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Day 186: Hanging Out with Countrymen Abroad, Why Not Stay Home? My Extended Response

Day 186: Celebrating the 4th on the 5th

Day 186: Celebrating the 4th on the 5th

Literally the second I was about to write about day 186, I got a comment on another blog post that left me thinking. The post was talking about hanging out with my American friends here in Sydney, which is basically what I was going to maybe write about for day 186 because it was yet another celebration for the Fourth of July (an awesome holiday). So, instead of talking about the taco dip, the bagels, the ping pong and Corona beer that made up my evening — an evening enjoyed by American, Australian and British people all at once — I decided that I would respond more thoroughly to this comment by Zoe.

“Sorry Brooke, but why do you want to travel half way around the world to hang out with people from the country you left? Why not just stay home?”

Wow, okay, where to start? At first I was really taken aback by this comment, like someone was being critical of me choosing to have American friends while living in Australia. After a couple of comments, I found out that the person was focusing on my final statement of the post, made completely in passing in my mind:

“It was at this event that I learned that Sydney is apparently swarming with Americans, so come on down fellow Yanks! You’ll fit right in.”

To this comment, Zoe responds:

“It sounds to me like you are promoting Australia as somewhere that Americans can hang out with other Americans? Thats the equivalent of an Australian travelling to Earl’s Court in London just to hang out with other Australians.

Its just like being at home but with a funny accent and wierd post codes. Where’s the fun, adventure and travel experience in that?”

First off, I would never suggest that someone travel to another country solely to hang out with people from their own country. Never… it’s just not how I roll. I understand now how someone can read into that sentence and come to this conclusion, but I did not mean it like that in the least. I love a good cultural adventure as much as the next person; I’ve had my fair share.

However, I got to thinking about this topic and felt like it was a good one to elaborate on.

Finding your countrymen abroad can actually, in my opinion, add to an overall travel experience.

group at 4th party

Aussie & American Crew

I have found myself in the circle of an extremely awesome group of Americans here in Sydney, and it has made the holidays (that would be back home) so much more enjoyable. Just because you leave a country doesn’t mean you don’t miss it.

Furthermore, I think that meeting countrymen abroad puts you in touch with people you can really relate to, especially ones you may not meet in your hometown. They are generally going through similar experiences and can give advice, they know what you’re missing from home and they just might end up being a long-time friend. Take Erica. I met Erica in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan back in 2008 of all places in this big world, and now I look forward to seeing her again this November back in Bishkek (ooh secret’s out!). Would I have met her while spending time in Peoria, IL? Probably not.

boys playing ping pongDoes hanging out with my countrymen abroad make my travels less fun, less adventurous and less of a travel experience? No way. It all just depends on how you define adventure and a good travel experience. Adventurous to some might be trying the local cuisine in a local’s house, while others might say adventure is when you’re climbing an active volcano or jumping out of a plane. We all have our own opinions of what travel should be…

But, it doesn’t mean it’s right OR the only way. If I wanted to come to Australia and do nothing but sit on the beach for days on end, not once taking into a conversation with a local, that is totally my prerogative — especially if it makes me happy.

There is no right or wrong. Whether you carry a backpack, lug a suitcase, stay in fancy hotels or jump from couch to couch — while it may be different — there is no right or wrong.


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21 Responses to Day 186: Hanging Out with Countrymen Abroad, Why Not Stay Home? My Extended Response

  1. Erik July 11, 2011 at 8:55 am #

    Wow. I’m glad you are confident and took that comment the right way. I would have had sleepless nights over it. (I hate criticism of any kind)

    As long as you feel you are doing things the right way, you are doing things the right way. I doubt I needed to even type that. You get it.

    • Brooke July 11, 2011 at 8:47 pm #

      Hehe yep, I get it, and yes I also have a hard time taking criticism. ooooh buddy.

  2. Lauren July 11, 2011 at 9:20 am #

    As one of the Americans you hang out with, I have a few comments. I absolutely agree that hanging out with “countrymen” (and women) in a foreign country is not the same as hanging out with them back home. These are all people who had the balls to up and travel or move to another country, continent, culture, what have you. Your interactions and social activities with these people will be very different from the stuff you do with friends back home, like going to the same pub every Friday.

