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brief glimpses into living abroad
October 16, 2008 12:53 PM   Subscribe

Expat Interviews With People Living In Countries Like Japan - Holland - China - Thailand And A Lot More.
posted by nickyskye (84 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite

 
I'm psyched to hear from misogynistic perverts and those who believe they're living on the edge in an exotic locale.
posted by gman at 1:08 PM on October 16, 2008


omg gman, are there intervuews with misogynistic perverts and those who believe they're living on the edge in an exotic locale? yikes. Where?
posted by nickyskye at 1:10 PM on October 16, 2008


omg gman, are there intervuews with misogynistic perverts and those who believe they're living on the edge in an exotic locale? yikes. Where?

You might try here.

I kid, I kid!
posted by Pollomacho at 1:16 PM on October 16, 2008 [1 favorite]


Pollomacho, I was kidding too about the omg. This site has, probably to the disappointment of many, no interviews with misogynistic perverts and those who believe they're living on the edge in an exotic locale.

And lol about your link (actually, it's sad).
posted by nickyskye at 1:21 PM on October 16, 2008


I dunno. I was just joking around. Spent a lot of my life living/traveling in Asia, Africa and the Middle East.

From my experience:

Thailand - FULL of old men who can't make it back home, banging young local girls they treat like shit.

Singapore - Arrogant dudes in the financial industry who think they've made it because they're in Asia... even if it ain't Hong Kong or Shanghai.

Sri Lanka - A whole lot of Germans doing a whole lot of nothing except diddling little boys.

Cambodia - see Thailand, but think even bigger/more desperate losers.

India - a bunch of lost souls who will probably never find their way out.

South Korea - a bunch of wankers who've never left Canada or The States before and relish in the opportunity to post their First World-Exotic photos and embellished stories up for 'friends' to admire.

Central Africa on the whole - a lot of Aid Workers frequenting brothels and making money on the side in less than honest ways.

**DISCLAIMER - I'm pretty damn jaded and this is just the way I saw/see things.
posted by gman at 1:25 PM on October 16, 2008 [4 favorites]


Why am I getting a "subscribe" popup on that site when I have popups turned off in Firefox? How can I fix this?
posted by crapmatic at 1:31 PM on October 16, 2008


Expat from America, talking about Helsinki, Finland after one failed marriage and 11 years:

avoid Finland for anything else than adding random short-term international work experiences to your CV.

In the negatives column: Byzantine bureaucracy without any sense of responsibility or deadlines whatsoever. ... Marriages to Finnish women tend to end with a violent divorce within 3 years and, usually, with the foreign man losing custody of his kids.

He also goes on tirades about how Finnish people really hate foreigners who speak the language and how we want everyone to speak English. What. The. Fuck.

I hope people can see past all the projecting going on.

(The ones for London and Madrid seemed to be a bit more accurate and less bitter and ranty. /my 2 cents)
posted by slimepuppy at 1:40 PM on October 16, 2008


gman: 2nding your india, but lets discuss south america:
mexico - drinking americans or anthropologists on some kind of mission
colombia - drug tourists and lots of australians
buenos aires - nytimes travel section tourists
guatemala - see your south korea to my mexico
posted by yonation at 1:42 PM on October 16, 2008 [1 favorite]


Jeez, gman. Would it be okay to characterize Asian immigrants in Europe and the US in the same offhand way?
posted by kid ichorous at 1:47 PM on October 16, 2008


I'm pretty damn jaded

One of those "bitter and ranty", glass half full types, eh? My rosy little glasses version...

India - among a roster of unusual Western characters doing all kinds of things they might not do in the West, it's also packed full of international trekkers, anthropologists, journalists, classical musicians, fashion designers, art dealers, dancers, Buddhists, photographers, writers, artists, many of whom are old friends of mine.

South Korea - a bunch of MeFites I respect teaching English there.
posted by nickyskye at 1:50 PM on October 16, 2008 [1 favorite]


South Korea - a bunch of wankers who've never left Canada or The States before and relish in the opportunity to post their First World-Exotic photos and embellished stories up for 'friends' to admire.

Hey, stavrosthewonderchicken spent time in Australia between Canada & South Korea. Also, he doesn't seem to be a wanker.
posted by UbuRoivas at 1:51 PM on October 16, 2008


Stereotypes are dangerous because they are never 100% true but they arise because they are a lot less than 100% false. I have met expats who were perfectly normal and simply enjoyed living is a culture that was different than their own and I met ones who took it as an opportunity to check out of society by becoming permanent aliens who did little more than watch TV and get drunk. The interview with the woman in Egypt seemed pretty honest - she makes no effort to integrate with the locals and seems to treat it like an extended vacation where you still have to do some work. The exapt experience in a nutshell for far too many people.
posted by GuyZero at 1:52 PM on October 16, 2008


While stav is indeed not a wanker (to my knowledge), Australia is not exactly a huge cultural leap from Canada. Having lived there I was more surprised at how similar they were time after time rather than different.
posted by GuyZero at 1:54 PM on October 16, 2008


The key to enjoying your expat life in another country is not to hang around other expats. That's the reason you probably left in the first place!
posted by cazoo at 1:58 PM on October 16, 2008 [4 favorites]


(from memory, stav has been around a lot more than just australia, too)

on preview: yes, i think australia is a lot more like canada than it is like the states.
posted by UbuRoivas at 2:04 PM on October 16, 2008


Expatians in a country are simple, and seemingly friendly people, but be aware that they are always ready to talk bad behind your back. They like their clothes and generally being clothed. They also like to eat and drink, but often other things that you do. They have their culture and are generally eager to talk about it, either with their own language or with some broken version of your language or some shared language.

Their healthcare or employment may be a topic of discussion. They are often taxed like you. Note that you shouldn't be offended by seemingly racist general judgements about 'your people' or your customs. Expatians have a strong cultural tradition of assuming that generalizations are useful, perspective or funny when they do them, but they cannot be subjected to them. You may insult an expatian by trying to do so in response, so it is better to nod understandingly and smile. Expatians in general do not like weather or seasons.
posted by Free word order! at 2:05 PM on October 16, 2008 [7 favorites]


Would it be okay to characterize Asian immigrants in Europe and the US in the same offhand way?

Heaven forbid, Kid. That would be... racist!
posted by rodgerd at 2:12 PM on October 16, 2008


"I didn’t realise you still had to have one to get in."

