If you can’t tell it like it is on your own blog, where can you? Buckle up for this one that’s been hiding in my drafts folder for two years, folks. Today I’m talking about an attitude I’ve seen for years that we need to unpack.
“If you hate France, then go home!” or “If France sucks so much, then leave!” Have you seen rude comments like those hurled in people’s faces when they express a part of living abroad they don’t like? I sure have. You don’t have to look too far in online comment sections to see this sort of sentiment directed at foreigners living abroad. When we express any dissatisfaction or critical thought about any aspect of our new home, people are quick to jump in with the oh-so-tired refrain, “Well, if you don’t like it, go home!”
I want to approach this thoughtfully because I won’t let myself believe that all people who say this sort of thing are terrible people who honestly don’t care. I think it’s a lack of understanding and empathy that we need to talk about.
Let’s get into why this type of attitude is problematic and my thoughts about it.
I hate France? “If France sucks so much, then go home!”
First, the “If you aren’t happy here, then leave” mentality is incredibly rude and lacks understanding. If you’ve been on the receiving end of faceless (brainless?) comments like these, I’m sorry. It never feels very good. Sadly, it’s par for the course online, though, and people say it regularly without thinking.
Not so surprisingly, no one has ever said anything like this to me in person, nor have I heard it directed toward anyone else in person. It’s easy to be rude online when you hear someone say, “I hate France” or “France sucks” without digging any deeper.
Here’s a screenshot of a few YouTube comments where people have completely missed my point and thought this sort of commentary was warranted.
Why people say things like “If you don’t like it, then leave!”
People get so angry when you voice anything that goes against their preconceived notions of what life abroad should be like, as if you’re shattering their hopes and dreams. It’s as if your critique is going to rub off on them and change their expat experience or what they’ve built it up to be in their head.
When people say these things, it tells me that the person doing the shaming places a high value on the idea of living abroad. To them it’s something they view as a positive, a great opportunity, or is something they would love to do or maybe have already done. And it is all of those things, but living abroad is not without its drawbacks.
For anyone who may think otherwise, let me reiterate that living abroad is not a prize we randomly win that falls into our lap like a free vacation on a game show. Careful consideration and planning, not to mention sacrifice and compromise, go into such a life-changing decision. No one makes it lightly.
Now, what’s behind this mentality, you ask?
I get the feeling that the people who are triggered enough to say these rude things think that if anyone complains about anything, ever, that in their minds we don’t deserve to live abroad. They may think that we’re so lucky for the privilege that we have to love every second or we don’t deserve to be there and we don’t appreciate it enough. To them, living abroad is up on this untouchable pedestal. Anyone who says anything critical gets shut down.
Something else I want to acknowledge is that there’s a difference between blowing off steam once in a while and being deeply bothered by something and in need of support. None of that means that France sucks.
My YouTube follower Rachel perfectly explains where this attitude may stem from here:
Why comments like these are problematic
Because they are dismissive and invalidating! There’s no better way to make a person feel “less than.”
When someone shows up to talk about something hard — something they don’t like, something that they’re struggling with, etc. — the best way to respond is not with a flippant, “If you don’t like France, then go home!”
All that does is dismiss the person and invalidate their feelings. We never know if someone is blowing off steam or deeply struggling. Be kind and if you can’t do that, maybe it’s best to not say anything at all.
stop complaining. if you don’t like this country, leave. got a broken tail light? abandon your car by the side of the road. toilet not flushing? move out of your house. never try to solve any problems, just give up
— the hype (@TheHyyyype) November 5, 2020
Another reason why this mentality is problematic is because it’s not a solution. It’s like saying, “Oh ok, if there’s something you don’t like in your life or something giving you trouble, I have the answer! Just run away from it. Escape. Don’t try to work on it and improve things. Just leave!” Way to problem solve!
Kids acting up? Just leave them. Husband not pulling his weight? Divorce him. Roof needs to be redone? Just buy a new house. Like what???
Telling someone that if they don’t like it and think France sucks, they should go home does nothing to help the person move forward or feel better. Not in France and not anywhere. It keeps things as they are and offers no solutions or understanding.
Maybe it’s not your place or calling to help someone you don’t know to feel better, but it’s also not your place to make them feel worse. Especially not from behind the anonymity of your computer screen. Trust me that these comments make them feel worse. Every time. Do you really want to put that energy out in the world?
