unusual. Are you in the country at the right time? Are you in the right place at the right time there? Luck is a crucial thing. How do you get luck? Well, we all have our ways. Some people get it through meditation, some through religion, whatever. Get some luck!

Depending on the combination of the above things, your experience in any place will be either mostly positive, or, mostly negative. What can I advise? I don’t really know. It depends. Do not always complain without doing something or asking someone for advice, learn to deal with things, or, if the negative outweighs the positive, leave for a while and come back with a fresh new attitude, and more money , skills, etc. Also, try not to be smug if you have been having a good time, but other people have run into hard times. Be supportive, do not declare them to be a**holes. Otherwise, what has not yet happened to you, may just happen if you keep bragging about what a big, lucky shot you are.

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