how the world sees america

American Living Abroad? Share Your Stories

Are you an American living abroad. Have you had experiences that are a result of your being American, both good and bad? Share them with me and your fellow readers. Thanks! Amar

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Comments (15)

gondal ji:

Dear Sir / Madam

I am 46 years old, Canadian citizen and native of Pakistan (muslim). I was an immigration consultant in Canada and also member of Canadian Bar Association as part of my business , I had an office in New York.
During 2001 immediately after the Sept 11, event the US govt arrested me on Oct 25, 2001 on anonymous call, as a material witness for the 9/11 world trade centre terrorist attack. A detail investigation by the FBI and USA Naval intelligence dept was conducted and I was cleared, but even then govt put me in front of Grand jury , and I was cleared and the case was dismissed by the Grand jury of the US Federal Court .
Approximately after 2 weeks , before I was released from custody the US Govt imposed a new charges of Fraud and money laundering , under the advice of my attorney , I pleaded guilty and I was sentenced to prison for five years (which was four years more, what I pleaded). In which I had already spent 3 years in Detention jail, during the case , I had about 14 months left to finishing my sentence ,(instead of appealing, I preferred to applied for Treaty Transfer to Canada, because if the case is in the appeal, defendant is not eligible for transfer back to his home country).
While at prison, I learned from the case manager Miss Hause, that my citizen was incorrect in the FBOP’s (Federal Bureau of Prison) computer system as Pakistani instead of Canadian.
Its important to note , that all of my Canadian identifications (passport , citizenship card , S.I.N , Health card , Driving license etc) were under FBI’s possession, with a great deal of concern, I wrote a letter to the Canadian Consulate in Buffalo, N.Y to notify such mistake and requested them to fix this problem. This is especially important for Treaty Transfer back to Canada.
The Canadian Consulate official sent a letter to the jail to correct my citizenship status, however FBOP ignored the request and the citizenship status in the FBOP computer still reflect Pakistani instead of Canadian (Note:- I would be required to obtain visa to visit Pakistan) .In contrast , the deportation letter received from US Immigration dept, Contained the correct citizenship status of Canada.
At the hindsight, I believe that the FBOP intentionally left the citizenship as Pakistani, so that they could retained me at their facility, while the govt is planning to file new charges against me 3rd time.
Approximately six weeks before my released date on Jan 30 ,2006 I was notified by the FBOP that I was being transferred from Allenwood , PA to MDC (Metropolitan Detention Centre) in Brooklyn N.Y, it was explained to me, that the purpose of this transfer was in preparation for deportation back to Canada, (after few days, I signed the immigration deportation papers, with my consular Miss Chen).
But immediately after my arriving to MDC Brooklyn, I discovered during a phone call with my family in Montreal, that RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Police) official had contacted my sister and brother-in-law regarding the whereabouts of my wife and my current situation, there was no explanation given by the RCMP official to the purpose of the call and he left his phone number and asked my wife to call him back immediately, my wife called the RCMP official and left messages in his voice mail. Then the official contacted my brother-in-law again and had asked him to tell my wife not to call again, because there is nothing good nor anything bad.
Meanwhile the AUSA ( Astt United States Attorney) office Investigator and FBI brought me to their office to be interrogated without an attorney present, even AUSA told in the court to the judge on March 16, 2006 that he arranged attorney for me before my arrival from Allenwood PA to MDC Brooklyn, N.Y, on Transcript; page 11, Transcript line No: 14 to 23.
He (Khalid Awan) was writ in the cause of a grand jury investigation. He clearly had criminal exposure. So to protect his interest I made an application to the duty magistrate for counsel to be appointed.
Initially he was brought here by a Court to testify before the grand jury?
That is correct, Your Honour.
When he arrived here, you made arrangements for an attorney to be pointed to request him?
Yes, Your Honour.
This interrogation started with the AUSA office Investigator stating that my family will be arrested in Canada if I refused to answer their questions.
At this point I am certain that my family is in great danger for reasons that I am not aware of. I was scared that my family would be harassed by these people along with the Canadian RCMP official, I strongly believe that the RCMP is doing this intentionally in collaboration with FBI official to further harass me to admit charges, that I never committed.
Without knowledge of the reasons why the Canadian RCMP agency was involved. I was surprised that RCMP official directly approached my family instead of me without proper explanation, and its also shocked for me, that how RCMP got the phone number of my family (because before my arrest, I don’t have any single record in any police dept, of any country).
I was intimated and pushed to the edge during this interrogation, I was determined to provide anything these USA officials wanted to make them happy even is the questions made no sense, because I want them to stop the harassment to my family.
