I copied the following reddit post by Noblepeasant5. Basically, it explains how the initial bliss of being a Latin American (in this case, Central American) expat gives way to a gnawing sense of paranoia and neurosis with the passage of time.
Personally, I think the lad is trolling a bit -- I would not be surprised if he hasn't even been to Central America. However, he does expose one very ugly side of expats which is rarely discussed.
I'll get to that later.
Here's the text. It's long but worth the read:
The author predictably catches a lot of heat in the reddit comment section from people defending the expat life. And while many make good arguments, I'm going to disregard them and tell you why I agree with NoblePeasant5, at least in part.
Why He's Right
If you can get past his outrageous exaggeration-for-effect of what an expat meltdown looks like (save for maybe John McAfee's...) there is one piercingly accurate truth to this piece: the cognitive dissonance of what he describes as the "medium term traveller" (3-12 month stay in a new country).
I know, because it happened to me.
When I was living in Mexico, I skipped club lines and partied with the cool kids. When the police gave us trouble, my new friends name dropped and they would leave us alone. I once even went to a pool party on what was, I'm almost certain, a narco's ranch. But I'll save that for another post. Point is, I was plucked from Canadian obscurity into Mexican highlife without having to do a goddamn thing aside from be white, young and good looking.
My cognitive dissonance grew. I stretched what was supposed to be a two-month trip into four months as I convinced myself of how great of a country Mexico was, how much better it was than Canada. Food was cheap, I could attract any girl I wanted and for the first time in my life I was popular. If felt good.
It felt fucking amazing.
The height of my delusion came when I ran out of money. I was so desperate to stay in the country that I began brainstorming business ideas with another expat and reaching out to my new Mexican network to help me find employment. It was only when my so-called "dream" was about to be made a reality, after being offered work writing/editing English documents at an auto plant, that I snapped out of it.
What the fuck are you doing?
I realized that my new life wasn't real. It was a vacation. A vacation that I stretched way too fucking long. Was I really going to use my unearned status points to take a $10/hour job away from a Mexican? All of a sudden the food didn't taste so good, the women didn't look as sexy and the idea of going home and turing myself into someone I could respect became the only thing that mattered. I declined the job offer and booked a flight home.
I had developed an ugly sense of entitlement. I was addicted to the feeling of being a member of the young upper class, though I had neither the money or charm to justify it. Although I never became outwardly "pompous," as the author says, I felt an internal sense of self importance that probably would have reared its ugly head before too long. It was a sobering realization that I was nothing more than a lost boy seeking respect but not willing to better myself as a person to earn it.
Why He's Wrong
Noblepeasant5's post is misleading for obvious reasons. But his impressive rhetoric doesn't make his premise seem as crazy as it truly is. He starts the first third of his post by outlining things about different kinds of travellers that you can't help but to agree with. We've all either met or can at least identify in some way with his "commodity-based" traveller, and his "medium-term" traveller. His irrefutable observations and authoritative voice makes the reader trust his authenticity.
After establishing this trust, he slyly glides into irrationality. He starts by claiming that virtually every person from an English speaking country living in Latin America develops a sense of superiority. This is obviously an exaggeration, but it's easy for the reader to let slide, especially if he/she has ever experienced special treatment while in a foreign country, like I have. From there, he descends into the ridiculous, claiming that eventual paranoia will drive you to insanity while kids "happily" jump over dead bodies on their way to school.
Yet, somehow, after reading his piece top to bottom, his premise doesn't seem all that farfetched.
Noblepeasant5 is using a trick that is learned in sales: get the customer in the habit of saying yes to prime him to agree with your proposal. If Noblepeasant5 started his short essay by saying that Central American expats will all by driven home by fear of "CIA conspiracies" and "elaborate" assassination plots, we'd tell him to fuck off, and rightly so. But, because he worked up to it with fairly logically points, we force ourselves to consider it, if only for a moment.
What's The Truth About Expat Life in Latin America?
The reality of expat life depends on the expat living it. The ones that flourish are those who have a genuine interest in their newly-adopted country and city, have one or more artistic and/or work projects on the go, and who learn the language. Those who fail are the ones who moved abroad for a lower cost of living, easy pussy and because they feel they didn't "fit in" in their home nation.
Anybody who moves to a different country on a whim must be careful: it's too easy to get lazy. Chances are you'll be treated like a rockstar for awhile like Noblepeasant5 says, but don't let it go to your head. Always be working on self-improvement. Go to the gym, learn new skills, and make some money online.
Know the difference between real life and a vacation and don't blur the lines. That was my mistake in Mexico. Without any kind of work to do or timeline for my trip, I quickly became wrapped up in drinking, partying and women. I wouldn't go as far as to say I wasted my time, but I will say that those four months were entirely unproductive. I failed to better the world, or to better myself. I lacked a purpose, and because of that I lacked focus and discipline.
There's nothing wrong with moving to a Latin American country, and don't let anyone tell you that there is. You'll learn a lot about yourself and about the world. But go with a well-defined purpose and goals. If you do, you won't have to worry about what happened to our friend Noblepeasant5.
Until next time,
Do you agree with this post? Be sure to leave your thoughts in the comments section below!