The Diane Rehm Show follow-up

It was an interesting experience being on the Diane Rehm show this morning. I enjoyed talking with Diane, who is always an engaging and intelligent host. I was also pleased with the response to the topic–during the show there were a large volume of calls and emails about expatriate experiences. This is not surprising, considering the traffic I see with my blog.

There were a few frustrations about the level of conversation that is possible on a radio show like this, however. First, it felt like we were moving too quickly from topic to topic, so many of the issues discussed were inadequately addressed. This is not a surprise, as we only have about 40 minutes to discuss a complex topic. However, the time constraints between breaks, announcements, and introductions really limited what we could cover. Second, I came away from the program concerned that some listeners might have an incorrect picture of expatriate life and experience.

One example of this is the issue of friends. Diane was correct to inquire about leaving friends and family behind to live in another country. Caren mentioned that she was able to maintain connections to her friends in the U.S., but neither of us were able to talk about the close-knit nature of expatriate life, and how easy it often is to make friends in abroad.

Another is the nature of expat-Mexican relationships in SMA. Caren mentioned that Mexican families rarely look to the expat community for friendships, as most of their social lives are based on family and long-term friendships. I would have like to add that native San Miguel residents often consciously separate their social lives from the expat community as a means to limit U.S. cultural influence. Mexicans who move into SMA from other parts of Mexico, however, are much more likely to initiate friendships with expats in SMA. The reason for this is that both groups are newcomers to SMA, and in many cases, they are looking for the same things: to build a new life, form a community, new friends, etc.

Because I am an academic, I (obviously) prefer to communicate my research through means that allow time to develop an idea or argument. Nevertheless, it is always good to get one’s ideas “out there,” and the Diane Rehm show is probably one of the best venues in journalism to do this. If you were able to listen to the show and have comments, I would be interested to hear them. If you were not able to hear the show live, you can download it as a podcast at the link above.

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2 thoughts on “The Diane Rehm Show follow-up

  1. Anonymous

    It was only mentioned in passing on the show but I was wondering if you would have any information on how many young individuals (couples) (20-40)are moving to Mexico. Is there a community in SMA, and are many people coming with young children? Do you know of any other cities (except for Gdl and D.F) which are seeing the immigration on younger peoples from the North? Are there jobs available for academics in smaller cities? My fiance is Mexican ( I met him in Mexico 6 years ago) and we have been living in Canada for the past two years. I hold a MSc from Mcgill University in Montreal and did my research in Latin America. I have lots of friends abroad and in Mexico but am curious to know if many couples from Canada and the US have made the move and how there children manage with such things schooling in the public school system? (It is hard to leave family isn’t it?)

  2. Anonymous

    Debra, I agree with your sentiments about the time constraints on the show, and I appreciate that factor.Although I found your comments largely accurate, when combined with Caren Cross, I felt that too much weight was given to an image of expat life in San Miguel as a “happy-go-lucky” type of existence wherein the expats live richly, devote all their time to helping the impoverished Mexicans and largely exist in a “Disneylandia” in Mexico.I was interested to hear either of the guests’ thoughts on expatriation versus immigration, or to delve more deeply into the relationship, historical and contemporary, between expats and the local population. However, again, I appreciate that this was not the goal of Diane Rehm’s show. Unfortunately, I found Caren Cross’ comments to at times be inaccurate and even offensive, but I recognize that she represents only one particular segment of the expat population in San Miguel. While explaining that expats do constantly interact with the locals in order to “help them”, she deftly rationalized the lack of social intermingling between the two populations by explaining how Mexicans don’t have friends outside of the families, an obvious gross generalization.Similarly, while you, Debra, pointed out that expats, being wealthier, consume many more resources than Mexicans and that agriculture, regardless of the country in question, *always* consumes the majority of any region’s water supply, Caren seemed to laughingly respond by laying all blame for San Miguel’s water and other environmental problems at the feet of the “wasteful” and “rich Mexicans”. What about the rich U.S. Americans who are largely responsible for the population boom in the first place in what was once a near ghost town?Anyway, I appreciate your research Debra and always hope for more blog updates! 🙂

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