May 2, 2010

Criticizing Your Host Country? Don’t!

One of the commandments of overseas living should be: “ Thou shalt not criticize the host country in front of its citizens even if the criticism is justified”.

When abroad, you may run into unpleasant circumstances, inconveniences, and culture shocks. You will often be tempted to vent your steam by saying negative things about the host country. Please never say those things when a native/citizen is present no mater who that person is. Even your spouse, if she is a national, would not like to hear those things from you. Well, maybe you can say it to her in a weeping tone of voice, as a victim and she may comfort you and help you out a bit. But as a rule, by moving abroad, you largely forfeit your right to such criticism.

You will also notice that the more “developing” a country is, the greater is the patriotism of its people. There are exceptions to the rule, but, by and large, that seems to be a pattern. And if the country is a developed one, the working classes in it will probably be the most patriotic group. But even its intellectuals will not like for you to make any non-positive comments about it.

That is one disadvantage of being an expat. They can sit and say bad things about your country while you are there, but you cannot answer back and criticise theirs unless both of you are expats in a third country.

So what will happen if you do criticize? A polite person will probably agree with you verbally, but you will see from his body language that he is not happy to hear those things from you. He/she will eventually try to avoid you. A less polite person will ask you the following things: ” You mean, my country is no good?”. “If you do not like it, why are you still here? “. “What are you doing here if it is so bad?” And a more direct person still, will probably tell you to go back to where you came from. And he/she will be quite rude about it, too.

This principle does not apply to countries only. We do not like for people who are not from our city to criticize it, we do not like for people who are not our family members to criticize our husbands, wives, fathers, etc. even if everything they say is correct. They have no right to do that because they are not “one of us”.

Even making suggestions ( constructive criticism) is often seen as an insult especially in the most of “developing” countries.

Some foreign residents who are now considering the place where they are living their home think that they can now be liberal with dispensing analyses of current national events, political situations and other such things. But in many places, especially the really dysfunctional societies, such comments will not be welcome.

And it does not matter how right you are and how wrong they are. Unless you are a citizen, and/or are a non-citizen living in a really progressive, guilt-ridden society that will double over backwards to help a former victim of its colonial past, your negative commentaries and even positive recommendations may usually not be welcome.

In some so- called developing nations, (some of which have been developing for several thousands of years, but no cigar) neither the rich, nor the poor like to be reminded of the troubles the country has. The rich enjoy the status quo because they have a great pool of cheap labor and services.
The poor know how bad their lot is and do not want to be reminded of it, but are fed a lot of patriotism to revel in, in place of social benefits. Neither party makes for a ready audience for your complaints.

Those who were excessively vocal about their complaining have on many occasions ended up being deported. In many corrupt countries, a call from the right person to a friend at the Immigration Department will do the trick. And since all visas are discretionary, and usually no immigration in any one country is accountable to another country’s citizens, you will have no leg to stand on if you try to appeal their decision.

So, when in a foreign country, especially a non-first world country, keep your criticism to yourself ( or a quite whispering tone conversation in a group of your resident compatriots) and if the natives ask you what you think about their country, just smile and say “ I love it!”. You will save yourself a whole lot of trouble if you do.


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