Overheard by a British visitor who was stopped by customs at Melbourne airport and asked if he had a criminal record.
posted by netbros at 2:15 PM on October 16, 2008 [11 favorites]


USA - bunch of xenophobic puritan whiners who think they invented religion. They buy and eat shite they call "food", and stare at the tube about 9 hours every day, which means they also watch about 3 hours of commercials per diem. They think Jesus spoke English and that an exotic experience is going to an Applebee's on the other side of town. When they travel they complain about not being able to get a decent burger and are shocked, SHOCKED to find that not every culture has a phobia about sex like theirs does. (That's actual sex, not sex for advertising purposes.)
posted by telstar at 2:24 PM on October 16, 2008 [2 favorites]


on preview: yes, i think australia is a lot more like canada than it is like the states.

as of December of last year, perhaps.
posted by gman at 2:38 PM on October 16, 2008


This constant "SUBSCRIBE TO OUR NEWSLETTER" AJAX haranguing is almost as annoying as talking to an actual self-identified "expat".
posted by No-sword at 2:38 PM on October 16, 2008


Jeez, gman. Would it be okay to characterize Asian immigrants in Europe and the US in the same offhand way?

When North Americans/Europeans head over to live in less developed countries, they are referred to as Expats. When it's 'them' coming over here, they are immigrants. I've always found that interesting...
posted by gman at 2:41 PM on October 16, 2008


Expats are not immigrants - they usually don't have immigrant status in their new residences and most of them plan to return to their place of citizenship at some point. Some expats become immigrants but there's a different word because they're not the same at all. My dad was a Canadian expat in the US for a year or so which is very different from all the Canadians I know who have immigrated to the US permanently.
posted by GuyZero at 2:43 PM on October 16, 2008


nickyskye - One of those "bitter and ranty", glass half full types, eh? My rosy little glasses version...

I ENVY YOU.
posted by gman at 2:44 PM on October 16, 2008


Expats are not immigrants - they usually don't have immigrant status in their new residences and most of them plan to return to their place of citizenship at some point. Some expats become immigrants but there's a different word because they're not the same at all. My dad was a Canadian expat in the US for a year or so which is very different from all the Canadians I know who have immigrated to the US permanently.

Many non-natives are usually afforded the opportunity to become landed immigrants in the States or Canada. I, however, could live in Thailand, Lao, South Korea, etc. for several years and there'd be absolutely no possibility. I would remain an expat forever.
posted by gman at 2:55 PM on October 16, 2008


They never called me! Perhaps I need to achieve a lifestyle first?
And I'll get that Pollomacho *shakes fist*
posted by Abiezer at 3:06 PM on October 16, 2008 [1 favorite]


Anyone here a resident of Antarctica? And if so, what do the locals call you?
posted by gman at 3:14 PM on October 16, 2008


My brother was always wanting to get in with the Antarctica survey, but it's a right hardcore elite (and he's no slouch). You have to combine about three professions, smoke your own kippers and be able to spay a husky with your bare teeth, or something.
posted by Abiezer at 3:17 PM on October 16, 2008 [3 favorites]


Anyone here a resident of Antarctica? And if so, what do the locals call you?

idunno, what sound do penguins make, anyway? some kind of squawking?
posted by UbuRoivas at 3:23 PM on October 16, 2008 [1 favorite]


Antarctican sounds pretty awesome, actually.
posted by rokusan at 3:29 PM on October 16, 2008


Odd about the subscribe pop-up, I get none.

As a New Yorker it was a big culture shock moving to London in '70. At first I was stunned by the politeness, people saying "Allo luv" when they handed me my packet of Player's No.6, licorice allsorts or Cadbury's Fruit and Nuts ("nudge nudge, wink wink"). My crammer classmates ridiculed me for not calling the sidewalk pavement or gas petrol. I couldn't believe grownups closed down a city after 11pm, no pubs open after that, no nuttin'. Even though I'd grown up in colonial South Africa and Jamaica, after four years with the actual British I never really understood them, felt I belonged or could get close to them.

Didn't feel that way in Italy, Guatemala or Morocco.

In Greece, like most other places, the trick in feeling part of the ordinary fabric of society there is speaking the language. I felt much more at home in India, felt loving towards and loved by locals. It is an interesting experience being an expat, really living in another country. That's why I liked this site.

When North Americans/Europeans head over to live in less developed countries they are referred to as Expats.

gman, Americans living in Europe are also called expats, not only in other parts of the world.

When it's 'them' coming over here, they are immigrants.

People from other countries can choose to be an expat living in another country or to immigrate.

I, however, could live in Thailand, Lao, South Korea, etc. for several years and there'd be absolutely no possibility. I would remain an expat forever.


That is incorrect. Google "citizenship in Thailand", India etc. Citizenship in South Korea is possible if one marries a local or sinks 5+ mill into the economy there.

Yeah, the rosy glasses thing, I irritate the daylights out of my dear pessimist friends but, while still seeing what is not so good, I basically like people and find a lot to enjoy in the world.
posted by nickyskye at 3:33 PM on October 16, 2008


gman, Americans living in Europe are also called expats, not only in other parts of the world.

Didn't know that.

That is incorrect. Google "citizenship in Thailand", India etc. Citizenship in South Korea is possible if one marries a local or sinks 5+ mill into the economy there.


By immigrant, I mean someone who can attain a passport. Is that an incorrect statement? If not, I challenge you to find more than a handful of people who have gotten one from Japan, South Korea, Lao, Thailand, etc.
posted by gman at 3:46 PM on October 16, 2008


meh, nicky's glasses are only half rosy. the other half is, like, just plain generic transparent glass.
posted by UbuRoivas at 3:50 PM on October 16, 2008


By immigrant, I mean someone who can attain a passport. Is that an incorrect statement?

Just for clarity's sake, that is a "national." "Immigrant" could be a lawful permanent resident.
posted by Pollomacho at 4:09 PM on October 16, 2008


Just for clarity's sake, that is a "national." "Immigrant" could be a lawful permanent resident.

Can't someone who is afforded immigrant status always attain a passport? I'd like to know if anyone knows of a North American/European getting an Asian passport?
posted by gman at 4:16 PM on October 16, 2008


I'm going to change my wordpress (etc) profile from "American expat" to "American emigrant." I am NOT simply "living in Canada"; I've taken Canadian citizenship and promise that I will never, ever live in the US again.