Not everyone can go home
There’s a difference between complaining just to vent and actually hating something so bad that you’d consider leaving… and that brings me to my next point.There's a difference between complaining to blow off steam and actually hating something so bad that you'd consider leaving. #expatClick To Tweet
Some people can’t go home. Or it would be incredibly difficult. Job, kids, finances, language barriers, unstable government, custody arrangements, medical issues, and other circumstances. Maybe “home” is worse than where they currently live or it would make no sense for them to move there. Sometimes people are doing the best they can in their current situation and their “best” comes with venting because yes, it’s that hard and not likely to change anytime soon.
No one has the right to tell anyone else to go home.
Why I hate telling people I live in France >>
It’s a simplistic mindset
Something else the whole “If France sucks, then leave” mentality reflects — other than the fact that the person saying it is a rude human being — is a simplistic mindset that lacks the ability to think critically. Like, “Oh, thank you, why didn’t I think of that? Of COURSE, right, I can just pick up and leave. Gee thanks. That solves it. I’ll go home then. THANK YOU!”Something the 'If France sucks, then leave' attitude reflects -- other than the fact that the person saying it is a rude human being -- is a simplistic mindset that lacks the ability to think critically. #expatClick To Tweet
It’s a naïve way of looking at things. Picking up your whole life and moving across the world isn’t always possible and is never easy.
It’s OK not to like every single aspect of where you live. It doesn’t mean France sucks. You’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who loves every single aspect of their life anywhere in the world.
People say go home in response to the smallest complaints. It’s like people don’t have room in their minds to understand that anyone even slightly criticizing, complaining or speaking negatively about any aspect of their life abroad doesn’t mean they are so deeply unhappy that they would move home. Or that they should move home, like it’s the perfect solution. Or that they don’t “deserve” to live abroad.
The French complain about France!
Here’s another reason why it’s an absurd thing to say. French people are known to be complainers. They know this about themselves and even joke about it. On any given day, the topic du jour is the weather, the construction, the strikes… you name it. Everything is fair game for a game of who is the biggest complainer.
Using the “If you don’t like France, go home” attitude, I guess it means French people should leave France too. Should French people leave their own country in search of some paradise where everyone likes everything all the time? Of course not. That’s absurd.
When does life in France become regular life? >>
Romanticizing life abroad online
I mentioned that I see this kind of “If you hate France, then leave!” response online on YouTube and social media. The truth is that there’s a landslide of pro-expat life content out there selling the dream and the lifestyle as an escape. We see the highlights of travel and the glamour and all the interesting cultural tidbits and photos. I am part of that. But living abroad in France or anywhere is also real life and it’s important to show the not so glamorous aspects as well. I make sure I’m a part of that too. But that doesn’t sell courses or get likes.Living abroad is also real life and it's important to show the not so glamorous aspects as well. But that doesn't sell courses or get likes. #expatClick To Tweet
Now wait, there’s something I want to be clear about here. There’s a difference between being negative and judgmental vs. just sharing part of your reality as it is.
Maybe the line is a fine one, but I feel like even when I’ve shared some cons of life abroad for me — not in a complaining or disrespectful kind of way in the least — people read into it and see only what they want to see. It’s as if you’re not even allowed to voice any cons because, well see above, you don’t deserve to be here if you aren’t in love with every aspect of your life 24/7. I’m sure the same people will be triggered by this post.
Bloggers and YouTubers like me feel pressure to only show the rainbows and unicorns aspects of life in France, which only paints an unrealistic picture of what life can be like abroad. When we are made to feel like we can’t say a word without being attacked or made to feel stupid or judged over and over, what do we do? Well, we shut up. But I’m not changing what I do here. It’s always been important to me to show the pros and the cons… not in a complaining or disrespectful kind of way but in a hey-this-is-life-abroad-too way.
Being told that if you don’t like France, you should go home makes us feel like we’ve done something wrong and it’s our fault if we’re not happy all the time. Then it can force us to shift the conversation to a shiny, positively toxic one which skews what life abroad can be like, masking the challenges. It does a disservice to readers because they get a skewed impression of what life abroad is like.
A few negatives don’t really matter overall
I think most people get it. Just because you express negatives doesn’t mean the overall living abroad experience is negative. For me, the positives outweigh the negatives, but there still are negatives.
