I was born in the United States of America and grew up in that culture during my formative years. However, I've lived overseas since 1994, and since 1995 the vast majority of my friends have been from multiple other countries, with very few being Americans.
I have long been an avid reader of world history. In the university, I had studied political science as a minor (my B.Sc. is in physics, though I was a professional student studying so many things).
It is funny when people say things like "Mark is an American." Oh yeah, you're reminding me, because I really don't think much about that. It's not that I am either a superpatriot or a rebel, it's just where I'm from, a western country with decent moral and political ideals, albeit very flawed and with its own issues like every country. It's similar to being in the US when people would say "Mark is from Arkansas". Oh yeah, you're reminding me, and while I love The Natural State, I moved on so long ago into greater diversity. It's not like I walk around in the world feeling like I'm an American or an Arkansan. I walk around feeling like I'm one of our species, with a good moral upbringing, a relatively high education, and a world citizen in the internet age with responsibilities in our generation.
Being originally from America, like from many other western cultures, may give me a predisposition towards independent thinking, occasional critical thinking towards authority, inventiveness, and a bit more courage to take a leadership role when I see fit. However, I don't see that as particularly "American" in modern times.
You may find traits of creativity and independent thinking more commonly in westerners than easterners, but they exist in both and I know many eastern people who are a lot more creative and independent thinking than a lot of westerners.
It sure helps to understand these issues, psychologies and sociologies when coaching people to become more open minded, independent thinking and creative, when you see how people are raised in different cultures. However, there are many more traits to analyze in addition to these three -- especially the different values and ways of thinking of various cultures.
The world has changed a lot in the last 15 years due to the advent of the internet age and globalization, whereby there is considerable homogenization and convergence, though there are still many fundamental cultural predispositions nevertheless.
Every culture has its plusses and minuses, whereby it's good to see alternatives, so you can adopt the better elements of the other culture while passing on the not so good ones, according to what you may think is best.
Of course, nations still exist and the internet will not stop that. Nations still define themselves by laws (and it's usually more convenient to be traveling on an American passport), but ideals and principles are now global.
I am patriotic towards principles, such as a free media, free enterprise (albeit with government regulations to protect the environment and minimize corruption and unethical business practices), ethnic equal opportunity, and other things, regardless of country.
I see both the good and bad sides of my country as well as other countries.
On the other hand, I don't take for granted my roots -- the ideals, standards, inventiveness, encouragement of initiative, questioning of authority, and many other aspects which made many people and institutions from the western world to be leaders. These I appreciate very much, and are what stand out in history.
Sometimes I openly criticize some things about my government or my culture (just like I criticize some things about other governments and cultures). Occasionally someone has jumped to the conclusion that for some reason I don't like my country. That would be very wrong. I love my country. (I also love the UK, Australia, Switzerland, and many other countries, including their people and governments, though not everything about them...) One thing I love most about my country is that I can criticize anything I want about it, including the powers that be, both verbally and in writing, and not feel threatened because of doing so. That's a big reason why I love my country. If I could not criticize my country or its top people in power, but could say only good things as yes men, that would be proof of stupidity and not worthy of respect. I will fight for others' ability to have their own free opinions contrary to my own.
Freedom of speech is a key to the checks and balances system which works for the Greater Good as a whole, and against greed.
Even when one is wrong, others will correct you, and whether or not you like them or their own style or intentions, there are still improvements to be developed from most valid criticisms.
It's good to exercise that freedom of expression, about both the good and bad things of your country.
However, I would rather address the good and bad things of global, not national, things such as the environment, multi/transnational communities, and solutions to the threat of human extinction.
As an expat living in a different culture overseas, I tend to have a much different perspective about my culture and country, as well as others' cultures and countries, and am better able to both appreciate the good side and see the not-so-good side from others' viewpoints. That takes time and experience.
When I meet an American who has recently become an overseas expat, I don't see them as "Hey, there's somebody like me." I see them the same way that I see a newly arrived Brit or Australian or Swiss or Norwegian or Japanese or Kuwaiti or whatever -- a new expat. I see Americans the same way. They're American. It's very neutral, not a bias, neither positive nor negative.
It usually becomes apparent fairly quickly just how long they've been an expat, and whether they tend to circulate within their own country's expatriate community (by job or whatever reason) or whether they've been a longtime tourist or multinational among mostly foreigners. Regardless of their nationality, it usually becomes apparent how much guidance, if any, they could use.
My main paying work is helping expats new to Thailand -- expats from many countries. I understand them because I was new to Thailand, too, and I like helping people. I also like learning from them.
Someday soon, I hope to have those tables turned on me again, as I have before when I have been a newcomer to another country. A good guide is always appreciated.
mark-prado.com > Travels > Nationality issues
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