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Letters From Abroad: Dear All You Fucks in Western Europe

 

Hi everyone! It’s been so fun hearing about your adventures in Barcelona, or Amsterdam. Or Berlin, London, Copenhagen, Rome, Paris, Copenhagen, Dublin, Copenhagen, Munich, Milan, Copenhagen, and Copen-fuckin-hagen. Really enjoy all the blogs and stuff. Great photos y’all are posting of you all drinking. You just always seem to be drinking. Drinking enormous glasses of wine, and enormous beers, enormous absinths (absinthii?). Drinking, shamelessly, legally, happily. Carefree alcohol consumption in public parks and in pubs and in beautiful museums and under Eiffel Towers and Roman Arches and so many lovely places where you can get shitfaced and meet local people who speak better English than you do. Keep ‘em comin!

My God, what is this, the Third World? I just want to charge my iPad.
My God, what is this, the Third World? I just want to charge my iPad.

This is kind of awkward, but I just have a few suggestions from those of us studying abroad not in the First World. Really, feel free to take them or leave them. We don’t want to be that guy or anything, just some points we’d like you to consider.

We’ve noticed, on those rare and precious occasions we have internet, that a lot of you have posted a few Facebook statuses about culture shock. Now no one is telling you not to feel those feelings. But maybe before expressing those feelings with, say, the words “culture shock” you could take a deep breath count to ten, and stop being such a fucking baby. Before you talk about culture shock maybe ask yourselves a few questions about…

Your Host City

  1. Are the streets covered in shit? Not shit as in, stuff, or trash. Shit as in shit. Animal shit, or perhaps human shit. Does it smell like shit? Does it smell like dead cat? Are there pathetic dead poisoned, DDT smothered felines draped over sidewalks?
  2. Do you have a public transit system? A metro perhaps? Maybe busses, specifically ones that have been free of bombings or brutal murders for the past few years?
  3. Do taxis go where you tell them to? Do they accept the fare indicated on the meter? Have the drivers ever asked you to marry them or one of their relatives?
  4. Are there traffic lights? Does traffic include donkeys, camels, or other beasts of burden? Are there traffic laws? Are there trafficking laws? On a scale of 1 to “Hide” how much are they enforced?
  5. How often are there protests? How often are those protests covered in the New York Times?
  6. Did your orientation have a slide about sexual harassment or a day about sexual harassment?

Your Host Culture

  1. Is there a casualty rate at weddings because the groom’s family burns a clip straight up into the air and sometimes the bullets come back down into the heads of bystanders? Do you think I’m fucking kidding?
  2. Are you allowed to reveal your calves and shoulders?
  3. Is alcohol allowed, maybe even encouraged? Or do you have to hide from your host family the fact you are mildly tipsy off three Amstel Lites like a sophomore in high school, through a series of elaborate Ocean-11-esque ruses and Winterfresh gum?
  4. Can you smoke medical grade marijuana in a coffee shop?
  5. Have you had a sexual encounter recently? Perhaps at a club? You guys all seem to be going to a lot of pretty swanky clubs with pretty swanky people who expose their shoulders. Perhaps this encounter was with a local? All the locals you guys post pictures of seem to be really tall and blonde and exposed shoulders-y. Or maybe with someone on your program, because you all have apartments with kitchenettes and you don’t have to worry about sexiling your conservative Muslim host grandmother.

Your Amenities

  1. OMG culture shock...I can't...I don't even...
    OMG culture shock…I can’t…I don’t even…

    How many times have you watched a dubbed 90’s Nicolas Cage movie on TV because that somehow was the least insane show on television?

  2. Have you ever contemplated taking a human life for internet?
  3. Can you drink the water? Can you drink the water without shitting yourself?
  4. If you do drink the water and shit yourself, is there toilet paper? And can you flush your toilet paper? Or is your toilet a hole in the floor?
  5. Is your shower just a spigot above the poo hole in the floor? Have you ever lost your soap down the poo hole?

The Language

  1. Does it use the same alphabet as English?
  2. Is it one of English’s root languages?
  3. Is it a goddamn Romance language?
  4. Are there words that are the same as English words, but just sound a little funny?
  5. Or is it just fucking English with an accent (I’m looking at you kids “abroad” in England)
  6. Are there any sounds in this language that are literally indescribable with letters? Sounds like a’AUyng, HHHHH, gnynnh, “!”, or *gargle*?

The Region

  1. How close are you to an active war zone?
  2. How many refugees does your country have? How many has your country caused?
  3. How many regional leaders are guilty of crimes against humanity?
  4. Did you get an orientation briefing about dealing with the secret police?
  5. Was your country’s most recent sectarian conflict started by Martin Fucking Luther?
  6. Has the US invaded any neighboring countries since World War 2?
  7. If you really wanted to, could you join a Death Squad?