    My second comment is that quite on the contrary, the “locals” you often meet in a new country have the same townie mentality as some Americans back home. It’s often better to hang out with fellow expats, because they’ve share the same expanded world view. You know I’ve met Aussies from Sydney who’ve never even been to Melbourne? Never left the country? Never been to freakin NZ? Why would I want to hang out with them when there are people like you, who’ve been to places I can’t even pronounce, like Kyrgyzstan? I didn’t come here to necessarily hang out with all people from America, like me, but I did come here to find others who’ve seen some of the world and have a desire to see more of it.

    • Brooke July 11, 2011 at 8:50 pm #

      Thank you for your awesome, well-thought out comment. You said it beautifully 🙂

  3. Zoe July 11, 2011 at 9:39 am #

    Nice response 😉

    I still don’t think Sydney is swarming with Americans. Maybe the more touristy places? I haven’t met any Americans in Sydney, but the day is young.

    Now, seeing that I’ve provided the inspiration for this post, how about crediting my words to me and my blog? Isn’t that common practice for writers who use other people’s words and ideas?


    • Brooke July 11, 2011 at 10:06 am #

      Hey Zoe, I went and added your name and a link to the comments that you specifically left. I’m checking with other bloggers to see what the common practice is when using comments left on your site and will update accordingly. Cheers!

  4. Lauren July 11, 2011 at 9:51 am #

    Wow, you just seem to be one of those travelers who wants to tell people how to travel. The worst kind of traveler — far worse than one who goes to another country and hangs out with their own “people.” Get over yourself.

  5. Liz July 11, 2011 at 9:56 am #

    I totally agree that hanging out with other travelers makes a travel experience better (similar interests, etc), but I have to admit I’m kind of jealous that you’ve found a big group of Americans! In my 7 months in Sydney, I’ve hardly met any Americans. But I’ve made lots of South American friends and often get strange reactions when I tell friends from back home that I spend most of my time in Australia hanging out with Colombians.

  6. Caroline Eubanks July 11, 2011 at 10:05 am #

    In my experience here in Sydney, I’ve found it hard to get to know the Australians since they know I’m here for a limited amount of time. That’s why most of my friends are Americans, Germans and Kiwis. We all have the same mindset. That’s not to say that I don’t like Australians or I obviously wouldn’t be living here. It’s the Aussies I met in Europe that made me want to come over here in the first place.

    @2nd Lauren: I think Brooke is trying NOT to tell you how to travel. You can hang out with whoever you want while abroad.

  7. Deidre July 11, 2011 at 10:30 am #

    I studied abroad in Australia before I moved here, and I found that all the americans in my program mostly hung out with other americans. I found it really strange that they weren’t making more of an effort to meet Australians.

    So when I moved back here for my Masters Degree, I made a concerted effort to meet tons of Australias and kind of leave Americans I met as just casual acquaintances.

    But in the end i totally agree with you, you have to do what is right for you, and I found it silly to ignore connections with Americans just because I decided to move to Australia. If that makes sense?

    • Brooke July 11, 2011 at 8:58 pm #

      Thanks for the feedback Deidre, and I agree that you can’t just totally avoid people from your home country because you might otherwise be missing out on some great experiences. There are circumstances where bypassing that would be recommended (like when you are abroad to learn a language).

  8. Odysseus Drifts July 11, 2011 at 12:09 pm #

    For shorter trips (less than 3 months in the same place), I can see Zoe’s point. Of course it doesn’t make sense to go to a foreign country and *only* hang out with other Americans. But long-term expats NEED to be friends with some people from their own country to celebrate holidays, overcome homesickness, laugh over the same cultural references, and support each other when a problem comes up. The people native to your country of residence are often surrounded by lots of supportive family and/or friends they grew up with. Expats miss having those close bonds to people when they’re living abroad.

    I never realized the importance of that until living abroad myself. Case in point: When a guy tried to break into my house one night, first I called several of my closest Korean friends, but not one of them helped me, even though I was asking for basic help such as translating for the police. (Maybe it was a cultural thing? Maybe they didn’t realize the seriousness of the situation? I still don’t know what was up with that.) But afterwards, I called my expat friends, and all of them tried to help me even though they were all as clueless about reporting a crime/using the correct language as I was. I ended up staying in my fellow expats’ apartments until I could move to a newer, safer place in the city.

    Also, if you meet a couple of other Americans who are really nice and living in the same city, what are you going to do if they want to become friends? “Sorry, but you’re just not authentic enough for my cultural experience here.” Seriously!

    [And I have to say, you handled this situation with a lot of grace, Brooke. First Zoe makes a critical remark and then asks to be credited for it and given a link to her blog for “providing inspiration.” The word “audacity” springs to mind.]

    • Brooke July 11, 2011 at 8:54 pm #

      Thanks for the thoughtful comment, and yes I totally agree about how other expats understand your pain and troubles better than anyone.

    • Zoe July 12, 2011 at 2:22 pm #

      Its actually called plagiarism when you use someone else’s words and ideas without credit.

      Where is the rule written that comments can’t be critical? If you can’t have your own opinion, then whats the point?

      You don’t have to agree with me, but I have respect for your right to your opinion, and am entitled to my own.

      And yes, when I travel I invariably end up spending time with my fellow country men and women, but I don’t go out of my way to find them.

  9. Lauren July 11, 2011 at 12:36 pm #

    Caroline, I’m not sure if you thought I was addressing Brooke, but I was actually talking to Zoe. I think Brooke is spot-on. I take umbrage with Zoe suggesting you should NOT try to hang out with Americans.

    • Zoe July 12, 2011 at 2:31 pm #

      Just to clarify, I never said or wrote or commented that Brooke, or anyone else SHOULDN’T spend time with people from their home country. This was merely a question that I asked and that Brooke responded to.

      I do think its a waste of time and money to travel around the world and then seek to spend time with people from home. For me, this defeats the purpose of travelling.

      Now, why are you so defensive about this Lauren? So far, the only rude comment has been from yourself.

      “Wow, you just seem to be one of those travelers who wants to tell people how to travel. The worst kind of traveler — far worse than one who goes to another country and hangs out with their own “people.” Get over yourself.”

      This is rude and quite nasty. How can your words here be taken as anything other than a personal attack? You show yourself to lack the capacity to be thoughtful and critical of your own judgements, and so instead you attack my personality. Hardly constructive.

  10. Maya July 12, 2011 at 5:09 pm #

    Groups of expats can be quite boring in that they do not always mix with the locals, this is seen in many places not just Australia. Could it be that people feel safer in groups of the same nationality? I wonder, I for one have not much time for the Frenchy groups here in my neck of the woods [I am French] but then again I do miss a decent croissant once in a while!
    Every side makes a good point, but why the bitchiness?

  11. Suzy July 15, 2011 at 1:28 pm #

    I really agree with your last point. There is no wrong way or right way to travel. Some might not travel how others do, but it shouldn’t matter. When I studied abroad in Sicily, I did hang out with other Americans at my school, but like your friend, they are people I would never meet back home. Some have become life-long friends. Friends can be friends no matter where you are. I do think you have to be careful. When I studied in Florence, I knew it would be covered in Americans so I selected a home stay.

  12. Annie July 20, 2011 at 1:12 pm #

    Most of what I want to say would just repeat what everyone else has already said. I suppose that to absolutely understand why you are saying what you are saying in this post a reader needs to have the same mindset. Which is ironic as that is exactly the point you are also making when it comes to choosing your fellow countrymen as friends abroad.

    When I first lived in Sydney I was the only American in my “group” of friends; there was also only one Australian and she was from Melbourne. All of my friends were from all over the world and the reason that we were so close was because we were all in the same situation. Enjoying a new country and having a great time doing it. It turned out that the 3 out of 10 people in my house that were living in Sydney “full-time” (i.e. not travelers by nature) I actually didn’t get a long with!

    In Florence things were different, almost ALL of my friends were American. I think that’s both because there are a higher population of American expats there (many come back after studying abroad and meet Italian men) and also because for Europeans living in another European country is a much easier adaptation, making it harder to relate to them when it came to things like culture and homesickness. That said, I still had some good friends that were European, just better American ones.

    I think that everyone has made great points here. Lauren can probably attest more than anyone to the fact that you just may meet someone halfway around the world that you wouldn’t meet in your own backyard, even if they were figuratively in your backyard at home.

    You hang out with the people you do as a traveler for the same reasons you do as a non-traveler. You have something in common.

  13. Kaylin May 31, 2012 at 7:17 am #

    I love this post. I feel like some people are very critical of me not having that many Korean friends in Korea but I have a hard time with the language and particularly cultural barrier. But I have fellow English teacher friends from all over the world- Uk, Canada, and many different parts of the US. Most of them I can say I would have never met otherwise and some of them I will certainly keep in touch with when I leave Korea. And it does make the holidays at home easier. Celebrating Thanksgiving last year with a bunch of Americans (and some Brits who came along for the food) made the homesickness disappate for me. I wouldnt feel the same at home because you are right, these are the people who, like me, are the adventurous sort who love to travel. Not the sorts of people who typically live in Alabama where Im from.


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