I used to be very impatient with Americans in Buenos Aires (for example) who described themselves as "expats" when they had every intention to return home. Now I understand the meaning of "expat." An expat is a tourist.
posted by ethnomethodologist at 4:19 PM on October 16, 2008


gman, Google expat+any major city in Europe and there will be an expat forum. As for the passport thing, why not make that an AskMe question? Or you could go to the EasyExpat site and ask them?

There are British expats in America. Google english+expats+america. French expats in the USA, Google expat vivre etats unis etc.

Many of the expat Americans I've known in Europe and on the subcontinent from Afghanistan to West Bengal and in Indonesia moved there in the 60's and 70's. Residing and travel restrictions have opened up a lot since then.

UbuRoivas, half rosy, half generic = realistic optimist?

An expat is a tourist.

ethnomethodologist, "An expatriate (in abbreviated form, expat) is a person temporarily or permanently residing in a country and culture other than that of the person's upbringing or legal residence."

"The World Tourism Organization defines tourists as people who 'travel to and stay in places outside their usual environment for not more than one consecutive year for leisure, business and other purposes not related to the exercise of an activity remunerated from within the place visited'."
posted by nickyskye at 5:18 PM on October 16, 2008


And guys don't forget in all of this that American ex-pats, unlike, the citizens of all other countries of the planet with the exception of (IIRC) Philippines and Eritrea, are taxed on global income. Meaning that we get to pay taxes in both United States and their country of residence (after an $80K or so deduction that is).

I've been living in London for about twelve years, and might be taking a Dutch passport. So taxes are a big issue for us to think about, as we could potentially be filing under three systems.

But yeh, I agree with nickyskye about enjoying the world. I spent a lot of time working all over Sub Saharan Africa and a good chunk of The Middle East. I wasn't an Aid Worker and genuinely appreciate what I've got now here in Europe (we divide our time between London and Amsterdam) because of my time there.

That being said, I miss Africa and hope to take my wife to Cairo early next year. She's Dutch, and from her (Eurocentric) point of view the most backward country she's ever seen has been America. So maybe she's got another thing coming. On the other hand, I've spent perhaps a year off and on living and doing business in Cairo, and think Egypt is a wonderful place to spend time. So this will be an interesting trip.


"Can't someone who is afforded immigrant status always attain a passport? I'd like to know if anyone knows of a North American/European getting an Asian passport?

Yeh, well, dirty secret well known amoung expats: in terms of getting passports, almost all countries have what they call "entrepreneur" programs. If you're liquid, can spend some time on the ground and are able to drop between say thirty thousand and few hundred thousand to start a business employing a handful of locals, you can almost always get (aka, "negotiate") a passport. Last time I checked The Dominican Republic charged about $80K, Panama somewhat less, Canada maybe $250K, the UK about £200K. Even the United States does this, but I believe the price is seven figures. Japan appears to be pretty clean that way (meaning it doesn't happen), I have no knowledge of Korea, but a buddy definitely got one in Thailand, and about six months ago to boot. His investment is a chain of salons employing locals in four or five small towns, and I don't think he put in any more than £30K or so over a period of three years.

I spent enough time working down in Nigeria that I could have gotten a passport but didn't as I wasn't sure what that was gonna gain me. I can take a British passport anytime I'd like, but they've been messing with the tax system here as it pertains to "non doms", so I'm not sure it's in my best interests, especially so as I'm thinking of leaving in a few years. Another scary thought: lots of these government will now tax folks even after they've emigrated, so you've gotta be careful of what passports you do acquire. I know of Americans here in England who have taken a British passport and then gotten a notice of "intent to levy tax" after they've sold off everything and moved to Spain without intention to ever return to The UK.

Sure, you can argue it back and forth but let's face it - almost all of the G7 are running budget deficits and need money sorely, so they'll try anything they can to raise funds. And if they can get away with the "snatch and grab" for a few years that some additional monies they've attached. Ordinary people will never get this back in cash; we'll get a "tax credit" against future liabilities.

Anyhow, in terms of places to be, you can cut a deal on taxes with The Dutch as well as The Swiss, and a few more countries that don't generally carry the label "tax haven". Then, of course, come the true tax havens, those domiciles that levy precisely ZERO personal income taxes.

Yeh, taxes. I think that's the biggest problem governments will be facing in the future as globalisation continues and now people, the agents of production and not just the means of production, are mobile.

For years if not decades now, businesses have been able to flee from areas of higher cost to areas of lower cost. Now individuals are increasingly able to avail themselves of the same opportunities.

How to fund Governments, these insidiously huge bureaucracies, when the very entities who pay for the enterprise can opt themselves out, almost at will, is the elephant in the room that nobody wants to address.

Like money, knowledge workers are hyper mobile and almost naturally end up where they're treated best.
posted by Mutant at 5:18 PM on October 16, 2008 [3 favorites]


And guys don't forget in all of this that American ex-pats, unlike, the citizens of all other countries of the planet with the exception of (IIRC) Philippines and Eritrea, are taxed on global income.

If I don't want to give up my Canadian residency (and my health benefits, etc.), I too have to pay Canadiann taxes when working abroad.

Yeh, well, dirty secret well known amoung expats: in terms of getting passports, almost all countries have what they call "entrepreneur" programs.


It's not a secret at all, but: a) I'm not talking about buying passports and b) I was talking about Asia and as I said earlier, 'I challenge you to find more than a handful of people who have gotten one from Japan, South Korea, Lao, Thailand, etc.' Although it is possible in theory, your friend is an anomaly.
posted by gman at 5:44 PM on October 16, 2008


I could have perhaps got a Chinese passport if I'd had the foresight to be born sixty years ago and help kick the imperialists out and establish the new workers' and peasants' paradise, like some of the old guard. Otherwise it's a bit tough, though there is a green card scheme for "friends of China." I may have this wrong but I believe even marrying a citizen doesn't bring national status, even if in practice you can just continually renew short-term visas few questions asked.
posted by Abiezer at 6:17 PM on October 16, 2008


Anyone here a resident of Antarctica? And if so, what do the locals call you?