You can still want to live somewhere and know it’s right for you while simultaneously knowing you don’t love everything about a place.You can still want to live somewhere and know it's right for you while simultaneously knowing you don't love everything about a place. #expat #livingabroadClick To Tweet
The positives are the most visible, as they should be, but not without showing both sides. By only showing the positives, it is not only misleading but damaging. I get emails pretty much weekly from foreigners in France who regret their move abroad thinking it would be easier or just better in some way because everyone hypes living abroad in France to be larger than life. And it deserves to be hyped because there are so many positives that I’ll never take for granted.
But I’ll say it again. It’s life. Regular life. Just with more croissants, wine, and cheese. 😉
France sucks? No, a lack of understanding does
When we speak up about something bothering us or even just something we don’t particularly care for and are told that if we don’t like it, then move home… well, where does that leave us?
Feeling stuck somewhere between hopelessly misunderstood and sadly raging.
We feel like something is wrong with us. We are made to feel that if we aren’t happy with some aspect of our life, that the problem lies with us and we should leave because everyone else is as happy as can be. That’s obviously not reality but it can feel that way.
My advice is to find people who you can trust who will listen without judgment. These people are gold. Ignore the rest of ’em.
It seems like some people are so sold on the idea of living abroad and their adoptive country that they have zero tolerance and understanding for people who are struggling, or missing home, or having a bad day. Or people who have legit concerns with some aspect of their life abroad and just want to be heard and are trying to make things better.
All experiences are valid. You matter. No one’s life is going to mirror anyone else’s life and we can learn from others and lend a helping hand along the way.
No one has the right to tell you to go home. They don’t know you. They’ve never walked a day in your shoes. And would you want someone so dismissive and naïve to know you anyway?
Keep your head up.
PIN my “if France sucks, go home!” post:
We are here in Burgundy from Sept to Dec after a “forced” 2 year absence. It’s cold now and we have renovation going on all around us. It’s easy to complain about that, but yet if we were home in Tennessee and that house was under going renovation, we would also be in cold weather and inconvenienced….and would complain also. Being here brings both joys and problems, just like living in our other house in Tennessee. It’s often not where we are but our attitude that needs altering. We spent yesterday have a long visit and Sunday meal with some new American friends in a neighboring town. Funny but that visit and encouragement made us both smile and improved our attitude.
It’s always an adventure and that is our new joy.
Yesterday was a hard day. I have been super lucky to make friends in my little village. They are not “full timers” like me, and yesterday they left for their home countries. The weather was also a little grey and misty. Do I hate my life here…NO! But I also don’t love it 24/7. Your comment about judgmental negative comments really hit home. I have seen them directed at you on your social media and I cannot image how that makes you feel.
Hope you are having a lovely Monday. My week has started better…and I’m counting the days until my friend ps return.
A truthful post. And in reality this is only usually broached by people who have lived in a place past the honeymoon period. A lot of the online gushing is from those who spent one glorious summer somewhere before moving on in their ‘travels’, or 2-3 years as an exchange student with regular and lengthy trips back home. Very different from also experiencing the dark times.
I can honestly say that until 2018 I’d never had this said to me here. So it took 16 years and Brexit for someone to finally say it! I’ve had it three times since and once from a government employee. When I lived in France two people did say it to me; here in the Netherlands people are blunt, but less openly nationalistic. There’s also much less waffle about language and culture as an exceptional, unique ‘way of life’, something the French like to harp on about as you’ll know.
I can’t change who I am. Some people submit all their character to integrate fully and are willing to accept all difference so they can “fit in”; I can’t do that, can you? I speak the national language, I abide by the laws and customs, but I also carry part of my own national heritage and character which can clash. I won’t be renouncing that anytime soon. One notable thing is that this is tolerated for so-called “expats”, whereas people deemed “immigrants” (and what’s the difference really?) are routinely castigated for not integrating; especially if they have a non-European culture. Being an ‘expat’ already gives a person a bit of an advantage, but you do get to see what it’s like to be an ‘immigrant’.
Nationalism is rising again in Europe, so I expect to see more of this sentiment. The people from outside expat life, those just online barking at you from home countries who might be angry with you for not appreciating what you called a ‘golden egg’, they don’t matter all that much. If they can do a better job of it they should just come and do it.
Michael Ridgill says
Diane, thanks again for being true to yourself and experience living abroad. Your insight and perspective are extremely helpful and encouraging.
