New Man New Land Syndrome

Nobody knows you and you’re a novelty. You’re one of a few representatives, if any, of where you grew up, and the locals treat you like a C list celebrity for coming from New York. Your personality flaws are forgiven because that’s just your culture. You’re not actually rude, that’s just how Americans act they all assume. You played some ball back in high school but always wanted to have been more? Fuck it, you were great at it. The MVP of senior year even. Playing up the passport at a club gets you dances with girls who’d never talk to you back home. Even the unwanted attention at a Starbucks for being the only white guy there inflates your ego. Your white skin doesn’t make you stick out like a sore thumb, it makes you shine bright like a star. Jobs you’re unqualified for are flung at you left and right because your status as a foreigner means more than your résumé, and the political science degree that you’ll never follow through with has gotten you starring roles in commercials and teaching positions at top level schools. You make more than most of the locals and you live like a king. You can be whoever you want to be over here.

Thousands of expats a year suffer from a complex known as new man new land syndrome. If you’re living abroad, you’ve most definitely met several. They’ve been here awhile and aren’t planning to leave, because the more they set themselves up here and the more connected they get, the easier their lives become. They’re the self-proclaimed kings of their fiefdoms, the regulars of the local Irish pub and the all-knowing settlers of this foreign culture. Unsolicited advice and condescension layer your conversations with them. They’ve been here longer, and when you’ve eventually been here as long as they have, it will all hopefully make sense to you too. It doesn’t matter who they were back home, because there are no social anchors to ground them back to reality. They just better hope they don’t ever run into anybody they once knew.

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