On March 15, 2006 I completed the term of my imprisonment and was to be released from American Custody and deported back to Canada. Before that I was arrested again 3rd time, and charged with providing “material support to a foreign terrorist” and money laundering (to a organization and person, which are not designated by the USA govt and belongs to Sikh religion) , and with whom, I don’t have any single common interest, because we both are from different countries and different religions.
These charges emerged while I was still in prison and without the capability of providing any type of support. It was even difficult for me to get enough financial assistance to pay legal fees. I could not have provided any material support while I was in prison for five years and I could not launder any money because I did not have any.
AUSA filed three counts of indictment against me.
Conspiracy to provide material support.
Provide a material support to the foreign terrorist.
Money laundering to support terrorism.
(Please note, that in my previous case govt charged me for money laundering and fraud from Jan 1999 to 2002 and “its mentioned in the plea-agreement by the AUSA that no further money laundering charges will be brought against defendant from Jan 1999 to April 2002” even then govt indict me for money laundering from 1998 to Nov 2001 (Which is double Jeopardy and violation of 5th Amendment of U.S Constitution.)
In Oct 2006, during pre-trial hearing on the motion’s filed by my attorney the first two counts of my indictment were dismissed by the judge, stating that there is a lack of facts and figures.
After two weeks AUSA re-indicted me again. I believe this is a desperate act of the AUSA to cover up a huge embarrassment . Further this hastily drawn indictment was full of factual errors and creative legal theories.
Since I was first arrested by the American govt, I believe that I have been singled out, isolated `and discriminated against primarily because of my race and religion, in addition to the fact that I don’t know any information that the American govt is trying to pressure out of me.
I do not understand the American laws and this is what led to my pleading guilty in the first case. I have difficulty understanding the new charges also.
I have been charged under, section 2339(a) of Title 18 of the United States code, which makes it illegal to provide material support to a foreign terrorist.
Please understand, I am not a terrorist, I do not know any terrorist and I have had no connections with or to any known or unknown terrorist. I have been incarcerated for last 5 years and I had no money to provide or launder.
The law enforcement have in America is pressuring me to provide information to them that I really do not have or know. I am a Canadian Citizen and nearly all of my family is in Canada, including my wife and kids. I don’t know any information to tell them to help their investigation.
Because of this , I am being treated unfairly and my rights under the American constitution are being violated. I am being held here in further detention against my will for crimes which I could have never committed, because I was in prison.
I believe, that I am a victim of the discrimination that was outlined in the July 3, 2006 issue of Time magazine (Page 29, column 3). In this article section 2339(a) & (b) are discussed and criticized “as most suspects are charged under these two sections. However, the justice dept here in America admits that of the more than 218 guilty pleas that it has obtained, most are for minor investigation issues that are uncovered deeding the course of their terrorism investigation. This suggest, according to the article that the Attorney General’s office have is not concerned about the rights or fairness or the manner in which it achieves convictions for the people they arrest. Furthermore, criticizes have noted that one of the patterns to emerge from these domestic prosecutions is that suspect seen too incompetent to carry out the deeds they are accused of. The Deputy Attorney General acknowledges that the Dept of Justice’s goal is “ preventions through prosecution’s” and this is done with no regard for an individual’s rights.
I agree that these guilty of terrorism should be prosecuted . But as the above mentioned article suggest , innocent people should not be targeted because of their race or religion.
I am not a terrorist and I should not be targeted and treated unfairly and unjustly.
I need your assistance desperately in my case, as I believe that I am being treated unjustly here. I would like to send you my attorney’s contact information and provide you with legal documents related to my case, so that you may become more familiar with my situation.
Please also note, that I appeared in the court , for no guilty of my 2nd superseding indictment on Aug 02, 2006 and on Aug 03, 2006 FBOP officials placed me in the SHU (Segregation Housing Unit) out of these months, I placed in the SHU isolation from Jan 03, 2007 to March 6, 2007 for unknown “Pending Investigation” in these 215 days of my segregation and isolation, I don’t have a single phone call access to my family, no legal calls to my attorney and Canadian Council, my legal mail opened in my absence, no medical treatment for my injured shoulder (even I went for hunger strike for 3 and half day) I harassed by the various jail officials and lot of other problems too which already been submitted in the attention of the FBOP higher authorities, but no action taken on them, after writing the court, instead of receiving the response or any action on my complaints, jail officials removed /moved me from MDC federal facility to Nassau County Jail .
My suffering has gone on for far too long, and I need your help to bring my suffering to an end. I want to return home to my family, because my imprisonment was injustice and will remain a great injustice forever.
May God bless you and be with you in your efforts to champion the cause of human rights, and the suffering of innocent prisoners and restore hope, faith and love to peoples all over the world.

