Leaving abroad is great, getting to know people from different countries, different cultures, different religions is awesome, I love it. I always try to learn as much from people I meet as possible, especially when living abroad. Sometimes you will meet people who have never heard of your country or maybe they have heard, but have no clue where it is or has a very big misconception about the country or its citizens. I'm originally from Brazil, all there is to hear about Brazil I've heard. Even things that I never thought I'd hear in my lifetime I've heard. From silly things like: "Do you speak Spanish?" or "Does everyone play football/soccer?" to "Do you wear clothes in Brazil?" or "I heard that Brazil is in the South, near Florida, right?"... Just to answer these questions... No, we do not speak Spanish, we speak Portuguese. No, not everyone plays football/soccer and some people can't stand the sport. Yes, we wear clothes, but my answer to that question was: "No, we don't we live like Tarzan and Jane and have snakes as pets". And to the other question I just answered that yes, we were a lot further south than Florida, just keep going South and you will hit Brazil.
2 Types of People
I've learned that all over the world there are 2 types of people, the people who haven't a clue about the world outside their own, and end up only believing what they hear 3rd hand via friends/television/radio/internet. And people who have traveled, either for vacation or long term and have experienced the ups and downs of a certain country. When they talk they talk based on their experiences and they usually hit the nail on the head because they're not biased. They tell it as it is.
I've been away so long that I can usually spot either one of these people. First of all because when someone who hasn't been to Brazil or to the USA will make comments/ask questions that make no sense. And people who have been to either one of these places will make a comment, followed by a fact, or something they've experienced. I've learned to pretty much brush it off when I hear stupid comments, but these comments are the most upsetting because you know they haven't a clue what they're saying.
When someone who has either lived or visited your country makes a comment and the comment is positive, you get all proud, eyes shine, shoulders are up. Now, when their comments are negative, first you get a little shocked because you don't expect it, you want everyone to love your country, but if you're smart you will recognize that they're most probably spot on, after all, there is no such thing as the perfect country. Like I mentioned earlier, they tell it like it is. Remember, no country is perfect .
Being an "Ambassador" for your country
No, I'm not talking about the job, someone who is a high level diplomat and represents any country overseas.
Ever since I left Brazil to live in Morgantown, we were told to be our country's ambassador. Meaning, only talk about the good because that's the impression people stay with. Today I got thinking about all of this because I was talking to a few people, and one person had lived in a considered "high crime" country and although nothing every happened to her, she knew some people who got robbed, or had cars hijacked. As she was talking I was quietly listening and thinking to myself: "yeap, this happens in Brazil". Someone else mentioned that she knew someone from Brazil who was kidnapped x times in her life. That's when I chimed in... "yeap, unfortunately this is a reality".
What does being an "ambassador" for your country mean? It means showing people the side of your country that you want them to see. It doesn't mean lying about it. It doesn't mean arguing with someone who says something bad, but deep down you know it's a reality. It means clearing up mixed opinions and showing the truth, but of course you always try to show the rosie side of it first, it's the human thing to do.
For many years I was in denial. In my mind there was no better place than Brazil. I ignored the crime and the corrupt politicians and focused on the great weather, nature, amazing people & food. I think it was my coping mechanism. Nowadays I've come to realize that there is no perfect place, everywhere has the positives and negatives and when someone makes a comment that you don't appreciate, take it with a grain of salt. This person might never have been to your country, and this is an opportunity for them to learn. Or, again, they might be spot on and you just don't appreciate what they've said. What I find annoying is someone who's never been to a country and starts making silly comments without even doing proper research, oh yes, that annoys me.
How about you, have you heard some stupid comments about where you came from? Or have you heard something said by someone and thought to yourself... "hummm, they got that right" or "I haven't thought about it this way."?