View from Outside

On Becoming an Expat

In the 7th article in our new series exploring  views on Europe from women living elsewhere, academic and free thinker Cherise Charleswell explain why she is destined to become an expat.

I always had a great deal of curiosity about other cultures and people. One of my favorite and most prized Christmas gift was a globe that my mother gave me. I was so excited as I would spin the globe, close my eyes, and place my finger against it. Whenever the globe stopped, I would make a note of where my finger was located, and would rush off to do a little research about this place that I was “destined” to travel to.

Fast forward a number of years later, and I am realizing that my inquisitive nature, education and degree in cultural anthropology, love of geography, architecture, and nature, penchant for memorizing world history facts, fascination with current events world politics, and highly liberal, socialist, progressive socio-political views; is making it impossible for me to continue living in the United States. America has a sordid racial history, and it is far from being Post Racial. The election of President Barack Obama actually amplified and made this country’s deep seated racism more visible. Despite having a white mother, President Obama has been viewed and treated as “The Other”; and thus subjected to racial stereotypes, prejudice, threats, and unfair treatment.

In this supposedly Post Racial America, the world has bear witness to the unjust race-based murders of African Americans:

  • Oscar Grant
  • Trayvon Martin
  • Renisha Mc Bride
  • Rekia Boyd
  • Mike Brown
  • John Crawford

And this list unfortunately goes on-and-on……

And while we are on the topic of murder, let me state that I am truly disgusted and annoyed by the American gun culture, and reports of yet another school shooting. The basic problem with Gun Rights in this country is the constant and erroneous interpretation of the Second Amendment. The Concealed Carry laws are especially ridiculous. Apparently we need to make it easy and legal for men who have a need to prove their manhood (and possibly compensate for their diminutive penis) to carry weapons into bars, stores, and wherever they please.

Then there are the following (In no particular order):

  • Healthcare costs, premiums, and lack of a national universal healthcare system
  • Those Gun Nuts and Gun lobby (NRA)
  • Race-based industrial prison complex (Black girls have the highest rates of incarceration)
  • Skyrocketing tuition and student loans
  • Citizens United and the monied influence in American politics
  • The ineffective two-party system of government
  • The laughable bias, and horrible news media

Let me just stop here, as I really have too many points to mention.
Essentially, I know that I want to leave, but the problem is deciding — where to?

There seems to be so many factors involved in making this decision:

  • The possible language barrier and having to learn a new one fast!
  • Race relations
  • Cost of living
  • Job opportunities
  • And of course frivolous things — like how easy will it be for me to find hair products for my natural afro-textured kinky-curly hair, or will I be able to find restaurants and markets that have vegetarian food options?

I have told myself that I have to write a formal Exit Strategy and begin the initial steps towards emigration. When I travel abroad, I try to engage the locals as much as possible to learn more about their country or city. It is as if I am taking mental notes, and sometimes I actually take physical notes. I do the same when I frequent social media groups, blogs, and websites for expats or those who share my love of travel.

This commitment to research certainly pays off. By the time that I travel to a foreign city, I already know what to expect, how I may be received, what I should see and experience, what I should avoid, what are the tourist traps, and of course what foods I should sample; as well as that the men in that city may be like (apparently some things are not a myth or a stereotype).

After stepping off of the plane for a long layover in Rome, I was immediately approached by a gentleman as soon as I entered the terminal. Despite his very limited English, he began to try to make conversation, started trailing me, and began exclaiming bellissima! Before visiting Athens, my Greek friends felt the need to warn me about the great deal of attention that I would get from Greek men, and they were correct! I was approached on numerous occasions or just was stared at. Men would turn completely around while dining at cafes, as I walked by, and some would slow their vehicles to gaze. However, not once did I experience what is known as street harassment. The men were not vulgar, and those who approached me, did so in a respectful manner, inquiring about my name, where I was from, would I accept a drink, would I like to join them at their table, how long would I be staying, and so on. One overzealous and quite handsome restaurant owner on the Greek island of Santorini, provided me with a complimentary meal and a number of drinks. It was unfortunately my last night on the island, and I had plans to meet up with a friend at a nightclub.

While awaiting an outgoing flight on Liat airlines at St Maarten’s Princess Juliana International airport, I struck up a conversation with a pair of Dutch men who were on an extended holiday, and were visiting numerous Caribbean islands. They were witty, funny, and flirtatious, and shared information with me about The Netherlands having large expat communities. Thus, they peaked my current interest in visiting The Netherlands, a nation where many of the residents enjoy a favorable or high standard of living and this includes the fact that crime is so low that the country has been closing prisons .

There have been other trips, experiences, and conversations that have renewed my desire to emigrate. I will continue to travel as I work out my strategic Exit Plan, and of course, I welcome any tips along the way!

Cherise Charelswell

Cherise Charleswell is a self-proclaimed Wombanist and reluctant “academic”, who is also a self -and- internationally published author and writer, activist scholar, radio show host and producer, as well as a model; who openly and actively pursues these various interests and endeavors due to her refusal to be placed “in a box” or limited by societal labels. She is a Biocultural anthropologist and public health practitioner. Cherise is of West Indian descent, with heritage from numerous Caribbean islands, such as St Thomas, St John, Puerto Rico, Tortola, St Kitts, and Anguilla. She is the host of Wombanist Views, a radio program that focuses on women of color, and is currently working on the book projects: The Link Between Food, Culture, & Health Inequities in the African Diaspora” and “Walking in the Feminine: A Stepping into Our Shoes Anthology”.

 

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2 Comments

  1. Rae says:

    Its like this woman has been reading my mind! I’m 19 and I have am planning and hoping to emigrate after I get my bachelors! I have no desire to live here for the rest of my life and don’t see myself doing it! Too many people here in America think the world begins and end with America! Love this interview!

  2. Melissa Jones says:

    I have my passport in mail. Tuscany is my goal, but I look at cost of living; and acceptance of African- Americans

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