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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

I Wish I'd Never Left Home

There I was, a victim of my own hospitality, sitting in the dubious comfort of my Moscow apartment being lambasted for my presence in Russia. The accuser was an articulate and opinionated Russian woman named Natasha, age 25, who had arrived with a Ukrainian friend and several other American guests for dinner. She expressed, with a decidedly British accent, a not previously unheard-of disgust with Americans in Moscow. She professed to know after the first 20 minutes of the meal, apparently better than I, the reasons I had exited America for the uncertain and chaotic surroundings of Russia. I was, she claimed, like all Americans, bored with my life and had come here to experience the excitement inherent to a developing country. In addition, Natasha declared that I was here to bask in the adoration of those less fortunate, that I travel because I enjoy being worshiped as a U.S. citizen. She was tired of the inundation of young Americans monopolizing apartments in the center, raising rents and prices at the markets and bellowing out English on the metro. Americans, she said with mocking dignity, lack culture. She pointed to this very column as one source which fueled her conclusions. Who cares if you can't find a Coke in Suzdal? The title of the column alone was enough to provoke her. Is Moscow, she asked, a summer camp? Although her opinions are entrenched in stereotypes and are obviously extreme, there is truth to what she says. In fact, I am discovering that many Russians wish we'd never left home either, and are disgusted with trivial complaints from foreigners with a return plane ticket and a higher salary. We all share the frequent frustrations of being foreign, but the indiscriminate expression of these gripes often leads to the fulfillment of repulsive stereotypes. When I perpetuate these definitions just by virtue of being American, I too find "I wish I'd never left home."