FBOP NO. 50959-054

TWard, editer, NFTD:


Warren Harding was a friend of mine with whom I had the great good fortune to spend a summer many years ago tucked away in an antediluvian village north of Athens, the horyati of Nea Makri, Greece, where I had been delivered by the US Government to aid the Seabees in building a Naval Communication Station (now superfluous, defunct, decrepit and declassified thanks in great part to the microchip, but that for later…) and where Warren Harding had been sent by one delighted military contractor or another to build a number of 600-ft. tall conical monopoles, (he’s at the top of one in photo) steel radio antennas, the ultimate erector set, it being Warren’s job to guide each depending beam into place all the way to the top and his qualifications being that he was among the world’s foremost rock climber/mountain climbers and indeed had been the first to scale the face of El Capitan in Yosemite sometime in the late 50s, but it is 1965 at this point and all this is unknown to me…

As a lowly Seaman one of my jobs was guard at the Main Gate through which passed every day Warren and his crew and as time went by, day in, day out, it was all cheery hey howdy boys delighted to see you etcetera and one night Warren invited me to dine with him and his wife and another of his crew, a guy named Jack Rausch – Warren was little, 5-8 maybe, made of sinew and nerve, indeed a fearless man, afraid of nothing I ever knew about, and as friendly, soft-spoken and good-natured as they come. Jack was a big fellow, I mean big, 6-10, 400 pounds and when I walked in that evening he was playing a classical guitar which in his hands looked like a uke.

…after a late, great, real Greek meal, moussaka & horyataki salada, with a little ouzo, a glass of retsina, then some wine and beers, and possibly had a hash pipe going, we soon all were quite nicely fried and got into playing a word game – who could think of the most words with a de- prefix in a row and it got quite lively; at first we rattled ‘em off left and right but it got tougher until suddenly Warren hit a string of them, ‘Deface, defalcate, defecate, debase…’ and he was off, leaping from chair to table to bed – ‘…demean, decry, debilitate, (leap, leap, leap) declaim, debate, decelerate’ – leap, jump, yell, bounding to the floor and running across the patio leaping into the olive tree, racing to the top, ‘…deny, denigrate, demand, debouche…descend de-tree…’, and light as a feather came down to earth. The most down to earth, high-energy guy I ever met, RIP Warren…


I went to Brazil for a short period after 9/11. To say the least, the Brazilians I was around were more intrigued with how Americans think than anything else. But, they also have the imperialistic view of us. They believe we are shoving our ways down everyone's throat, and taking advantage of every angle, and using leverage all the time to always be in control of everything.

