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26 Criticisms Diplomats Get From Family & Friends

Updated: Jun 10, 2018

Living and working abroad is amazing in a lot of ways, most of the time. There are certainly challenges, but the opportunities, in my opinion, are greater. It’s just such an awesome deal to useful work, while also having the chance to check out new places and cultures, and to show the kids the world we live in.

The family back home, however, doesn’t always understand why we choose to live abroad. In fact, some people in our family make a point out of questioning our life choices. They do this in a variety of ways.

Below are the questions and comments - they really feel more like criticism - Foreign Service Officers (and probably all expats) hear from their families all the time. The first five are the ones I personally get the most.

1. “When are you going to settle down, you think?”

2. “How big is the chance that your next posting is somewhere in America (or Europe)?”

3. “Don’t you think it’s hard on your kids to move around constantly?”

4. “We wish we could see you more often”

5. “Is that country safe?”

6. “You know, there are plenty of jobs in America too.”

7. “Living all over the world is for young people, not for someone who is their forties and has kids.”

8. “We worry about you every day.”

9. “We respect your choices and want you to be happy, but…”

10. “So when is your husband/wife (whoever is the diplomat) going to get a regular job?”

11. “Why do you want to live so far away from your family?”

12. “You stole my grandchildren from me”

13. “Does anyone speak English there?”

14. “You’re living an amoral, rootless life”

15. “What kind of American wants to live in foreign countries?”

16. “How many years before you can retire?”

17. “You know X in our family is getting older…”

18. “The kids are missing out on our traditions”

19. “Do they have normal houses there for you to live in?”

20. “Well, we just hope you’re happy”

21. “If you tell your husband/wife (whoever is the diplomat) to find another job, I’m sure s/he will listen”

22. “Are you ever going to come back home?”

23. “I looked at the map to the country you’re going and it couldn’t be further away from us”

24. “I knew a kid once who moved a lot and he needed a lot of counseling later in life”

25. “Stop talking about your life overseas – you’re bragging”

26. “You are only back for the good moments in our family, you’re not there to take care of our parents every time they need something”

Need I say more? For some of these questions/comments, I’ve developed standard responses that I know work well to explain my choices a little bit and, at some point hopefully, end the discussion. But some are still difficult to respond to because they are based on emotions, not likelihoods or facts.

The truth is that, ultimately, some of my friends or family are going to understand what we are doing abroad and why, while others never will. And some people are simply going to disappear from my life. This blog is partially meant to shine some light of my life abroad, although I have a nagging feeling that especially those who don’t understand what diplomats do are never going to read this.



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