How long have you lived overseas?
First, a little bit about me. I was born in Berkeley, California, to a Mexican father and a gringa mother. My father was a lawyer and was very "assimilated". My mother learned to speak Spanish, though. We moved to LA when I was two years old, and I began my life in the bubble. I always felt there was something else but of course didn't know what because I was too small. I remember the day in 5th grade (Westlake School for Girls--bubble within a bubble) when I read in the history book about Manifest Destiny. I was outraged! What? Who said? With what right? I always felt Mexican, always identified with the dispossessed, always knew that the US was a sick society. For one reason and another I didn't make very good choices in my youth, so muddled along, finally moving to Greece (I had two young children and Mexico would have been too difficult socially and with regard to work at the time). So now I begin to answer your questions.
I've lived outside the US since 1978 with the exception of three years when I studied court reporting there between 1982 and 1985. I moved to Mexico three years ago when I inherited some money from my parents. I have Greek citizenship and am working on the Mexican.
What made you decide to leave the US?
I decided to leave because I never, ever felt like an American or said "we" about the US, hated their policies and disliked their society.
What do you miss about not being in the US?
I miss nothing about the US. My daughter and granddaughter live in Santa Fe, NM and I have friends in LA so I occasionally visit, but I can't say truly there is anything I miss.
What are the challenges of living where you are as a foreigner?
I don't have any problems as a foreigner, other than what any newcomer has in a small community, and even there, it's fine. I don't feel like a foreigner. I speak Spanish fluently and have a Spanish name. I'm kind of "different" here in this small town, but then so are people who have moved here from Mexico City. It's the same in small communities anywhere, I guess; it was that way in Greece and I made wonderful, dear friends there. Actually, the time I felt most foreign was when I was invited to some middle-Americans' house for Thanksgiving in LA. They were nice people, but I felt sooooo foreign there. I actually feel really strange around groups of white people, although I'm half white, look white. It's not a feeling of not belonging, although I definitely feel that I don't belong in that society; they're just so...different.
What are some of the pleasant surprises you've encountered in your new home?
I built a house here and I enjoy painting and making things. There really haven't been any surprises, since I've been very attached to Mexico since I was a child.
What are some of the unanticipated problems?
The challenges have been living without a telephone and being forced to buy certain things at Walmart because of (their engineered) lack of choice. And the pain of seeing the culture that I love committing suicide. But it's beautiful high-desert country, with clean air, and I love it.
What are some advices you have for Americans who also want to get out?
I don't know what advice I could give to Americans who want to leave, because--and I'm sure you know this better than I do--I find that most, even the ones with "liberal" ideas have certain preconceptions, certain "needs"--and I put the quotes for a reason--that haven't played any role at all in my case. I've never identified culturally, ethnically or politically with the US, so I didn't have very far to go. For people who haven't been close to another culture, who don't speak another language--even if it's not the language of the country they might adopt--it seems to be difficult to adapt and thus they choose an ex-pat lifestyle (shudder!).
Friday, January 16, 2015
- Linh Dinh
- Born in Vietnam in 1963, I came to the US in 1975, and have also lived in Italy, England and Germany. I'm the author of two books of stories, Fake House (2000) and Blood and Soap (2004), five of poems, All Around What Empties Out (2003), American Tatts (2005), Borderless Bodies (2006), Jam Alerts (2007) and Some Kind of Cheese Orgy (2009), and a novel, Love Like Hate (2010). I've been anthologized in Best American Poetry 2000, 2004, 2007, Great American Prose Poems from Poe to the Present, Postmodern American Poetry: a Norton Anthology (vol. 2) and Flash Fiction International: Very Short Stories From Around the World, etc. I'm also editor of Night, Again: Contemporary Fiction from Vietnam (1996) and The Deluge: New Vietnamese Poetry (2013). Blood and Soap was chosen by Village Voice as one of the best books of 2004. My writing has been translated into Italian, Spanish, French, Dutch, German, Portuguese, Japanese, Korean, Arabic, Icelandic and Finnish, and I've been invited to read in London, Cambridge, Brighton, Paris, Berlin, Leipzig, Halle, Reykjavik, Toronto, Singapore and all over the US. I've also published widely in Vietnamese.