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.
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.
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: