The Recent US Election; On Being the Token American Abroad


As I’ve talked to American expats in different parts of the world in the past 2 weeks, one theme emerges. Regarding the recent US election, one expat woman told me that non-Americans want to know how this election happened and expected her to speak for the whole country. This sentiment has been echoed in different ways, but all point to the same issue. If you’ve been asked to defend your country’s election outcome, here are some tips:

Tip # 1: Shrug your shoulders and say you don’t know anymore than they do.

This is probably true and while a conversation stopper, gets you off the hook.

Tip # 2: When asked to explain the electoral college, simply say it’s a complicated, arcane system that probably needs to be changed.

Many people in other countries are surprised to hear that the popular vote doesn’t actually elect our leaders. They can become adamant in demanding that you explain this system to them. Don’t, even in the unlikely event that you understand it. You don’t have to single-handedly defend the laws of your country, whether you’re happy about them or not.

Tip # 3: Tell them you don’t have inside information.

Particularly, if you’ve been living abroad for a while, let people know that you’re not privy to insider information or to the subtleties of the political system.

Tip # 4: Go home and grieve, if you feel like it.

If you’re not happy with the results of the election, you may need time to grieve and feel the loss.

Tip # 5: Talk with like-minded friends, either at home or abroad. You are not alone.

Tip # 6: Get back on the horse when you’re ready.

Whether you’re happy about the election or not, but particularly if you’re not, it’s important to find some way to mobilize yourself into action. See if some action is called for and if so what that might be. Acting on behalf of something you believe in is good for the soul.

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