10 November 2012

Foreign Politics

I know this may come as a surprise to you, but I have never liked to discuss politics. I have dear friends on both sides of the aisle, I know how I feel about key issues and I'm always willing to hear about others' opinions, but please just don't ask me about mine thankyouverymuch.

So then try to spend an important election cycle in a foreign country. Every week since I've arrived in Belfast, someone has asked me how I feel about the election, whether I'd voted or who I voted for. They all had an opinion, and they just didn't understand that I didn't want to talk about my choice. In the process, I learned so much about foreign perceptions of America and its politics. It encouraged me to stay involved in the election after my ballot was cast, mostly because these people don't even live in the US and they were completely absorbed in the process and its outcomes.

Election night in our living room:
well-stocked on caffeine and snacks!
On election night, Anna and the guys stayed up for the duration... well, at least until the election was pretty securely decided - which was almost 5 am our time. I woke up occasionally and hobbled* downstairs for updates, but was fine with sleeping rather than watching reporters speculate wildly about election results.

I don't know why I was surprised to go into work the next day and hear that many people I know in Belfast did the same thing: while people in America may be disenfranchised with voting, it's incredible to realize how important the US elections are to others. Everyone from young mothers in Mums and Tots to pensioners from my weekly lunch group were staying up all night to hear the results of a foreign election.

Living abroad definitely opens your eyes as you see your culture through a different lens. I think explaining the system to others has helped me to appreciate the democratic process more fully. Who knows? I might even have a political discussion with you someday....

*I have now had my first real experience with the NHS (National Health Service). Long story short: I am a klutz. I sliced my toe, and it was gross. A quick trip to the clinic and a round of antibiotics later, and I am limping along the road to recovery. But still a klutz.

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