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.