Expat Life

7 Quotes about Expats and Living Abroad

standing on a world map
Standing at the top of the “world”
 Photo by Francesca Palazzi.

Today Tripbase published a piece I wrote about famous expats in Paris, What Do Van Gogh, Johnny Depp and Josephine Baker Have in Common? In the course of my research for that post, I unearthed some quotes from famous writers about their expat experiences, which I thought I’d share.

David Sadaris

“Life might be difficult for a while, but I would tough it out because living in a foreign country is one of those things that everyone should try at least once. My understanding was that it completed a person, sanding down the rough provincial edges and transforming you into a citizen of the world.”

“What I found appealing in life abroad was the inevitable sense of helplessness it would inspire. Equally exciting would be the work involved in overcoming that helplessness. There would be a goal involved, and I liked having goals.”

–David Sedaris, Me Talk Pretty One Day

Bill Bryson

“When you grow up in middle America you are inculcated from the earliest age with the belief – no, the understanding – that America is the richest and most powerful nation on earth because God likes us best. It has the most perfect form of government, the most exciting sporting events, the tastiest food and amplest portions, the largest cars, the cheapest gasoline, the most abundant natural resources, the most productive farms, the most devastating nuclear arsenal and the friendliest, most decent and most patriotic folks on Earth. Countries just don’t come any better. So why anyone would want to live anywhere else is practically incomprehensible. In a foreigner it is puzzling; in a native it is seditious. I used to feel this way myself.”

Ernest Hemingway

“You’re an expatriate. You’ve lost touch with the soil. You get precious. Fake European standards have ruined you. You drink yourself to death. You become obsessed by sex. You spend all your time talking, not working. You are an expatriate, see? You hang around cafés.”

T. Crossley

“‘Expat Syndrome’ is a condition whereby many expatriates see mostly either the best of their own nationality and the worst of the locals, or see the opposite.”

“An expat is often someone who knows little about his own people he spent a long time with, but thinks he knows everything about the foreigners he has spent a short time with.”

“Expats who can only criticize the country in which they choose to live are like a sailor who demands the wind blows only according to his skill.”

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7 thoughts on “7 Quotes about Expats and Living Abroad

  1. I think these quotes are amazing. I think, even worse than experiencing the expat life and the acculturation that goes with it, is returning home only to find it isn’t all you believed it was in the first place. Figure that one out.
    I felt so alienated on returning home, that I wrote my first novel and drew heavily on the issues of a returning expat. It’s called ‘The English Boyo’ if anyone wants to know more email me writer.lowe (at) gmail.com

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