My uncle lived in Antarctica for two years. He was stationed at McMurdo with the Navy, which is one of the few ways you may end up living there. That, or if you're a research scientist, because all that's there are research bases. They called him Officer. I don't know that there are any true locals, though. All are expats, more or less, although none are really permanent, and it's a multi-national continent which has been divided into sections, sort of like a shared territory with many nations, with no official nationality or borders.
posted by krinklyfig at 6:20 PM on October 16, 2008


Oh, and the penguins are friendly.
posted by krinklyfig at 6:23 PM on October 16, 2008


"expat" probably comes from the latin, ex patria, ie outside one's homeland. whether one is an expat or not would therefore depend on one's own definition of where one's homeland actually is, which is a different issue to citizenship or residency, although these are generally closely linked.

i used to be mildly amused by the sydney latvian community's constant self references as being "in exile" (ie while the country was under Soviet occupation). that struck me as kinda irrelevant to my position as australian born-and-raised, but now i have a stronger sense of latvia as a second homeland, so i guess i'm an expat in my primary homeland. it's fun!

and nickyskye: the rosiness would represent compassion, and clear glass the clarity of wisdom, calmly seeing reality as it is. a purist might go with red & blue lenses, but that would be like walking around with 3D glasses on all the time - not for the uninitiated!
posted by UbuRoivas at 6:24 PM on October 16, 2008 [1 favorite]


"I didn’t realise you still had to have one to get in."

Overheard by a British visitor who was stopped by customs at Melbourne airport and asked if he had a criminal record.


An old, and very boring joke.
posted by Megami at 7:29 PM on October 16, 2008 [1 favorite]


(from memory, stav has been around a lot more than just australia, too)

Yup. Almost 20 years as an expat and only about 10 of those here in Korea. I'm a battered old leather suitcase of a man.

One of our own actually did a 3 (!) hour long interview with me a few weeks back for a project for his journalism degree. The result, he has promised me, will not appear on the web, though. Which is probably good, because I was drinking beer the whole time.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 7:52 PM on October 16, 2008


the interview would've probably only taken 15 minutes without all those pointless digressions about the guy you met in the bar the other night and something to do with an injured dog and a taxi cab to collect some tulips, and what was i talking about again...?
posted by UbuRoivas at 8:18 PM on October 16, 2008


Pretty much, yeah.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 8:47 PM on October 16, 2008


dirty secret well known among expats:

It's not necessarily dirty or secret. Singapore will give you citizenship for a 1Mill investment in the country. It's stated policy, not a backdoor thing. Malaysia will give you a till-you-die visa if you are of years and can drop about 100,000USD in a local bank.

gman, here in Malaysia, permanent residence and citizenship can both be obtained provided you have marital or big business relationships with the country. It takes time, but many many asians have done it, because Malaysia represents a step up for them. My experience has been that Americans and Europeans don't apply, even those with long term connections, because they're too good to put themselves through the hassle or they don't seriously want to immigrate. Also, a lot of asian countries won't let you retain dual citizenship, and again, the typical white man won't want to give up his citizenship of origin.
posted by BinGregory at 8:49 PM on October 16, 2008


"In general, New Zealanders are more taciturn than Americans. If something doesn’t need to be said, then they won’t say it. "

Yeah.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 8:57 PM on October 16, 2008


true, bro.
posted by UbuRoivas at 9:32 PM on October 16, 2008


I was an expat in Malaysia in high school. My mom taught at the international school. While it's true we didn't integrate into general society, it wasn't really possible too. I love Malaysia, but I was very aware that we were the other. If we spoke bahasa to someone 9 times out of 10 they spoke back English. Locals were generally friendly (except uh when they were really really unfriendly) but a huge wall was put up between us and them. It wasn't like the times we had spent in Italy and Greece where you quickly made friends with your neighbors, people didn't want to be friends with a white single mother and her daughter.

So instead we were part of the large and very close knit ex pat community, which was great. And while it's true there were far too many men who left their wives for local women barely older than their daughters, that's hardly a rarity among rich middle aged businessmen. However, I do think it was more common there than it is here. Most of the people there were either working for massive corporations (generally oil), were working for the UN or for an embassy or were teachers at the school. The type of ex pat many people seem to be describing aren't really what I would consider ex pats at all, more people on a semi permanent vacation who have decided to party their lives away in a cheap locale. I don't think those people are the norm, however I do think those are the type of people you are likely to meet while vacationing in a foreign country. The rest of the expats have jobs and families and don't hang out with backpackers who will be gone in 2 weeks.

As for the whole visa situation, I don't really understand why anyone would ever give up a western passport. That's generally insanity. I had many friends from school that would have killed to get rid of their Asian passports. Some would have to put up money just to show they were planning on leaving, some would have to wait weeks or even months just to get visas to go on class trips. It was ridiculous. Not to mention being treated like a criminal when coming into some countries (nothing to cap off Christmas break like a full cavity strip search!). It's a matter of practicality, not some political statement.
posted by whoaali at 9:44 PM on October 16, 2008 [2 favorites]


These interviewees seem to relish the opportunity to rant about all the terrible little things about their host country. Lovely self destructive poems.
posted by avex at 10:17 PM on October 16, 2008


These interviewees seem to relish the opportunity to rant about all the terrible little things about their host country.

hm, let me see...

-What do you think about the Australians?
The locals are fantastic! They are fun to be around and rather knowledgeable on world events. The best thing is the laid back attitude they have about life. They truly are a fun group to be around.

-What are the positive and negative aspects of living in Australia?
Positive: relaxed lifestyle. Plenty of international culture. Lots of fantastic landscape nearby (the ocean, the skiing, incredible wine country). Great people always having a bbq!

Negative: a bit on the pricey side. High taxes.

-Do you have any tips for our readers about living in Australia?
You really need to come down here and have someone show you around or there's lots you could miss! Melbourne is one of the few cities in the world where they encourage you walk down a dark, unlit alley way at night because you never know what kind of funky hidden lounge or restaurant may be lurking at the end of it.

-What do you think about the Australians?
Most locals are very welcoming and friendly.

-What are the positive and negative aspects of living in Australia?
Positive aspects are that Australia is family friendly, the clean environment, well-planned communities, booming economy, great support by the government. I can't think of negative aspects at the moment.

-Do you have any tips for our readers about living in Australia?
Australia is a very beautiful country; it is an ideal place to raise a family.
posted by UbuRoivas at 11:02 PM on October 16, 2008 [1 favorite]


These interviewees seem to relish the opportunity to rant about all the terrible little things about their host country.

You don't get your Secret Expatriate Decoder Member in Good Standing Ring unless you bitch a bit about where you live, no matter where it is.

The trick is not sailing out over the ledge into ranty douchebaggery. Many, unfortunately, fail at this.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 1:54 AM on October 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


The key to enjoying your expat life in another country is not to hang around other expats. That's the reason you probably left in the first place!

The only Americans I ever hang out with are people I knew IN AMERICA before we left (they live in Wales). They are exceptionally cool people, though.

I'll never forget being introduced to an American woman in a pub last year... with everyone expecting us to get along famously, I quickly sussed out that she was a hard-core fundamentalist Right Wing Anti-choice Bush voter with a chip on her shoulder the size of Utah. I said I had to go to the loo and left. I'd rather have taken a beating than spend five more seconds with that dumb bitch.
posted by chuckdarwin at 2:02 AM on October 17, 2008 [2 favorites]


-What do you think about the British?

They seem to have imported the very worst shit that America has to offer (think Jerry Springer). Obsessed with celebrity. Increasingly obese.

Everyone is drunk all the time. I thought *I* liked beer. I'm a fucking lightweight.

The litter situation is DIRE. Really bad... it's such a shame to see a beautiful country languishing under a veneer of grease, road grime and old rubbish. Bryson has a point.

Britain has the worst customer service on the planet, bar none. The only way it could be worse is if people actually spit in your face when you try and give them money.

The obsession with football gets really old, especially since the same four teams win all the time.

They spend a lot of time worrying about immigration and knife crime (even though both of these issues are blown way out of proportion by idiotic 'newspapers'). Even intelligent people are often taken in by this supercilious nonsense (the housing shortage gets people up in arms... and when you allow asylum seekers to live in luxury flats, people get shitty).

It's less prudish than America (by a long way) but somehow more sexist and backwards in some ways (titty magazines EVERYWHERE - in every shop and garage). Hen and stag nights are a bit silly.

They love dressing up. Fancy dress places must make a killing here.

Some of their cultural touchstones are really hard to get into (Eurovision, discos, etc).

Driving here is a major pain in the arse.

The nanny state thing gets old.

Living in Britain also means that boring, sad, drunken old fuckwits on this site constantly lecture me about how I should spell words and what I'm allowed to say/think/feel. All because I came out of a vagina in Baltimore some years back... which somehow automatically gives pathetic douchebags the right to give me shit over putting a U in COLOUR.

Other than that, I love the place. *g*
posted by chuckdarwin at 2:33 AM on October 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


Oh, and I forgot Big Brother. Oh, how I hate it.... with the heat of a trillion suns.

Because Hell doesn't actually exist (obviously) some Dutch motherfuckers had to go and INVENT IT. And put it on TV. Imagine ten of the most annoying people who draw breath on the planet. Now imagine watching them sleep. That's Big Brother.

People here lap it up like it's GOLD. They gorge themselves on it. I will never understand this.
posted by chuckdarwin at 2:41 AM on October 17, 2008


Anyone here a resident of Antarctica? And if so, what do the locals call you?

idunno, what sound do penguins make, anyway? some kind of squawking?


Clearly they call you "Peeps".

Mind you, that's also what they call fish, so don't get carried away with your sense of bonhomie

"In general, New Zealanders are more taciturn than Americans. If something doesn’t need to be said, then they won’t say it. "

Yeah.


Unless they're drunk, when they'll probably say it three times.

what?
posted by Sparx at 4:17 AM on October 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


ooh, rough talk upthread! I'm an expat from the U.S. in Greece... I just use that word because, um, I don't really know a better word to use. I just live here, and I used to live there. Like most expats I know here, I ended up here because of a love thang - my husband is Greek. We lived together in the U.S., and then decided to try living here for a while, at least. I kind of doubt we'll ever go back, but I'm old enough to never say "never".

What we like here: less regulation of every last little thing... so, for example, a cafe might have some tables on the sidewalk... now, maybe they are paying some sort of "rent" to the city in order to do this, or maybe it just conveniently "overlooked", but we remember being in New Orleans (New Orleans! One of the most permissive U.S. cities!) where it was a huge struggle for restaurants to get permits for any kind of outdoor space at all, and that was a big old drag. There are also "Street Markets" one day a week in most neighborhoods, where one entire street is taken over by independent vendors mostly selling fresh fruit and vegetables, but all sorts of other things as well - flowers, honey, loose wine, olive oil, seafood, cheese, fabric, etc. This would never happen in the U.S.; can you imagine closing down traffic for a day on any meaningful street -for blocks- every week, to set up a an 10-hour farmer's market? Also, these, along with the permanent outdoor markets (I love them) would just be basically impossible in the U.S. because of a slew of health and safety regulations. So there are all sorts of Old World (or Older World) things that I treasure that remain part of the landscape here.

We also really love that there are all sorts of independent mom and pop shops instead everything being Walmarted, Targeted, and 7-Elevened. We love going to the bakery, the patisserie, the butcher, the cava (wine & liquor), the greengrocer, etc., which is something that has disappeared in most of the U.S. The multinationals are encroaching here, but we still have the option of shopping village-style, and can live out our days, I'm fairly confident, this way.

It's much safer here, crime-wise - a huge difference, and something that would be very hard for me to give up now. The weather is great (aside from July and August, months that really kill me, but don't bother the Greeks quite as much), and the country is beautiful.

Three words: The Greek Islands.

Another word or two: History, antiquity. It's amazing, and I won't make this comment even longer going into all that. But amazing, yes.

The negatives are that the bureaucracy is a nightmare; the price of living is high; wages are low(er); opportunities are fewer. There's more cynicism, pessimism, and fatalism, generally, as compared to America's "Can-Do" and Work-Hard-and-Get-Ahead" attitude, less money available for new businesses and projects, and you really do need to be tied in and networked to get ahead. Merit is not enough, speaking very broadly. People generally aren't as prompt, organized, or efficient; there tend to be a lot of strikes, in pretty much every sector - which, whatever your political views on that are, are very inconvenient. Very often. For me, finding books in English, and the high cost of the ones I did find, was a major downer, until I got an e-reader, and I'm very sad that it's difficult for me to find a lot of ingredients and foods that aren't a part of traditional Greek cuisine (which is great, but, can't we be a little more adventuresome? please?) . Ethnic restaurants are extremely overpriced, as is any ingredient that is "not Greek". Health food stuff? Give it up, mostly - or pay through the nose for the few things you can find.

