People often wonder what expats do all day long. Well, one thing we like to do is chat. Over long, leisurely lunches—at the home of friends—bumping into each other on the street—chatting is one of our favorite pastimes.
And especially on forums. The Facebook Ecuador Expats forum is the most vigorous gabfest I’ve ever seen. As an experiment I recently posted an innocuous comment about dogs barking on both my personal newsfeed and the EE forum. The personal one got 3 “likes” and 3 comments; EE rang in with 27 “likes” and 50 comments! Holy moley!
One of the hottest topics buzzing around Cuenca lately has been about Obnoxious Gringos/Ugly Americans. The ball got rolling with the publication of an anonymous article (although anonymity is somewhat moot when everyone knows the author’s identity).
The article lambasted Obnoxious Gringos (or “OG’s”), and proposed the formation of a secret society called the Behavior Modification Group to publicly correct all instances of improper behavior.
I have no idea whether this was serious or an attempt at a joke. If the latter, I personally find the notion of a fascist vigilante organization roaming the streets of Cuenca to be utterly humorless.
Then a blogger created an Ugly American self-test and followed this up with a recent appearance on a local radio show. Then a survey about culturally-challenged foreigners came out on GringoTree, an online community bulletin board.
I responded to the survey stating that in three years living here I’ve never witnessed a single instance of expats displaying offensive behavior. Based on other responders therein lies the challenge with this entire topic.
It seems that in spite of all the chatter no one has actually seen any of this going on. Not that it has never happened, but one can surmise that the subject has been blown WAY out of proportion.
If so, why? Some gringos around here seem to have as their theme song an old Styx tune---“Too Much Time on My Hands.” They apparently have so little to do that they find enjoyment in talking about other people or groups and what they should or should not be doing.
Translated, this of course infers, “according to my values.” And who really is in a position to pass such judgment?
OG’s apparently are going around saying things like, “Why don’t these people speak English?” and “I hate that these people are always late!” While such statements, if uttered, are ludicrous beyond comment, I have a question:
What’s the difference between gringos telling locals what to do and gringos telling other gringos what to do? Are these not two sides of the same coin called “self-righteousness?”
It’s sad that the focus on such a non-topic minimizes the outstanding volunteer work being done by so many expats in local orphanages, schools, and hospitals. Untold time, energy, and money are being freely given to our community by retirees out of the goodness of their hearts.
Is it possible that we can quit looking for and talking about what’s wrong and concentrate on all the wonderful aspects of our life here?
For as Dr. Wayne Dyer so correctly states, “It’s never polite to ‘should’ on other people.”