When it comes to general smack talking, your country is like your family. You're allowed to complain and highlight faults; however, as soon as anyone else mutters a word against it, that patriotic gland in your brain explodes and you rush to its defense. Both are flawed. Both sometimes do things that embarrass you. Both helped weave the fabric from which you were cut. You can bitch about your family or your nation. But God help others who attempt this within earshot. You have the same intrinsic unconditional love for your country that you do for your family. Each person has different feelings towards their country: some relationships are close; some are estranged. Even in a strained relationship, that basic tie is undeniable.
I have been living as an expat outside of my country—the states—for over two years now. The label "expatriate" alone implies a distinct detachment from the mother ship. From this detachment, I have gained a unique perspective and ability to look at my home sweet home through different lenses. Watching major events happening in the states from another place, such as the elections of 2008, gave me a different (and perhaps more complete) view of the place that I'm from. Being an American abroad, you expect a certain level of comments. The shift in anti-American (or really, I should say North American) sentiments after the election was tangible. Even with the greatly improved reception after Obama's election, people still have very nasty things to say about the place I call home. Although the world has been infiltrated by Hollywood and Levis, not many people admit to being a fan of the states. After time, you learn when you should step in and when you should just roll your eyes and continue with your day.
As far as treating your country as your family, Argentines take the metaphor to the extreme. Many constantly complain about the corrupt government or how things never work or run well amongst themselves. No one likes Kirchner. No one likes to wait in the long lines. No one likes doing paperwork. However, to any extranjeros, or when visiting other places, Argentines tend to be incredibly proud, extolling on the wonders of the beef, football, and women of their country. Everywhere has its pros and its cons, and hearing about the positive aspects of the place you call home is great. No one wants to hear a visitor bitching about their house.
I'm not exactly sure when or where my slow evolution from tourist to something in-between began, but I have started becoming defensive about Argentina to non-native travelers. I visibly cringe when I overhear tourists loudly complaining about lousy service or how laughably "third world" everything is. I am amazed at things that come out of people's mouths...especially the freshly arrived. Is this some sort of superior-tourist complex that I have? As an extranjera, I don’t want to be represented by the mobs screaming in English and talking about what a great deal everything is in pesos. I work hard to learn the language and learn about the culture, but whenever I walk into a new restaurant or kiosko, I’m automatically put in the “turista” category with all the rest.
Although at times I also cringe when I spot noisy, drunk groups of Americans while out, I can’t listen to people complain about the states…especially people who have never been there or made an effort to get to know anyone from there. The actions of one person or one government do not represent an entire nation. There’s nothing that makes my blood boil like listening to a stream of America-bashing from people who have little contact with the states. Living abroad has made me realize some of the things that make my home country special and that there will always be things that I love about my home. And no one talks smack about my home…