Hating Your Country While Abroad and Then Returning

A lot of people have asked me recently what it’s like being back in America after two months overseas. I’m still reflecting.

My friend Ramit Sethi just sent me this fantastically provocative post by a guy who’s traveled extensively reflecting on how American backpackers view their country after returning home. Some of his comments don’t apply to me (no 3rd world countries yet) and some I don’t even agree with. But he does tackle the bash-your-own-country syndrome with humorous crudeness.

There is no way to avoid seeing the USA differently when you come back, I’m afraid. But there are less self-cannibalizing ideas of "differently."…

I find that my cultural observations about Guatemala are usually really about me. "These people are mean" means "I am lonely." "Those people are loud" means "I feel excluded." "This country is great" means "I love being unemployed and drunk." When I start talking about America on the return, I’m usually still just talking about myself.

A fine point. Doesn’t this apply to most things? It’s amazing that what people say usually shows more about who’s saying it than what’s actually being said.

In Livingston, in a bar, one of my cobackpackers started up with the whole "I’m so glad to be away from all that shit, all that wholesale corporate shit, all that unthinking consumption, all that overly aggressive American culture, all that Bible thumping and fast food and 9-5" routine

I set down my beer, and gestured for the guy to lean over.

"I’ve got a hunch about America, dude…"

"What’s that?"

"…You’re doing it wrong."

Divebars. Jukeboxes. Allen Iverson. Beerball. Super Mario Kart. NetFlix. LiveFuckingJournal. The way my girl looks in that skirt.

An aversion to whitehats and fast food might be a reason to leave the country, but it’s no reason to bash it. To fail to find a place for yourself in the USA might be a failure of fucking imagination, but it ain’t a failure of the culture to provide.

Although I may have taken a different approach, I agree in principle that when people moan about "getting away from all that wholesale corporate shit," I groan. If you want to be hyper-consumerist, thump your bible, eat at McDonald’s, and work in a cubicle from 9-5 each day, you have the freedom to do so. But guess what? I don’t do any of those things. A lot of people don’t. And it’s just as easy.

My sense is this guy would get along well with P.J. O’Rourke who wrote Holidays in Hell. Here are some excerpts of Holidays in Hell. Warning: You may find O’Rourke’s commentary on countries and America highly offensive, disgustingly xenophobic, and so forth. I endorse none of it and agree with only some of it.

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