Well, thinking about my experience, and after reading the postings, it is obvious there is only one major problem, and that is this: Although people live in a "global" environment where the internet and other technologies artificially bring countries and people closer together, we are actually being pushed further apart. Why? Because we (humans) get pre-disposed to what the media (foreign and domestic) relay about the countries, cultures, and news of the world. The problem is communication. It is as if we are living in a neighborhood, and we can see just enough of the neighbors to make broad assumptions about them, and vice versa. Some, like America, are much easier to draw assumptions from because we have the biggest house on the block and make the most noise. America has the same issues with other countries as they do with us: We simply don't understand each other. And we don't communicate on a real level to be able to. Further, our leaders are given the task to do this, but they are pushed around by powerful forces that usually prevent good decision making. There is one solution: Stay out of other people's business until you have to make it your business. There are too many things that can be mis-interpreted out there.

However, it is ironic that every wise Christian knows that you cannot force your Christianity down someone's throat. They will only look into it when they want to. Period. The only way to get them interested is to live by the moral and ethical codes Christianity dictates (Not some form of it here, a bit there, etc.). Foreign countries used to see an example of America that they were are interested in. They wanted to come to America, be like Americans, and follow Americans. Most Republicans, especially our President, profess to be Christians. Add two and two, and we have leaders that are not wise at all, and do not follow their own set of values and do not understand how powerful those values are when put into action. Why? Fear. That's the other issue. Countries are all afraid of each other. That's a much deeper issue.

Adam In Guatemala:

Immediately after sending out the last update I took several public pickup trucks to a very very remote town called Palestina, to live with a man named Joel Puac who had approached me a week earlier at Las Cristalinas and kindly invited me to live in his home for as long as I liked in exchange for some English lessons. It was a big risk to go solo into the mountains of Guatemala with just the man's name and his town (he doesnt have an address... he just lives at the end of one of the dirt roads) but it turned out to be one of the best travel experiences I've ever had.

I could write about my three days in Palestina for hours, but I'll make an attempt at brevity. After boarding a truck to Palestina several people directed me down a dirt road where I found Joel tending to his chickens. He showed me around his small property (two multi-purpose rooms, chicken stalls, three dogs, a cow, some space for growing coffee and corn). His wife and kids were in another town for the night so he introduced me to his father, a man who lived next door and only spoke in whispered "ahhs" or sighs that could express any emotion. He proudly wiped the dust off his 40 year old framed picture of the NYC skyline, and the three of us talked for several hours about life, religion, family, youth, and American vs. Guatemalan culture. Pretty soon Joel pulled out his massive portable cassette recorder, a Spanish-English dictionary and two books. He said "these are how I study my English everynight" and my eyes almost bugged out of my head...

The first book was the Bible, which I completely expected and respected. The second was a pamphlet, sponsored by Phillip Morris USA with two fakely smiling Latinos on the cover, called (I swear this is true), "Raising Kids Who Don't Smoke"!!! I thought it was too absurd to be true (like the kid I saw earlier that week in Guatemala wearing an orange shirt that said "White Plains Basketball"), but apparently life has a lot of humor to it. He asked me to read as much as I liked into the recorder, which he would then listen to via headphones everynight to improve his English... The American Dream man, the American Dream. Over the next three days we visited the indigenous town of Santa Clara, I read the first 50 proverbs from Salomon and the entire pamphlet into the recorder (2 hours worth), his wife taught me how to make corn tortillas and educated me on raising chickens, I spoke with several of his neighbors who told me a non-Guatemalan had never stayed in their village before, we walked to an amazing lookout over Lake Atitlan, and generally enjoyed mutually eye-opening conversation. Before leaving I exchanged gifts with his son Elgar, and thanked them for the incredible experience.

Ron Larson:

A Yank living in Western Australia for 5 years now.

