When we call one country or another our home, in reality, we live in a tight bubble where the things we eat, ways we communicate, and stuff we call normal is only natural as long as we don’t exit it. But it takes as little as a single vacation abroad and as much as changing countries, to see your views and customs starting to shift.
So one redditor turned to Americans living abroad and asked them a seemingly simple, yet very telling question: “how has your view of the world changed since you moved out of the US?”
Sooner than we knew it, the answers came flooding in with expats sharing stuff they experienced in foreign places. Turns out, some of these experiences have changed the way Americans look at their home country from the very core of it.
#1Moved to the UK 4 1/2 years ago. I had a sneaking suspicion that America wasn’t as great as we were led to believe, but now I know. The ability to go to the doctor when you need to, and not worry about having to pay a massive bill is indescribable. The UK has its problems, for sure, but just knowing that if I get hurt or get sick that the NHS will take care of me is an amazing and wonderful feeling. Thank you to everyone at the NHS!!!
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#2There’s so much less daily pressure in my adopted country. It’s hard to explain. It’s like walking out of a crowded, harshly lit, loud room into a calm cool night. My phone isn’t exploding with telemarketers. I don’t live in fear of my healthcare disappearing. I can bike to work, where I make a living wage that lets me actually live. My weekends are respected. I can live simply with no expectation to hustle and grind. I feel free.
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#3Over 20 years now outside of the US, mostly in the UK but also spent some time in a few other places.
Realising how brainwashed the average American is. Reciting the pledge of allegiance every day at school, prayer groups at school, staying in sh**ty jobs for the sh**ty healthcare, no sick days, no vacation days, no maternity leave, no universal healthcare, crazy university debt, the list goes on and on and it’s crazy. It’s not normal.
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#4I lived in Japan for a couple of years, and as a Black artist, I received respect there that I have never experienced in Texas.
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#5For me, it was just how abysmal public transportation and urban planning are in the US.
We have such awful public transportation and we design most of our cities in a way that makes it nearly impossible to ever get around without a car.
Giant parking lots, 10-lane highways, no sidewalks, huge roads with cars moving at highway speeds, non-existent bicycle infrastructure, zoning that bans density, etc.
Did you know that Atlanta and Barcelona have similar populations (in their metros) but Atlanta takes up 10x as much land? That’s how bad sprawl is in the US, especially in the Sun Belt.
Walkable cities and good public transportation are just so good for quality of life, in my opinion.
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#6Living in the Netherlands…life doesn’t have to be so hard. It doesn’t need to be a competition over who owns the most stuff. National anthems do not need to be played at sporting events. Buy quality, not quantity. Take good care of your neighborhood, for there is not free land available down the road. Let nature be nature, not a place for you to show off your atv. Yards are silly.
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#7One thing that strikes me is that everyone else in the world has an opinion on the US, often strong emotions, both good and bad. I was sitting in Seoul airport and a Korean man chatted me up, asking me where I’m from. He was very grateful to US soldiers when I told him I was American. Other times Europeans think we’re really stupid because of our lack of worker protection and universal healthcare (and they are very cognizant of things like our higher maternal mortality rate which most Americans don’t know).
I think that changed my view of the world: America is entangled in everybody’s business. Our soft power with things like movies, songs, and video games and products like Coke and Starbucks penetrates the whole world. The reverse is not often true – many things that are near universal don’t make it into the US.
Getting off the American thing, I realized most people want the same things in life and most people from any country just want to get along. It’s the government and the elite that try to pit people groups against each other. I consider China and Russia to be outright enemies of the US, but I’m friends with people from those countries and they’re good people, trying to live their life, raise their kids, and have a little fun.
Also, everybody is racist. In the US, we’re displaying that in public and there’s an actual effort to fix it. That’s not always the case with other countries – some are perfectly content to remain biased against other races.
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#8I’ve realized that people in the US know really NOTHING about other countries and couldn’t really care less. (My son”s MIL asked me if I had indoor plumbing.)
I’ve been living in my new home for about 20 years and for the last few years, I want to kneel and kiss the ground here and be so happy that I am NOT still living in the US. I still have family there but I don’t even want to visit the country.
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#9I’ve learned a lot about compassion and patience. I’ve lived out of the country for 5-years, in a 3rd world country. You see how consumerism now defines many aspects of life in the US, keeping up with the Jones’s and taking on tremendous debt to do so. The media drives it and it’s reinforced by both media and society. Many people are defined by their stuff.
I’ve learned that you can be brilliant mentally, artistically and super innovative in business but not have discretionary income. But you can have friends and family and free time and, most importantly, happiness. Here few define themselves by their job and their title – it’s a job not life. I’ve learned that spending time with others simply to listen to them and get to know them, for the sake of knowing them (not networking nor trying to advance an agenda) brings about more happiness for me. I’ve disassociated my professional life from my personal life and as a result am far happier than I could have ever imagined
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#10Crime. I went from living in D.C. at the height of the crack epidemic in the 80s, where carjackings were invented, to Germany where you couldn’t even lock your Mercedes from the inside.
