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FAQs for Living and Working Overseas:

Written by a former Peace Corps Volunteer living overseas since 1989

The Expat Guy: FAQs for Working and Living Overseas

Xenophobia and Jingo-ism Overseas

Can drive you crazy!

The notion of Critical Thinking is a Western Value
- and  Critical Thinking is a Western skill.

Over and Over Again

You will hear many statements, out in the world, that are obviously incorrect and silly.  Yet many of them, in some countries, will be repeated constantly and assumed to be the truth.  It is as if everyone read the same thing, believed it, and was told to repeat it frequently.
This idea is called Jingoism.


can be political/economic statements (Americans are out to dominate the world) , cultural assumptions (all Americans are noisy and rude), and even just commentary (I'm sorry you don't have a son).  Sorry, I am picking on Americans here - as I am an American - and I don't want to offend anyone else!  You will often be astounded at some of the things you will hear.  My experience is that it will it be worth challenging such statements only with close friends as the ideas the statements are based on are so embedded in the culture.  And even with close friends, I am not sure it is worth it.  Challenging these notions tends to quickly hit a brick wall.

Other common Jingoisms?

Only foreigners have AIDS.  Koreans can't get AIDS because they eat kimchee.  And, of course, other generically stereotypic statements - such as: "All [fill in the blank with a nationality or ethnic or religious group] [do something stupid, odd, or bad]."


Some cultures fear foreigners.  The first time I lived in Korea (1992-94), I thought that I learned how Black-Americans must have felt in the American deep South a generation ago.  The way people would stare - often in great distaste - at me.  I was on a bus once when a small - very cute - young girl ran onto the bus, looked up - saw me - screamed and started crying as she ran back off the bus.  Now, I wouldn't call myself handsome, but I'm not THAT ugly either!  What was the message she must have been given about foreigners?

Such xenophobia is fading - but is still quite common away from urban areas and in more closed societies.

How to React

Don't take the statements personally.  While they are often idiotic notions and ideas - they are frequently deeply embedded in the local/regional/national culture.  Try to correct them, if you wish, but don't expect much progress.  These cultural stereotypes take a long time to change - as we all know from many of the notions and ideas that were common during our parents' childhoods.



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