Thank you, Michael. I’m glad my content hits home for you and I appreciate you taking the time to read this one and comment. 😉
Susan Walter says
There is a flip side to the ‘go home if you don’t like it’ which is equally problematic I feel, and that is many immigrants idea that they should not comment on or react to things they disagree with in their new country ‘because they aren’t native’. Yes things might be done differently in your new country, but that doesn’t automatically make them ‘better’. Sometimes they are just ‘different’ and you really are best to hold your tongue, but sometimes they are genuinely bad, and need to be reacted against. Sometimes it takes an ‘outsider’ to properly understand that things must change, and how they might change for the better.
Very true. Sometimes the outside is a mirror reflecting back the things people would rather avoid or don’t even recognise. Sometimes the reaction is good when there is recognition of something, but often the reaction is bad because no-one likes to be told their way of life isn’t the best in the world.
Good point, Susan. Different ways of doing things and different viewpoints are so important (in the corporate world, in politics, in life in general!) and how can we improve things if we feel like we can’t talk? Such a valid point!
Hi Diane. I really appreciate you taking the time to post this. It is unfortunate that you have to deal with people that don’t fully understand your story or living abroad abroad if they have never lived abroad themselves. I am a U.S. citizen and I have never lived abroad and I know for a fact that I could not just pick up and leave if I things went totally wrong. Are there things I hate about the U.S.? Yes, there are. But I would never use them as a reason to move abroad. I really appreciate you taking the time to tell your story, both the good and the bad.
P.s. is this blog what you do for a living or do you have a “day job”?
HI Avery, glad you enjoyed the post and understand where I’m coming from. 😉
To answer your question, no, my blog is not my full-time job.
I enjoy your YouTube videos and frequently direct them towards my son who is studying French in high school. I am sorry for your loss and hope that the coming days may be a bit brighter for you. I really don’t understand those hostile comments (akin to the American “love it or leave it” attitude). Simplistic. And it really reflects poorly upon the person uttering the comment, leaving me to think that they may be challenged intellectually.
That word ‘simplistic’ describes it perfectly.
Thanks Joe, so glad you enjoy my content. Yeah, I feel like that rude, dismissive attitude says way more about the person saying it than it does about the person expressing a negative.
Lily Fang says
Thanks for this vulnerable and thought-provoking post, Diane! I think another issue with this attitude is that it’s often used to invalidate the barriers that people of color and immigrants face (at least it is in the US). People will talk about microaggressions, racism, etc., and some folks will just tell them to leave if they don’t like it there. Which is so unproductive!
Hi Lily, you bring up a great point. I’ve absolutely seen white people tell a person of color that their concern is them just being paranoid, or overthinking, or it could happen to anyone. SO dismissive. I even see people bringing up race in my YouTube comments, usually French people jumping in to say there’s no racism in France. Like what?!?!
Muriel Areno says
As someone living the reverse experience (born and raised in France, in the US 45 years), I think the reason for this is the opposite of what you write. It comes from people who’ve never been anywhere. When I first saw this blog post, I thought the rudeness came from the French, but in fact “Love it or leave it” is a very American sejtment. It comes from the same people who will brook no criticism of the country at all and are opposed to any change, even change for the betterment of society.
You are roight when you say that no one can possibly like everything about their adopted country. Some cultural differences take some getting used to, and some you can never overcome. (Green jello salad? Just no. There are others, much more important than that, but I won’t go ther.e)
Hi Muriel, thank you for your comment. I think a lot of this attitude can come from people who have never been anywhere and hold the idea of living abroad to high standards in their head but I’ve also seen it from other foreigners who live abroad. Rarely do I see this kind of retort from French people — so often it’s fellow Americans or Brits (probably a good split between those who have never traveled and fellow foreigners, which is weird).
P.S. I’m not a fan of jello salad either!
“If you hate France, then go home!” All I can say is, “twas ever thus.” I’m an older type. In the ’60s, when many of us were protesting the Vietnam war, we endlessly heard the phrase “Love it or leave it.” In fact, that’s my earliest recollection of this kind of sentiment being hurled at people. Of course, we weren’t rejecting America itself; we just felt it wasn’t living up to its values. When someone says any variation of “love it or leave it,” they’re basically opting to insult someone without leaving open the possibility for meaningful discussion. I decided it was a waste of my energy to engage with this kind of mean-spirited rhetoric.
So true, Jackie. Meaningful discussion goes out the window and leaves 0 doors open for finding any common ground. It’s sad this is people’s “go to” way of operating. Maybe I’m naive to think someday they’ll learn.
Keith Van Sickle says
I read your post just after a Zoom call with an American couple that is getting ready to move to Lyon for work. My wife and I had been connected with them, to talk about our experiences living abroad in Switzerland and France.
