Americans Abroad Book Project Questionnaire
Thank you for sharing your thoughts and experiences for my upcoming book Americans Abroad (that's the working title — I'll probably change it later). Your input will be invaluable, and future readers (and I) very much appreciate your time.
This survey should take you between 15 and 30 minutes, depending on how much you've thought about these topics and how much you want to contribute.
You can read the summary below or just scroll down to begin the survey (starting with the Disclaimer).
Thanks in advance for your time and insights!
(You may be wondering who I am! I'm a writer, editor, and learning designer who moved to the Netherlands in 2018 and has spent a good deal of time observing and thinking about the cultural aspects of moving out of the US. I have master's degrees in cultural geography and counseling, and for a few years I worked as a personal historian recording people's life stories. I'm originally from Chicago but lived in Denver and Southern California for a long time. You can learn more about my professional background on LinkedIn:
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Here's a summary of the project:
About 10 million US citizens lived abroad in 2020, and that number is growing. They move for various reasons, including work, relationships, cost of living, retirement, escape, and adventure.
There are several “how-to” books and numerous online resources for Americans considering moving abroad. Practical advice is easy to find. But the information trails off once people arrive at their destinations, with the exception of private expat Facebook groups and conversations.
Many Americans have also written memoirs about their time living outside the US, but these are usually country-specific ("My life as an expat in Saudi Arabia," etc.) and don't address broader questions of what it's like to live away from our massive, diverse, and complicated country of origin.
What is this experience like for those who decide to go for it? How do Americans relate to their new lives abroad? Of course it depends on the person and place, but are there any themes or patterns?
I’d like to find out by asking Americans in various countries what their journeys have been like. How has their experience of moving abroad changed their life? What do they wish they’d known before they left? What discoveries have they made that could not have been planned? What reflections do they have, and what would they like other potential expats/immigrants to know?
My primary audience is people who still live in the US and are curious what it would be like to live abroad. I’d like them to learn how living abroad has affected people’s lives, especially in ways that might not be obvious or in deeper ways than expected.
Your contribution will be invaluable in giving me, and therefore this audience, an overview of the wide range of possible experiences. (And this book will be an overview, not a deep dive into any particular topic.)
I'll publish my findings in an e-book, probably in a print version, and maybe as an audiobook.
I'm planning one short chapter covering some of the practicalities in a very general way, including:
• Tax considerations (the very basics)
• Financial considerations
• Ease (or difficulty) of traveling back (flights, cost, Global Entry)
• Kids and schools
• Shipping/ordering things from the US
• Shipping stuff to the new country
But to then focus on more “existential” topics — see below.
This information will come directly from Americans like you who have made the move. I’ll include quotes and personal stories, as well as my own observations.
We need to get a few practical matters out of the way before delving into the interesting stuff.
Before you take this survey, I ask that you agree with these conditions:
I can't guarantee that I'll use everyone's input in the book. If I don't use your story, that is in no way meant to dismiss it. Please know that it will contribute to the book's overall message in a very helpful way.
I am not planning to include college study abroad in this book, as I think that's a different type of experience and should be covered separately.
As is standard with this type of research and writing, I am not offering any sort of payment for completing this survey or for being included in the book. My hope is that you'll enjoy sharing your insights with other people who may be interested.
By completing this survey, you agree that I may use your responses in the book and that, while you will always "own" your own stories, I will own the copyright to the book.
Thanks again — I really appreciate your time!
Do you agree with this disclaimer statement?
Thank you very much for sharing your insights and experiences for this project!
Please answer the five required questions (marked with a red *).
Then, if you have time, please choose two or three others for which you feel you have something to contribute. (Of course you can answer more if you want to, but I want to respect your time).
I also have some demographic questions at the end, and it would be great if you could take a minute to answer those.
I’m not asking you to be profound or clever — just to speak from your heart and share as you are willing.
Thank you very much!
What country and city/town do you live in now?
If you live in the US now, what country or countries have you lived in? How long have you been back from living abroad?
How has moving abroad changed your life?
How has moving abroad affected your perception of or attitude toward the United States?
What would you like to tell people in the United States who are wondering whether they should move out of the country?
Please add your name and contact information here so I can get in touch with you if necessary.
Please add the name you would like to go by in the book if it's different from the name you've written above.
Please tell me about your experiences fitting into the culture of another country.
To what extent have you experienced various stages of settling in? (For example, many people talk about a “honeymoon” stage where everything feels exciting and wonderful at first.) What has this been like for you?
Have you experienced prejudice or discrimination in your new country? What has that been like? How have you dealt with it?
If you are a member of a minority group in the United States, what has been your experience in your new country? How have things been different from your experiences in the US?
What does it feel like to be an American living abroad? In what ways have you been stereotyped or had expectations placed on you because you're American?
What has it been like to make friends in your new country?
What has it been like adjusting to working in a new culture? What advice would you give people who are thinking of leaving American work culture behind (if that’s what you’ve done)?
Can you tell me about any humorous experiences you’ve had being a foreigner in a new culture?
What has it been like for you to learn a new language? How important is it for you to speak the local language?
Please tell me about your experiences with people back in the US. How have they reacted to your move? How has your move affected your relationships with people you left behind in the US?
How often do you return to the US? What is that like? Or if you live in the US now, what has it been like to live there again after living abroad?
To what extent do you intentionally hold on to American cultural traditions (e.g. celebrating Thanksgiving)? In what ways do you remain culturally connected to the United States (if at all)? How important is this to you?
What is home for you? How has the concept of home changed?
Do you feel that you've relocated permanently? Has this intention changed since you moved? Can you imagine moving back to the US or moving to another country, or do you feel settled?
Do you consider yourself an expat, an immigrant, or something else? What do these words mean to you?
How much time do you spend with other Americans? Do you feel you have the right balance between spending time with Americans and people from other countries? How easy is it to make friends with local people?
What has it been like raising children in a different country? What are the pros and cons? What should people keep in mind if they are considering doing this?
Can you see yourself growing old in the country where you are living now? To what extent have you thought about this or considered the resources that would be available to you at an older age? What advice would you give Americans thinking of retiring to one of the countries you’ve lived in?
What American foods do you miss? How important is this to you?
Is there anything else you would like me or future readers to know?
On a scale of 1 to 10, how homesick are you for the United States?
not at all
A few demographic questions, please
These questions are not intended to pry into your personal life, but your answers will help me understand your perspective and find a diverse group of people to include in the book.
How do you identify yourself in terms of race and ethnicity?
What is your gender?
Are there any aspects of your identity that affect your experience as an American living abroad? (e.g. sexual orientation, gender identity, religion)
What age group are you in?
80 and up
How many countries have you lived in, including the United States?
More than 4
Why did you move abroad? Please choose as many as apply.
For a job
To start a business
To attend an educational program
For a romantic relationship
To "escape" the United States
To be near family or friends
To live in a country I've always wanted to live in
To live in a country my ancestors came from
To return to a country I lived in years ago or as a child
For lower cost of living or lower taxes
For better weather
To join a particular social community (e.g. retirement community, religious group)
Do you know anyone else I should speak with for my research? If so, would you be willing to put that person in touch with me or to ask their permission for me to contact them and then share their contact info with me?
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