Over at Reddit, Former American ex-pat NoblePeasant5 provides a little perspective on why some Americans seem to go a little nuts living in Central America. It’s worth a read:
I call it the Hemmingway experience. It’s no coincidence that so many expats are writers. There is the feeling that you’re doing and experiencing so much more than your peers and that you have to translate all of your deep insights into ink. You start a blog filled with scatching social commentaries and instagram filtered photos of waterfalls and flowers. You’ll always want to remember them.
You’re also now experiencing life as a D-list celebrity. You’re the center of attention where ever you go. Want to buy a burger in McDonalds? The entire place is staring at you and listening to your accent to try to tell where you are from. Want to get into a very popular club? Go during the daytime and meet the owner, and he’ll gladly let you and your foreign friends skip the lines. Want to get a driver’s license without taking the test? Make a friend in the government who can pull some strings. Get pulled over by the cops? Plead ignorance as a tourist.
You get the feeling that this is how life should be. How did you ever survive in a country with so much red tape, where you can’t just bribe government officials? How did you ever live in such fear of going to prison if you made one small mistake? How terrible was it when you could barely get a date or find a woman that didn’t want you for your money? And the people back home, they didn’t respect you. It feels like your whole life you’ve been a baby bird with a broken wing and now you’re finally soaring over the trees.
After a few months, the medium-term traveler will start to think of himself as a more important person. After all, in the third world there’s no concept of equality as we have in the US. People are not born equal. The rich are born to run companies and rule the country, and the poor are born to work menial jobs. There’s little social mobility and little chance of that changing, but it begins to look more appealing when you suddenly are one the upper class.
It seems to make up for all of the sacrifices you’ve had to make to live there. You can’t buy any of the brands that you had at home, but you can go to a five star restaurant for a fraction of the cost. You rarely see your family, but you’ve got a 256kb connection that works at least some of the time. You can’t walk through a large portion of the city at night, but you’ve got a bodyguard and a bulletproof car. You make it work.
Virtually every person from an English speaking country living in Latin America develops this sense of superiority. They are far more pompous than they ever were at home. After all, most people have a sense of unrealized potential, and being treated in this way gives them a big sense of validation. They are the important people that they knew they were all along. Again, this is why I say that it’s the D-list celebrity effect. They get a little fame, let it go to their head, and begin to lose touch with reality. Combine this with the isolation imposed by a language barrier and surrounding yourself with similar people, and it spirals out of control.