We emphasized that their life in France will be fascinating and often wonderful but also sometimes hard and frustrating. And that they should go into it understanding that it’s not always sunshine and rose petals but that there will also be difficulties–and going in with their eyes open will make the inevitable speed bumps easier to handle.
In other words, life in France is a lot like life at home! Good times, bad times, mediocre times…but with better food 🙂
The guy’s name wasn’t Justin was it by any chance?
Aussie Jo says
So well said……………………
Thank you for taking the time to read it!
Diane, you hang in there. I enjoy your posts and YouTube videos. I especially appreciate your authenticity and vulnerability. In the long run, that is what really matters.
Your content is great!
I’m so sorry for your tremendous loss. How amazing and bittersweet, though, to have a mom that you love and adore so much her passing pierces your heart. To love is to grieve.
I appreciate that, KT. Thank you. I think this sort of post is important, even if it hid in my drafts for a few years (was i scared? i don’t know). Anyway, I appreciate you understanding my point of view.
Thank you for your condolences as well. Just a few months ago, I had 3 loved ones all alive with terminal illnesses and now only one remains. It’s a hard place to be in, alternating between grief and anticipatory grief all stacked on top of each other. Hellish, actually, but I have to keep going…
Diane, your thoughtful, balanced and nuanced posts deserve equally thoughtful replies. As a former expat in the Middle East, I’ve followed your blog for a long time—often just to remind myself that expat life even in one of my ideal locations comes with challenges.
I’m so sorry that you have to deal with rude people when you’re doing such good work educating us about *real* life in France.
By the way, know that you’re not alone. Online attacks on female reporters and journalists are much higher than for males—to the extent that some publications have turned off public commentary altogether. Maybe it will help to picture these commenters as unhappy young teenagers, which some of them probably are. It would definitely explain their need to see the real world in strictly rosy terms!
Thank you, Jody. I’m so glad you enjoyed the post. Yes, life in France definitely comes with its challenges and it’s reassuring to know that you find the content helpful and worthwhile.
Sadly, I think dealing with rude people just comes with the territory, but these days I don’t let it bother me 99% of the time. People who attack others behind the comfort of their anonymous computer are clearly hurting and they’re not my people anyway.
Juliette Giannesini says
Yes, oh yes!
And it applies for experiences around the world. I get similar messages when I state I hate winter–“are you dumb, why are you living in Canada?” Well, tons of reasons brought me to Canada (none of them was winter weather conditions) and there’s more to Canada than winter. There are workarounds for aspects of local life you don’t like as well.
A few years ago, I had an epiphany–it’s actually okay if there are parts of the local culture you don’t like for whatever reason. Maybe it goes against your instincts, your beliefs, your DNA (:lol: I keep on saying I’m missing the Canadian “get used to cold weather” gene). And it’s *fine*. You don’t have to accept everything blindly and just go with it. Doesn’t mean you should pack and go home…
Oh yes, the attitude is certainly not specific to those of us abroad in France.
I totally agree with everything you said!
People who are like this usually lack empathy. Perhaps they see the US through some Hollywood lense, or it’s that there’s such an idealized image of France that pointing out flaws messes with one’s hopes and dreams.
It’s easier to find fault with blogger/vlogger who speaks their truth rather than give up their dream.
However, empathy comes from being in a similar situation — it’s not theory, it’s just something that comes through life experience.
Of course, it’s easier to navigate the world that’s black and white. Good things happen to good people and bad things happen to bad people. So one doesn’t have to deal with grey area that is mentally much more challenging to comprehend.
“People get so angry when you voice anything that goes against their preconceived notions of what life abroad should be like, as if you’re shattering their hopes and dreams.” — this is because one is (unintentionally) shattering their hopes and dreams. Because if they have to understand that Paris in life can be very difficult (even more so than home) they have to give up their hopes for a better life.
Even so, this is just malice and being mean-spirited.
Focusing on the problem often times just makes the problem bigger.
If there’s an unsolicited opinion, how about we try solutions and a little bit of kindness instead of being malicious to someone who’s already having a hard life.
A heartfelt “thank you” to Diane for her revealing and introspective piece. Another problem with this outlook is that it is often used to downplay the difficulties people of color and immigrants experience. Some people may discuss racism, microaggressions, and other forms of bigotry, while others will just advise the target audience to leave. Which is a waste of time.