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#11I’m sure others have said it but universal healthcare is such an obvious thing when you live in a country with a system in place. I really don’t get why we can’t get our own people behind the idea.
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#12I lived abroad for about 8 years all together (New Zealand, Netherlands, and Canada) before moving back to the USA for a job I couldn’t turn down.
First of all, there is a really good adage that “in Europe, 100 kilometers (or miles) is a long distance, but in America 100 years is a long time.” The Netherlands is so tiny that you would be hard pressed to remain within its borders if you drove just 3 hours in any direction from where I lived, with cute towns the entire way, and that was just the standard distance I drove to get home when I was in university (with nothing in between). Meanwhile, the house I lived in was built in the 1600s and there was nothing weird about that, which is a sheer marvel to any American who visited. I suppose both of these applied on some level when living in Canada/NZ too- maybe it’s more an “Old World” versus “New World” distinction.
The other one that’s worth noting is how a lot of American politics and outlook is a bit like how if you throw a frog into a boiling pot of water, it will jump out immediately. However, if you slowly raise the pot to a boil, the frog will never jump out. There’s a lot of things in the USA that are horrific and, IMO, it’s just a culture afraid of so much these days. It certainly wasn’t when I was younger, and a lot of the politics would be incomprehensible even a decade ago but are part of mainstream conversation. That’s a real shame.
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#13I have lived in England for 17 years originally from the East coast of the US.
I have no problem walking around at night in my town or most cities here in England. Back in the US I wouldn’t do this.
My world view expanded. I know more about stuff outside the US now. I work in a global firm and it is obvious who has never been outsider the US when you talk to them.
I still can’t make a proper cup of tea. But I prefer green tea and coffee.
The book Watching the English helped me understand the people here a bit better. The book The Culture Map helped me understand people around the world a bit better.
I can find just about any food over here now so I don’t even miss that.
We have the NHS, less work hours and a better work life balance overall.
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#14The facade of American exceptionalism starts to fade the longer you spend away.#15So much. Where do I begin. My view has become more proportional, the world is interconnected and much smaller than I ever imagined. There are as**oles everywhere. Everywhere has its own slew of issues. It’s not about wage but the lifestyle that goes with it. For example in Italy I made pennies but the lifestyle was rich and relaxed. Minimum wage in Australia is fantastic and the lifestyle is easy going. London it’s high stress for a good paying job but great fun. Basically the lifestyle is what matters. I can’t speak for everywhere in America but I left because I couldn’t handle the hierarchical view of career, the stress and the 2 week vacation per year trap. What you do is who you are, at least from my experience, and I wanted a mental shift.
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#16I moved from California to Sydney, Australia about 10 years ago. The obvious ones like healthcare and paying people a living wage are hard for me to see what it’s like in the US. I love the US but just to visit now. I wouldn’t want to raise my kids there.
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#17I have lived in Mexico 3 years now. I’ve come to realize that the entire world does not revolve around what’s going on in the US. Even the mexico is a very close neighbor, you can go so many days without having any idea what’s going on, which is awesome honestly. I don’t vote here, so I don’t also really care what’s going on with Mexican politics either. Whenever I go back home, I realize how much of the day is spent in the US in fear of doing something wrong, breaking a rule, or just kinda being in fear. The level of anxiety of most people is extremely high in the US. Even though I will always love my home, I realize that when I live in the US, I’m constantly in fear of being “forced” into major debt via medical bills, an accident, rent etc. I don’t even have insurance in Mexico, even when I’ve had to go to the hospital or see a specialist, it’s so unbelievably affordable for extremely good care.
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#18I did a masters degree in the UK and man, my view of America really changed.
We’re loud. Like really damn loud and way too excited all the time over the littlest things. We like to over exaggerate and profess things out in the open. If countries had a personality, America would be the no-boundaries, over sharing extrovert and England is the tight lipped, unfeeling introvert.
But damn when I was over there, I miss my country – how positive and cheerful and friendly we all are. I didn’t quite catch on to British “humour” (lol) and they found me too loud and obnoxious. I felt like I had to tone down my personality there.
Also I felt judged lol. I went to a writing tutorial session and the tutor immediately asked me “English is not your first language, no?” And I’m like “wtf I’m speaking perfect English now”. And she’s like “Oh American English is not the same as English English. DAMNN WTF
Anyways as much as I loved the culture and rich history and Jaffa cakes and cucumber sandwiches during tea time across the pond, America will always be my home.
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#19I’m in the States now, but I lived in Japan for a few years when I was younger, and it changed a lot of things for me. Mostly, I realized the value of things like socialized medicine and a social safety net in general. I also came to really admire and adopt the cultural attitude that doing something “great” is less important than simply doing your best at whatever you do — ultimately, it shed me of my tendency to mentally classify jobs as “respectable” and “not respectable.”
