Via Reddit: ‘Why American Ex-Pats Go Crazy in Central America’

410W02MDYELOver 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:

Via Reddit:

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.

Keep reading.

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  • echar

    I wonder if McAfee wrote that, or maybe referencing?

    • Matt Staggs

      Yeah, it was a McAfee reference. Thought people might find it interesting to read in context of his latest outcries for attention.

      • echar

        I’ll have to look for the latest on him. Last I read he was in Portland, because then the assassins can’t get him.

  • BuzzCoastin

    D-list celebrity, what a great cliche for that experience!

    I haven’t spent much time in Central & South America
    because it’s lousy with American kids with bad tudes

  • Juan

    Way back in 96, I worked as a scuba instructor in Costa Rica for 6 months.
    Some of the observations in this piece really brought back that time for me.
    After a while, I learned to avoid most ex pats.
    On the plus side, I got laid like mad (a never ending stream of tourist babes on vacation) and I got to dive with some amazing critters.

  • http://www.facebook.com/D.Hotkiss Douglas Hotchkiss

    i have a little home in the hills of costa rica, i know some expats in san isidro..seem like ok old guys,,mostly just drinking beer and watching girls..tourists- act like silly tourists do..smile and take their money.. seems a simple thing.
    yes, san jose is a shithole and yeah gringos anywhere on the planet should keep their wits about them and not act like jeks..but i doubt they will.
    generally what i come away with is gratitude for having such a soft life.