We think that, after asking yourselves these simple questions, you might end up being a little more responsible with the term culture shock.

So (and we mean this with all the love in the world) we would all really appreciate it if those of you in NATO member states would check your shit for a hot second before posting a status about how hard culture shock is, and refrain from accompanying it with a YouTube video of a sad cat that I can’t watch on my hand-crank internet. Meanwhile, if you are in South Korea, you can’t play either, what with your nationwide Wifi. How’s the future spaceman? Bring me back a jetpack and some Soilent Green.

In short, y’all can be homesick, just don’t fucking talk to us about it. On the other hand, if you’re one of the poor souls in Sub-Saharan Africa—mad props. Keep up the struggle.

– Dante Toppo CMC ’15

Comments

Leave a Reply
  1. Dante,

    Your article pegs the frustrations and, at times, very scary aspects of studying abroad in a third world country, but you completely undermine the experiences of students living elsewhere. To me, living in a country that uses a different alphabet and has shotty wifi access are not necessities to experiencing culture shock. Rather, culture shock is a personal response to immersing oneself among unfamiliar places and people, which is possible in Jordan, Europe, and even in the U.S.
    I also notice that you’re judging your peers’ experiences based on their Facebook photos when I’m sure you know by now that Facebook hardly captures every facet of your life abroad. Just as I do not assume that your life in Jordan is solely comprised of exploring the desert and sitting in tents (as your Facebook pictures show), you also should not assume your friends’ lives are defined solely by drinking and partying.

     
  2. What the hell is this? Don’t discount someone else’s abroad experiences just because it was in the first world. I studied abroad in a developing country, too, but please don’t get on your high horse because you took on a different set of challenges. We all struggle in some ways, and some more than others, when living in a new country, but don’t knock someone’s experience because they didn’t rise out of temporary poverty like you did.

     
  3. I love this, but I don’t like how it lumps all of Sub-Saharan Africa together as if it’s all some primal shit show. Remember: Africa is a huge-ass continent.

     
  4. You’re insulting people based on their choice of study abroad programs? Cool dude, you go to the third world so that you can tell people how tough it is? You go abroad to experience real life? You’re so full of shit. Choosing to go somewhere shitty doesn’t make you a goddamned martyr- it makes you a spoiled westerner who has the luxury to treat the weaker parts of the world like a fucking museum. Get bent asshole.

     
  5. This author is just your typical self-congratulating a**hole. He’s finally left the suburb he grew up in, done two years of college in California, and now that he’s bored and realizing how pathetically average he is, he’s gone to another country. As part of a never-ending psychological endeavor to situate his peers a rung beneath him on the ladder of superiority within his own mind, he’s now desperately trying to read the proverbial tea leaves of facebook study abroad photos, and writes this piece of shit.

    Guess what buddy:

    -Going to a developing country for a few months doesn’t make you special.
    -It doesn’t make you much more, worldly, philanthropic, or sophisticated than anyone, except the most uncultured of Americans. Congratulations, you’ve finally joined the rest of us, one tier above the I’ve-never-seen-poverty crowd!
    -You obviously think you’ve moved closer to your host country and farther away from your suburban roots as a result of this study abroad. But the natives there would laugh in your face if you told them you consider yourself familiar with (and participating in) your host country’s conditions and daily life–try it and see!

    And in the meantime, please stop writing childish articles where the only objective is to knock others’ experiences down a peg so that you can feel superior to the rest of us within the confines of your own mind. Nobody gives a shit about your cute little study abroad, or how much better you are than us for going to the developing world! So get off the computer, get a picture of you digging a ditch with the shovel your tuition bought, and make sure to leave before your delicate hands get too callous,as you swelter underneath the hot African sun.

     
    • SOUNDS LIKE SOMEONE IS GETTING REAL CLOSE TO THEIR HOST COUNTRY IN PRETENTIOUS ASS SCANDINAVIA.

      ALSO WOULDN’T AN AMERICAN COMING IN TO DIG DITCHES IN AFRICA FOR FREE DESTROY THE DEMAND FOR LOCAL DITCH DIGGERS, THUS MAKING HUNDREDS OF AFRICANS UNEMPLOYED – YOU INSENSITIVE PRICK!

      TAKE A MACRO CLASS BRO – OR DO THEY NOT TEACH CAPITALISM IN FREE-HEALTHCARE AND BEER LAND?

       
      • It’s funny that you mention capitalism, since it’s the mechanism that dictates and promotes study abroad programs in the third world. These programs are profit driven enterprises that do what capitalism does best- exploit the third world for the novelty of the rich and bored. I take it by your aggression that you do or did take part in one of these programs. Please know that your participation in this symptom of neo-colonialism is as patronizing as it is disrespectful to people who’s current condition is a function of your ancestors who acted on the same “Let’s go see the Orient!” mentality.

