OPINION: Nine reasons it's very hard to be an American abroad during the coronavirus

The Local
The Local - [email protected] • 7 Apr, 2020 Updated Tue 7 Apr 2020 11:37 CEST
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These last few weeks have proved challenging for many people for so many reasons but there is one aspect of the coronavirus crisis that Nichole Hastings, an American living in Madrid, has found particularly difficult: friends and family back home won't listen or believe how serious this pandemic health crisis is.


Here she tells The Local about discovering and coping with one of her biggest challenges during lockdown.

Three weeks ago it all became a bit too much and I spent the best part of two days in tears. I put it down to isolation, fear of an unseen threat and being disconnected from my friends and family back home.

I didn’t share my feelings or discuss my mini-breakdown with anyone until last weekend when I spoke to another American friend who expressed his own frustrations and it was so timely. It was a relief to find someone felt the same way. Then I talked to a few other friends and discovered they too had been having the same experiences.

So here’s a breakdown of what we realised:

1. Our American friends and family back home will demonize us for speaking the truth. They became angry and then simply began to ignore us and our warnings. Instead of welcoming the information and our experience they pushed back; Facts became opinions.

2. We realized that our American friends' and family's refusal to believe us is based on ignorance and a culturally ingrained arrogance which has them believe they are better, more knowledgeable, more capable, more intelligent, et cetera, than everyone else in the world. Including and especially us because we left to go live in a foreign place.


3. We realized how little international news is actually shown in America, and that we are basically providing the majority of it to them. Friends knew little to nothing about the situation in other countries because there was very little in the news other than what Trump is saying. And his lies and misinformation were confusing them; they didn't know who or what to believe.

4. We know that our friends' and family's chances of dying (and some likely will) are much greater because they refuse to self-isolate, do proper social distancing (or even do any social distancing at all) and or aren't taking the virus seriously and or think it's a hoax.

President Trump during a White House briefing. Photo: AFP

5. Our foreign friends and loved ones around us, whose countries are taking the proper measures, won't understand our pain because their friends, families, governments are taking the virus seriously. We express these frustrations to them and they talk about how terrible our president is. (Yes, we already know.)

6. We realized we're safer and have more reliable access to healthcare in our foreign country than back at home.

7. We feel helpless, frustrated, and upset that our friends' and family won't listen. We worry for their health, safety, their lives.


8. We know we can only control what we do, not what others do .... But that doesn't make friends' and family's words and actions dismissing us and all our warnings any easier to digest.

9. We wonder if continuing to try and inform our friends and family will eventually help them realize how serious this all is. Or will it simply be an exercise in futility until they or someone they know ends up in a hospital on a respirator, or worse.

I’m sharing my thoughts about this in the hope that it will make others realise they are not alone with their concerns, and to encourage them to open up and talk to others about their experience.

Ceramic artist and Living Room Concerts music series founder and director Nichole Hastings is an Asian-American originally from Seoul, South Korea. She was adopted by white Americans when she was two years old and had a traditional conservative upbringing in the village of Grantham, New Hampshire. She lived in Norwich Vermont for five years before moving outside of the United States and settling in Madrid five years ago in 2015.
For more about Nichole visit her ceramic art website, follow her on Facebook and Instagram and find out about her Living Room Concert series HERE.



The Local 2020/04/07 11:37

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[email protected] 2020/04/08 10:06
Thanks for sharing your experience. I'm sorry your friends and family weren't open to hearing your warnings earlier. I was fortunate that most of mine listened to me and self-isolated the same weekend that we did here in Spain, even before the state governments stated mandating it. I agree with your second and third points, unfortunately. Hopefully this will be a learning experience for the USA in the future. Stay safe! (p.s. to exchilango: Sadly about 50% of America believes the lies that Trump spews, it's not "a minority of the country" that believes him.
[email protected] 2020/04/07 22:16
I think that some worthwhile observations are made. But we've been here for about two and a half years and I do not at all find that it's hard to be an American abroad during this crises. Perhaps to some extent this is because here I don't have to deal with some of the things that were pointed out in the article. In Spain people are acting more sanely and more calmly than many in the US. Yes we have had our liberties temporary constrained but it's for the best reason of all, to save lives.
[email protected] 2020/04/07 15:35
Wow, please don't stereotype all Americans as ignoramuses. Most of us DO take the virus seriously; DO use masks, sanitizers, wipes and/or disinfectants; DO follow social-distancing guidelines; ARE aware of what's going on in Spain, Italy and beyond. Only a minority of the country believes what Trump says. I can't speak for you and your friends' families, but their attitudes are NOT the norm.

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