I find that many Aussies take comfort in any news, real or otherwise, that reinforces the idea that America is full of dangerous, gun toting, bigoted, bible thumping, ignorant people.

Many Aussies are shocked when they discover that I know about things outside of the US. The assume that I must be the exception to the rule. So they then claim to like me.

Then later they discover that I support the 2nd amendment and other so-called "right wing" positions. They then act so disappointed. They claim "But I thought you were different! You seem to smart."

After the Virginia Tech massacre, Aussies co-workers half joked with me "Boy! I'd hate to be a Koren in the US tight now!" I was shocked and disappointed that they assumed the we are not smart enough to know then difference between one insane person and a whole nation. Now if a bunch of Koreans had hijacked planes and slammed then into building while their fellow Koreans all cheered, then it would be a different story.

I know many Aussies who are too terrorfied to visit the US. They really are scared to drive through the south because they think that the police will pull then over and beat them to death. Or that one of our "good ol' boys" will shoot them cause they talk funny.

A local paper tried to reinforce the idea of how indiscriminate and incomprehensible the US law enforcement is to foreigners. They interviewed two local boys who had been busted by the INS in El Paso for overstaying their visa. Of course the story was about how horrible it was that they were arrested and deported. To demonstrate how bad the US was, the boys and the paper complained that the boys had flown from Hawaii to Los Angeles on expired visas and immigration never noticed. It wasn't until the INS did a check of a Greyhound bus in El Paso were they found out. The fact that Hawaii is a state, and you don't go through immigration to go to/from the mainland, didn't even enter their minds.

A Yank co-worker of mine likes visiting rural Aussie pubs. He is often the only American some of the rural folks meet, so he gets an earful. He related a story to me from some farmers he got drunk with. They told him that what they fear is that the US will invade and take over Australia. He told them they were being silly. They feel that since we have the power and military to do this, then it is simply a matter of time until it happens. After all, if they had such power, they would consider it.

George Robertson:

I lived in Greece between 1978-1980 and recently returned for a vacation. I had an extensive conversation once with a Greek shopkeeper and I don't remember exactly how we got on the subject of American tourists, but we did. Anyway, she said, "I don't know what exactly it is about the American tourists... they're ..."
"Yes, that's the word. They're arrogant !!", she replied.
I commented, "Well, my observation is that most Americans who travel in Europe go to England or France or Italy, and I suspect from what I see that most of the ones who come here to Greece have some money. Don't be offended- rich Americans act just as arrogant toward other Americans as they do here to Greek people!!"
How can we expect rich Americans to treat the rest of the world any differently from the way they treat their own citizens?


Great recent example of the sort of bias in the UK media against America. It took until yesterday for The Guardian, a paper who has been extensively critical of the US media, to run any sort of story on the three Americans charged with espionage and facing possible death sentences. Similarly there was an almost tongue in cheek story run four days before Hugo Chavez' shut down of RCTV, and no coverage since. Chavez has often been lauded in the paper's pages.

Yet the day both stories happened the paper ran a front page story on the "Creationist Museum" that opened in Lexington, Kentucky. Oddly enough, it refered to Kentucky as a mid-western state.

Yet I still miss the place. Don't know why.

Maureen Quinlan, the nervous breakdown:

I have been living in France for more than a year and I have never denied being American. When I arrived, I considered wearing a "Stop the War" pin just so that the locals here in Auvergne wouldn't think I was one of "those" Americans. But I didn't wear it because I didn't need to. I have not found myself being labeled or held personally accountable for the situation in Iraq. However, had I been living here when all of the tension between Chirac vs Bush had gone down, it may have been a different story.

When things started heating up with Iran a few months ago, I was asked by a few people exactly what it was that Bush is up to. "I wish I knew," is my reply and then we start to discuss the many exciting possibilities for 2008. It will be very interesting to watch the news coverage here for the next presidential primary.