         
  6. “And in the meantime, please stop writing childish articles where the only objective is to knock others’ experiences down a peg so that you can feel superior to the rest of us within the confines of your own mind.”

    pretty sure he is trying to self-parody is own study abroad… this is tongue in cheek and he is pointing out that people just have different kinds of experiences while abroad. If he really felt more superiour than everyone else for “dealing” with the stuff he mentions, he wouldn’t have written it here. This is why the onion doesn’t allow commenting. people just take things with no sense of humor. tsk tsk

     
  7. Hi guys! I’m the pathetically average self-congratulating asshole (we can swear on this site its ok) who wrote the satire article for the satire website. I wasn’t actually attempting to represent my own carefully considered opinion. I’m a staff writer here, so this isn’t an op-Ed and I tend to write as essentially a different character. If you guys would like to read my actual opinions about my experiences, I have the obligatory travel blog here: http://dantetoppo.wordpress.com

    If you would like to criticize my representation of the country and my place in it based on the things I actually do and think and write this would be a better place for it, because I do and say and write those things here. Maybe you might even find out a few things about me as a person, and maybe I will still be tryin to climb that latter of false-superiority, but now you will have evidence to prove it. (Although I must say, I’m really impressed with the mastery of tone, specifically righteous indignation, on this thread. You should write for this site with skills like that.)

    Turns out, I actually love it here in Jordan, and am so lucky to have this opportunity. I was trying to write a humorous (hopefully) and hyperbolic (hopefully obviously) representation of the uglier and unreasoned frustrations of people who chose the opportunity for more unconventional study abroad experiences. Thanks so much for reading it and thinking so critically about it! Also thanks to the commenter at the top “Studied Abroad in Sub-Saharan Africa” who I assume is my study abroad adviser for checking in and making sure I’m not hating my life. Don’t worry I’m not, Nicole! Glad to see you read the Golden Antlers!

     
  8. Oh also, at Critic, you called Fuqme an orientalist. or specifically called his ancestors orientalist. I have on good authority he is Indian. His ancestors were oriental. Probably don’t want to just assume people are white.

     
  9. No one forced you to go to study third world country. You made that choice. It doesn’t make you better than people who decided to study abroad in more comfortable places.

     
  10. I love this post! You pegged it right on the nail. It reminds me of how much my experiences studying AND working abroad in the third world differed from that of friends who were off playing in Europe getting drunk. If you want to see my take on the real Egypt (not the pyramids and the other touristic bullshit, but the real deal—molotov cocktails, tanks, and bribing people with baksheesh), you might enjoy this and other posts of mine: http://hongkongandbeyond.com/2013/05/15/molotov-cocktails-almost-missing-my-gre-in-cairo/

     
  11. I feel that OP didn’t start the conversation off in such a productive way, but I understand his passion. I have just finished living abroad in France for two years where I was successful in learning the language. I am currently serving as a Peace Corps volunteer in Western China–more specifically in the Gansu province. As such, I can relate to many of the experiences presented in home culture/city sections of this article but I don’t feel the anger that he does nor that this somehow makes me better or realer than the friends I left behind in Paris.
    While I now am experiencing new levels of culture shock and differences having for the first time left an Eurocentric space, I am still only a visitor here. Just as any of the “poor souls” studying abroad in Sub-Saharan Africa are.
    In fact, find that last line to be incredibly illuminating as to just how far the OP has to go before he can live up to how much harder he believes he has it. After all, I’d wager that plenty of your host country nationals wish they were only there for three months. I say, let the others have their fun in “Copen-fuckin-hagen” it should neither add nor subtract from your experience.

     
  12. Heeeeeey Dante,
    I am Basma :*
    I miss youuuu duuuuuuude! and i miss the FUN we had :*
    You were really harsh on my country bro but those weresome real facts so fuck yeh i was reading tht with a HUUUUUGE smile on my face hoping for a more just, equal, and VIBRANT WOOORLD :*
    Looooove and light along the way ^^

     
  13. Reblogged this on what the helen and commented:
    Morocco is amazing (and extremely safe despite many of the questions I was asked before coming here). This is a hilarious post – and pretty much all of the criteria do apply to my abroad experience (sorry family members for the vulgarity of some parts of it).

    P.S. no disrespect to my friends studying in London, Paris, etc. this semester – it’s just a different experience (with much less culture shock)

     
  14. You sound like an absolute asshole. I’m currently studying abroad in Nairobi, so I can certain sympathize with all the above frustrations, and more (there was a terrorist attack in my backyard). But this article is absolutely awful and you sound like more like a stuck up, annoying, privileged American than any of your counterparts studying in Copenhagen. Stop being jealous of your peers, stop bitching and enjoy the experience you chose.

     

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