OTOH, my upbringing taught me to question authority and value truth and individuality, and many of the conflicts I had with Japanese culture ultimately reinforced all of those things. …Although at the time, I hadn’t realized how many of my fellow Americans could and would ultimately take those values to bizarre and dangerous extremes.
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#20I’ve had the good fortune of living on 4 continents, and in each place outside of America I’ve felt like my brain was on vacation.#21Spent some time in Italy, I went from Florence to Rome and stopped in tons of tiny villages on the way, life outside the United States is a lot slower paced. People aren’t running from one place to another to get things done. This might be for Italy only but everyone was just slowed down compared to the states.
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#22Well, I moved to Canada like 3.5 months ago, my expectations were not that good, but damn i was wrong, clean streets, friendly people, lower taxes, cheaper and effective healthcare and police working fine, but I feel really bad for Litton that burned down.
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#23Moved to a major EU country.
US is the land of Loud people, parking lots, commercials and advertisements, expensive healthcare, Backwards thinking on education and work culture, fake personality and politeness, severe lack of mental health care and creation of a sudo happy life presentation to the world, lack of community, lack of world view, lack of empathy, lack of cultural understanding, self centered global view politically, people are generally more manipulative and see to exploit others for their own gain, absolute disregard for protection of natural resources (epa what a joke), fake belief that there isn’t a cast system and can easily move between economic classes, uneducated police and far too much religious zealotry. Terrible public transport even in major cities with public transport like NY or San Fran.
But on the good side, there is lots of outdoor space away for people, good bbq and other restaurant foods, entrepreneurial culture, bourbon and whisky, availability of goods and resources, inexpensive land if you choose to fine it, relaxed bureaucracy.
Similarities are many. Both have hillbillies and rednecks, rich people who are above the law as long as they have the right skin color or religion in their community, too much plastic use, a strong car culture, diverse interest in extra activities (sure there isn’t a huge gun culture here but other activities replaces that).
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#24I was fortunate enough to live in Japan for almost 5 years. If living there and traveling the region showed me anything it’s that we as Americans are not only extremely fortunate but quite ignorant and abrasive as well when It comes to most topics.
Now I love America and what she stands for but the people in it are as rotten as they come. Respect for people and their things is just flat out not a forethought anymore here. Other countries to include Japan obviously have faults, major ones as well but the societal norms in America are f**ked beyond belief.
Also, we do education very wrong compared to some places I’ve been.
here comes the, ” then you should just leave then” clowns
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#25I grew up in California but I’ve lived in a couple of different countries. I would say the first thing I noticed within the first week of living outside the US is that most foreigners were incredibly hospitable and even excited to share their culture with me. Americans could care less about the rest of the world. Another thing I quickly noticed was that Americans are loud people.
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#26Went to Nicaragua and life was much more relaxed, no rush in things, focus on family and enjoying life.
Before, I used to dream about living in a Downtown Miami skyscraper and drive a Tesla. Walking from my safe residencial through the slums everyday and seeing how hard people work in Nicaragua to make pennies made me realize just how important each and every dollar we make is, we as Americans waste money on so many things that aren’t important in the grand scheme of things.
Also it was crazy seeing how going to a private doctor/hospital without insurance was cheaper than going to an American hospital with insurance
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#27I have been living outside of USA for more than a decade now. I would say that my world view hasn’t changed that much, but my view on the US has. I know there are so many wonderful people and places there, but I can’t overlook all of the bad.#28I lived and worked for two years in Germany in the 90s, and I presently live in Japan, where I’ve been for a dozen years and will probably remain. I have a house, and a bilingual child who goes to public school.
Both countries are different from the US, and different from each other. But OP asked how my view has changed about the US. I’ve been away from the US for a quarter of my life. It’s been a couple of years since I was last there. Unlike many of the respondents in this thread, I feel like my view of America is frozen in the past. Obama had just been elected, 9-11 was still fresh in everyone’s memory. That America has changed dramatically. My only view of America since that time is filtered through the internet or indirectly through the few people I remain in contact with. I kind of feel like I don’t recognize America anymore.#29Traveled pretty well. Studied veterinary medicine in Germany. Been to Paris – boring, awful, dirty, got pickpockets & police didn’t help had to catch the girl myself, absolutely fantastic bakery though. Been to England, lovely but the drinking culture is something else. America is loud & angry & just FULL of awful, processed foods. Going to a butcher or a bakery is lovely in many parts of the world but America? Fresh from frozen may as well be the motto. Vegetables are awful. Eat an Italian tomato & you’ll never touch a beefsteak tomato again. Having an American accent is a severe disadvantage so far. Seems to automatically put people on guard in case I’ll be rude.
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#30I’ve been in Mexico, Germany, Kuwait and Afghanistan. Everyone I met are wonderful people, minding their own business and trying to live their lives. They were all friendly, willing and eager to show me their culture and share food. We’d all share similarities between our countries and differences and no one ever took offense. Politics were the last things we talked about and if it was brought up, they told me things in their countries they didn’t like
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