Most expats don't last here, honestly. They get fed up, usually, inside of three years and go back. I can understand that, very much. But the irony is that after three years, I think, it gets much easier in many ways. Assuming you are reasonably skilled/intelligent and social (I'm not actually very social, but my husband is Mr.-Loved-and-Adored-by-All, so he takes up my slack) it's about at that mark when you begin to find yourself with something of a network, and your cultural programming begins to really fold into the new landscape. It's all easier, of course, when you have a guide; expats who aren't mated with someone from here leave at a higher rate, I've (accurately or not) observed... though that can have its own pitfalls - families here can get all up in your business about pretty much everything (not with us, thank goodness), and that is incredibly stressful for people who aren't used to that kind of interference.

So, shorter answer: I'm not a misogynistic pervert living on the edge!
posted by taz at 6:53 AM on October 17, 2008 [2 favorites]


Oh wow taz and chuckdarwin, what excellent -and very different but interestingly descriptive- comments. I was hoping MeFite expats might relate to the idea of offering others a little glimpse into your world or peeking into the expat lives of others. Thank you.
posted by nickyskye at 7:32 AM on October 17, 2008


less prudish than America (by a long way) but somehow more sexist

That is such an insight chuckdarwin. I've wanted to be able to articulate that for a long time. It seems so obvious now you've said it. The less prudish aspect would appear to be less sexist but it isn't.
posted by nickyskye at 7:46 AM on October 17, 2008


The less prudish aspect would appear to be less sexist but it isn't.

It's hard to articulate... but the sort of PHWOAR, LOOK AT 'ER TITS thing is sort of in your face all the time. Don't get me wrong: like most of the artists throughout history, I think the female form is the height of beauty... but it takes on a kind of cheap aspect here that's a little sad.
posted by chuckdarwin at 8:04 AM on October 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


nickyskye, since I kind of vented my spleen a minute ago, I will try and relate what I like about it here:

1. The NHS
2. A huge emphasis on music/art/literature/culture/poetry that doesn't exist in the states
3. Parliamentary governmental system
4. An excellent school for my kids
5. Never Mind The Buzzcocks, ...Later w/ Jools Holland, festivals, MUSIC
6. The National Trust / English Heritage
7. The BBC
8. No Christian Right (a very small one)
9. Very, very, very few guns
10. The People (who are mostly great)
posted by chuckdarwin at 8:10 AM on October 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


taz, amazon.co.uk (or the U.S. version, generally slower but cheaper) is an alternative when the central bookstores don't carry what you want. I ordered a slew of books last week and they arrived after a day.
posted by ersatz at 9:08 AM on October 17, 2008


That has been my book source, ersatz, up 'til now. Still pretty hefty, pricewise, though, with shipping costs, and vat, though -yes!- much better than local prices. I paid €20 for the last paperback I bought here. ow.
posted by taz at 9:56 AM on October 17, 2008


taz, would using AbeBooks help with costs?
posted by nickyskye at 10:58 AM on October 17, 2008


It looks like Amazon UK is lower than Abe - at least for the ones I just checked. But I'm doing okay now... I'm loaded up with e-books, so as long as my reader keeps ticking away, I'm a happy little reading pig. Woo, technology!
posted by taz at 11:17 AM on October 17, 2008


stavrosthewonderchicken: You don't get your Secret Expatriate Decoder Member in Good Standing Ring unless you bitch a bit about where you live, no matter where it is.

I think this has more to do with the old "what do I have to talk about this person with" problem of interpersonal communications than anything else. When I meet other immigrants (or expats or foreign students) in the US it usually doesn't take very long for the conversation to get on the topic of "things wrong with Americans" but that's only really true the first time one meets a fellow immigrant. After establishing other points of convergence the subject comes up only rarely.
posted by Kattullus at 5:59 PM on October 17, 2008


Kattullus, So now I'm quite curious. As an American I know many things wrong with America and Americans. What's the Icelandic version -that you've heard- of things wrong with America?
posted by nickyskye at 6:05 PM on October 17, 2008


lack of viking heritage, for a start.

also, Sigur Ros aren't American.
posted by UbuRoivas at 6:08 AM on October 18, 2008


Ooph... you're just asking me to get into trouble, nickyskye :)

Well, I do live in Providence, Rhode Island and most of my friends are liberals or radicals so I'm only really familiar with one part of the US. Once in a while though, something shocks me. It usually has something to do with American attitudes to sexuality. To give you a recent example, an Icelandic friend and I were talking to a mutual American friend of ours, a very liberal guy, and the subject turned to a woman that he had shown interest in that would move to Providence in a number of months time. He disavowed any current or future interest in the woman because she was now pregnant. My Icelandic friend and I were somewhat uncomprehending, so the American explained further and said that he wouldn't date a woman that already had a child because he felt like there would always be another man, the child's father, in the relationship. The idea that being a single mother somehow made a woman undatable was completely shocking to me and my Icelandic friend. In Iceland there's little-to-no social stigma to being a single mother.
posted by Kattullus at 7:57 AM on October 18, 2008


Really late to this interesting post.
What is the difference between an expat and an immigrant ?; I sometimes wonder.
I think an expat is someone who maybe keeps referring to home even though he / she has left it. Also immigrants probably attempt to integrate more.
Having said that I am an expat, but I don’t live in an expat “ghetto”. I speak the language of my adopted country but I can never erase nor want to erase my upbringing.
As Spain does not have a national cricket team the Tebbit Test does not apply here.
Expats like immigrants tend to live close to each other and foster their own customs; this hopefully leads to diversity in later years. I live on an Island of about 1,000,000 population away from the mainland, and flooded by foreigners (the local islanders also refer to the mainlanders as foreigners).
The diversity which is already occuring is when an islander of island heritage marries a son or daughter of an immigrant or immigrants / expats but born and educated on the island thus technically an islander. Thus the local bloodlines are mixed with mainlander, English, German, Scandinavian, Eastern European, West African, Cuban, S. American and more; but all these children are “islander” and the majority will speak and understand the local island language. They are / will be integrated. It’s the parents who moan “its not quite like home”.
Personally I would be very happy to never be offered a cup of warm milky tea again in my life, but then things have probably changed in the country I left over 35 years ago and now visit only very occasionally as a tourist!
posted by adamvasco at 8:13 AM on October 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


In Iceland there's little-to-no social stigma to being a single mother.