Living in France has been an experience that has broadened my view of France and the French, but more than anything it has made me lonesome for my country. Its an interesting thing that happens to expats, i think. Suddenly you are in a new world trying to find your own way and all everyone wants to talk about is where you come from. A kind of nostalgia and the rose-colored-glasses effect takes over and I find myself remembering things not for what they actually are, but for the many ways in which they are different from my life here in France. Good and bad.

I wonder what it would be like to live abroad and be from a country whose policies and actions were not headlining the news every night. It would be a completely different experience, I imagine.

Scott Callahan:


It says a whole lot more about those people than it does about the US.


PS - In my 14 years abroad, I was never aware of a single American who denied their nationality.

James Daniel:

What does it say about the status of the US in the world today when many Americans deny their nationality when asked?

James Daniel:

What does it say about the status of the US in the world today when many Americans deny their nationality when asked?

Scott Callahan:

I spent 14 years abroad, from 1992 until 2006. Based on my time abroad, my primary observation would be that whatever ignorances, prejudices, and hostilities towards America (and Americans) that may exist are very often a reflection of the ignorances, prejudices, and hostilities held, and hence reinforced, by the media within the country in question. Given that my time abroad was spent both in Hong Kong (mostly while it was still a British colony) and then in London, I am most familiar with the British media, dominated of course by the BBC. And the BBC, along with many of its lesser imitators in the UK, is doing no favors for either America or it's own audience with its coverage of the US. The America that is routinely described in the British media is one with which I, an American through and through, am wholly unfamiliar.

As Justin Webb, the BBC's US correspondent, has acknowledged, "America is often portrayed as an ignorant, unsophisticated sort of place, full of bible bashers and ruled to a dangerous extent by trashy television, superstition and religious bigotry, a place lacking in respect for evidence based knowledge. I know that is how it is portrayed because I have done my bit to paint that picture..." With the world's leading news provider actively portraying the US in such terms, it is little wonder that America's reputation suffers in the eyes of those who are listening. Most Americans, I suspect, would be shocked if they were familiar the types of typical misinformation about the US that regularly emanates from the media even in ostensibly friendly nations. (Webb, by the way, has himself recently done a BBC expose on anti-Americanism.)

As I have said elsewhere on this site, there are, to be sure, many places in the world that are predisposed to hostility towards the US. But negative feelings about the US would not, I believe, carry nearly as much force if the information purveyors of the world, especially those in the west, were themselves less ignorant, more objective, and frankly, more honest about the goings on in and with the US.


They hate "los gringos" but love "el gringo." I have lived in Mexico for over three years teaching English in the poorest part of the country, Chiapas. My experience with people here is pretty similar to people everywhere. The Mexican people hate the Americans but love most of the American English teachers as individuals. I think this is true of all people. I don't like the French, for example, but one of my best friends here is French. How do we reconcile this? We get to know people of different countries, languages and races as people.

This is what is so sad about the current debate in the US regarding immigration. The politicians and the religious extremists use stereotypes of hate and fear for votes, money and power. Others, like my brother, simply refuse to hear anything good about other people and simply refuse to listen to their music, watch their television or learn anything about their culture. The motto of the ignornant whether it be in regard to race or religion is "I've made up my mind. Don't confuse me with the facts or present anything contrary to my beliefs."

Now just as true as before, "Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime."
--Mark Twain, The Innocents Abroad (1869)


I have lived abroad for a total of about two years, in chunks, over the past eight years. I would say that, overall, people I have met who follow our policies are, at the very least, not pro-America neither are they big fans of Americans. I have spent most of this time in Russia, and I can tell the difference between four years ago when I first came and now, since now the war has been going on this whole time. People don't understand why we grab for all the power we can get, and why we all live so extravagantly. It is hard for me to form opinions on what we do, since I do love my country, and I love the way I grew up, as materialistic as it was. I also see that no matter how hard I try not to reinforce negative stereotypes about us, people are always going to see what they want to see in each of us. I can only change the way I feel about their attitudes towards me and my home. And it seems I have managed to adapt.

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