Kattullus has highlighted one of the most interesting things about living in a new country: unexpected weirdness.

I've been here three years, and British people keep doing and saying things that catch me utterly off-guard. I imagine that this will continue to be the case (especially when it comes to their love/hate relationship with the US).

A word: stop trying to understand American sexuality... it makes no sense.
posted by chuckdarwin at 12:29 PM on October 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


kattullus, I was afraid you might feel put on the spot. I'm sorry. My question is sincere and so far you weren't abused for expressing your opinion, were you? ;-)

I asked because each nation experiences others in their own eyes. So Americans see fault with America with American eyes, Senegalese with their viewpoint, the French from their perspective. In doing so it has revealed to me something about the national characteristic of the person with the opinion. So I was hoping to learn a bit more about Icelandic people, how they experience things, how America is critiqued. Thanks for your opinion.

Interesting about Icelandic sexuality. I spent a little time in Reykjavik in November 1970. Almost paleolithic it was so long ago. It surprised me that Icelandic *teenagers* of either gender sat around naked in hot pools drinking rum and coke, just hanging out together talking and laughing. wow. That was stunning. I (16) had a brief affair with one of the handsome rascals (also 16) in the hot pool (*waves with a nostalgic and happy smile to Helgi)
and his mother had no problem with me spending the night with her son in that charming Icelandic wooden canopy bed with curtains all around. Totally astonishing. So you people of those upper latitudes are way advanced there in the sexual mores thing.
posted by nickyskye at 7:07 PM on October 18, 2008


I think this has more to do with the old "what do I have to talk about this person with" problem of interpersonal communications than anything else. When I meet other immigrants (or expats or foreign students) in the US it usually doesn't take very long for the conversation to get on the topic of "things wrong with Americans" but that's only really true the first time one meets a fellow immigrant. After establishing other points of convergence the subject comes up only rarely.

I wish that were true here in Korea. Except for a very small set of expat friends around the country, I tend to avoid contact with other foreigners here, because they NEVER STOP COMPLAINING. I think part of it is that Korea is a relatively difficult place for the non-Korean to live, and that the vast majority of foreign residents here are people who drop in for a year or two at most to make some money for their student loans -- and Korea is very often the first place they've ever gone outside their home countries -- and so are, to put it as graciously as possible, less seasoned than they might be.

It's a fine line, because I also very carefully try to avoid the 'going-native' syndrome, where the expatriate becomes so integrated that he or she will hear nothing bad about their adopted home and defend it even more vehemently than a native might. Being able to make measured criticism without whining can be a challenge, particularly when you live in a place where national pride is as... enthusiastic... as it tends to be in Korea. One rarely sees it here. Even my older fellow-expat friends tend to be all complainy until I tell them to shut the fuck up already.

Which I sometimes do, in my gruff but lovable way.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 11:33 PM on October 18, 2008


So... why don't they leave?

I've only have one close expat friend here, and this is definitely not an issue with her, thank goodness. How silly.

Anyway, I have to say that my experience living here is much different than somebody living in a small village, or certain islands. I live in Athens now, and before this we lived in Thessaloniki, the second largest city in Greece. Our social and professional circle is almost all arts-oriented people, almost all of whom have lived in other countries, almost all of whom speak English (as well as, usually, one or two other languages), so I'm privileged to be sheltered in a somewhat rarified strata of society here, I would say. Of course some things are different and place-specific, culturally, but basically it's just a particular version of a quite cosmopolitan, metropolitan, sophisticated, educated, liberal, mostly Western city life. I wouldn't be so sanguine, I imagine, if I were dealing with a village existence, cut off from everything, enduring the gossip of small-minded neighbors. But then I wouldn't live in a place like that, here or back in the U.S.

I don't wish to make it sound like "Generic Big City", because that certainly isn't true, but I would probably have much greater culture shock living in a strip-mall infested small town in a red state than I do here.
posted by taz at 3:13 AM on October 19, 2008


So... why don't they leave?

You'd have to ask them -- it is a little puzzling sometimes. Spouses and families, economic need, inertia, deep-seated psychosis, any number of reasons, I suppose.

There is also a troubling mechanic here where people who are just too odd or rough-edged or downright loopy to fit in back in their home countries end up in Korea or elsewhere in Asia, but the locals (particularly in traditionally xenophobic Korea), not all that familiar with 'normal' foreigner behaviour, only having had exposure to TV and movies and possibly drunken American solders puking in the gutters, just assume that the more eccentric stuff that some foreign residents get up to is 'just the way they behave'. It's troubling, in both directions. This sounds like an exaggeration. It is not, but it is just a small part of the whole crazy, complicated picture. It's a mess, but it's getting better as Korea sheds more and more of its old hermit shell. The same sort of dynamic used to happen in many other places in decades past, I guess -- Burroughs in Morocco and stuff like that.

For my part, if I hated it here as much as many non-Korean residents here seem to, I wouldn't stay. Then again, if I was bigger on socializing than I am, I might feel more need to move on. As it is, I dream and occasionally fume, but am happy enough. And if I lived in Seoul or Busan, it would be different in terms of being able to live a more cosmopolitan existence.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 5:18 AM on October 19, 2008


A word: stop trying to understand American sexuality... it makes no sense.

So true. I was just reading one of the latest RelationshipFilter questions, and it prompted me to come back & comment here on this point.

Some typical responses:

"I'm confused. Did he actually cheat on you, or did this other encounter occur during the period of time when you two weren't yet exclusively dating?"

"This happened when they first started going on dates and it's not clear that they were monogamous at that point"

"At that point, were the two of you "boyfriend/girlfriend"? That is, had you come to a verbal agreement that you were exclusive? If not, the situation might be awkward, but I don't think your outrage is justified"


Speaking on behalf of the Rest of the World, that is some freak-ass weirdo shit there. Everywhere else in the world, people make concerted romantic efforts towards a single fancied person, and if that falls through, move on and try to find somebody else.

The American model seems to be that you date and/or sleep with multiple people at once, until you make some kind of contractual agreement to be monogamous, at which point the partners shed off their side-nookie like so much discarded snakeskin.

Anywhere else in the world, if somebody said to their date "so, we've been seeing each other for a couple of months now, and I've decided I like you, so shall we be monogamous now?" the other party would surely be all "WHAT? THE? FUCK?" before throwing a drink in their face, and storming off, never to see them again.

The fact that Americans seem to take it as a default assumption that it's OK to date or sleep around until it's serious enough to "go steady" would be the exact opposite of what happens elsewhere, where you're presumed to be completely single, not chasing or seeing anybody else, unless you make that perfectly clear upfront.
posted by UbuRoivas at 10:26 PM on October 20, 2008


It's not just that, UbuRovias... it's the fact that religion still colours everything in the US to such a degree. You can't say curse words on TV, even at night (when everyone else allows it). You can't have any nudity, even in a film that had it in originally... they cut it out. Despite these measures, the teen pregnancy rate is sky high.

The place certainly has some odd attitudes.
posted by chuckdarwin at 2:12 AM on October 21, 2008


I've been living outside the United States for about one third of my adult life now, and chuckdarwin is absolutely correct, religion is a very profund difference between Americans and other parts of the world.

But another that I've found personally of interest is the whole patriotic thing. In some parts of America holding multiple passports, something not at all unusual in Europe, raises red flags. Once I entered the United States at O'Hare and when the DHS Dude (capitalised to show proper respect) noticed I had more than one passport he was sure that something wasn't right. He and I and his boss had a nice little chat on the topic, one that I found more that a little intrusive regarding the whys, but a conversation that I somehow felt compelled to have, given that agencies reputation for shoddy treatment of even US Citizens.

I think because the United States is so big, and so few people leave it either for extended travel or to live elsewhere the concept of dividing ones time between multiple countries (currently England and The Netherlands for us) is very exotic to the point of being alien and at the extreme unpatriotic in America. And I don't mean this to come across as anti-American by any means; the country is so huge and so vast one could spend multiple lifetimes there and not see it all. So at one end of the continuum it's sorta understandable (i.e., exotic to the point of being alien). But I can't excuse the assumption that one who choses to live outside the United States is at some level unpatriotic.

I guess I'd suggest another view - in Europe the nationstates hold on the individual is much weaker than in America. I don't have any objective data to corroborate this view, but it was telling when I took my Dutch wife to The US for the first time. She commented repeatedly on all the flags, the public displays of patriotism. For me it was a normal part of the background, of what I grew up with, so I hadn't noticed until she bought it to my attention.

And when we got back home I endeavoured to look closer and can now confirm that yes, in Europe one rarely sees flags displayed publicly. Official offices, courts, etc, yes of course, but outside homes? Very seldom. Maybe when there is a football game, England or Nederlands is playing SOME OTHER COUNTRY, but otherwise? Not really.

Curious difference, and one that helped refined my thinking on this topic: it (patriotism) is drummed into Americans starting at a relatively young age. I went through it, know how the pledge is (was?) required at schools - this rarely happens in Europe, with a few historical fascist exceptions that we're all aware of.

Very interesting. Myself, I'm structuring my life according to The Five Flags principles. Adherents believe in originating and maintaining citizenship in one country while living in a second. Generate income in a third, deposit assets in a fourth and select a fifth nation where the bulk of leisure time is spent.

These five countries - The Five Flags - minimise the control any single government can exert over any one of us. Short of achieving escape velocity, this is about as good as it can get for any of us in this day and age.

In terms of questions upthread about why ex-pats don't leave, most of the bases have been covered with the exception of the well documented alienation that long term ex-pats feel for their birth country.

The longer one lives abroad, outside of the birth nation, the more different it seems upon returning. You can see this to small extent when you take a brief holiday abroad. Upon returning your perspective has changed. For brief period of time things seem slightly unusual. You're viewing things differently, and the longer outside of your birth nation the more pronounced and persistent this becomes.

Many multinationals are aware of this and offer counseling for ex-pats who are returning from an international assignment.

On the other hand, I've known many ex-pats who after living and working abroad for a few years, returned to New York and in spite of counseling decided the grass was greener elsewhere, and got back to London or Toyko or Frankfurt or anyplace that wasn't America as soon as they could.

It seems that for some folks living abroad simply changes ones perspective, they can return to their birth nation and settle back into the flow of daily life.

But for others the ex-pat experience awakens something.
posted by Mutant at 4:57 AM on October 21, 2008 [4 favorites]


Mutant, you have impressed me as usual.

But I can't excuse the assumption that one who choses to live outside the United States is at some level unpatriotic.

"Unpatriotic" was the nicest thing I was called. At times, I thought people were going to hang me for treason. Some people here don't understand it, either... having bought into the lie that every inch of America is a sunny paradise (where everything is free and everyone wants to fuck you because you have a cool accent).

But for others the ex-pat experience awakens something.

I felt that the first time I came over here, and didn't want to leave. It got stronger after every visit, and I finally (with much help) managed to emigrate.

It's not for everyone, but the 'unpatriotic' label / mistrust / xenophobia / USAUSAUSAUSA! shit gets really, really, really old. The only other country I can think of that has this sort of nationalist agenda is China (North Korea?). Fuck, even Iran is less nutty about nationalism than (some parts of) America (are).
posted by chuckdarwin at 5:49 AM on October 21, 2008


The ubiquitous presence of the national flag is certainly something that struck me here in China. Never been to the US so can't make that comparison, but growing up in rural England the only flags we saw regularly were a St George's one on the church steeple and I think we had one in the scout hut. I've often wondered if it's something to do with patriotism of a revolutionary republic (that shared feature of China and the US :D) versus that of a tired old monarchy.
posted by Abiezer at 6:14 AM on October 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


There has to a reason for it, Abiezer. Maybe after the Civil War (yes, that is what it's called), everyone started flying the thing everywhere to rub the South's nose in it... like: SEE?!? YOU GUYS LOST, AMIRITE?
posted by chuckdarwin at 8:33 AM on October 21, 2008


It seems that for some folks living abroad simply changes ones perspective, they can return to their birth nation and settle back into the flow of daily life.

But for others the ex-pat experience awakens something.


Great comment upthread Mutant. Thanks.
posted by nickyskye at 5:36 AM on October 22, 2008


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