What does it mean to be proud of your country?

Or, at least, to feel that your country is a part of who you are?

For me, I have never identified as an “American”.

In fact, I feel quite a bit of shame around the word. This is something I’ve really been wrestling with lately.

I’ve been reading the book “Czech Lessons” by Jessica Kendall Hankiewicz, where she asks Czechs if they identify as “Czech” or feel proud of it. Most of them have a similar answer, that it feels weird to use it as an identifier for yourself since you do not choose to be Czech. They mention much better identifiers such as mother, wife, baker, writer, artist, etc. This explanation perfectly describes how I feel about being “American”. I didn’t choose it, and I don’t have to flaunt it like I am expected to.

I have now been living in Prague for month (wtf, what is time?!). Although I feel it is INCREDIBLY OBVIOUS where I am from, people still humor me and ask me. I physically cringe every time I say “I’m from America”. And then I feel the enormous weight of the past ~250 years of bullshit my country has inflicted on the world.

Obviously, America is not ALL bad…it has its highlights. But Jesus…the more I learn, the more disadvantaged I feel. You’re probably thinking “Disadvantaged? Wtf gurl, you’re from one of the ‘wealthiest‘ countries in the world?”…and yeah, while that may be true, we are so severely behind in many other areas. Which has become glaringly obvious the more time I spend in Czechia, and Europe in general.

‘Wealthiest’ in quotes because wealth = never-ending hamster wheel of work, buying things, upgrading, hustling, raising prices, and always onto the next thing…I’ll spare you the rant for now

This is where I notice America is lacking:

  1. Mental health
  2. Overall lifestyle and wellbeing
  3. Food
  4. Transportation
  5. Recycling and sustainability
  6. Being cultured
  7. Education and intelligence

What are the greatest positive contributors to mental health, and overall wellbeing?

Not saying these don’t exist in America, but they are MUCH harder to attain, and it usually requires a fair amount of wealth to be able to check all of these boxes.

In Czechia, the basics are provided to you—regardless of your age or working status. You have access to free healthcare, and it’s good. You have access to easily navigable public transportation that is affordable for everyone. Food is also very affordable, and very high in quality. You can go to school and build a career for free…all the way up to a Masters degree! 🤯 (In America, we have to go into severe student loan debt for that)

Czechs, especially in Prague, are constantly being exposed to new things.

New languages, people who don’t look or act like them, and international cultures and ideas. This is one of the most crucial things we miss out on as Americans. America is not the center of the universe, and that there are billions of people out there who see and feel things differently than we do. Even if we do recognize this, we still are never exposed to it unless we have the money (and less likely, the time off) to travel abroad. Even then, we only get a small glimpse of what it’s truly like in the rest of the world. We are lost in our uniquely American way of life…an echo chamber…a little bubble of our own making. This is truly tragic.

The more people I meet, the more stories I hear of how normal it is to spend entire summers exploring new countries, spending a year or two studying somewhere else, or just doing a quick trip across Europe for the weekend.

Most of the young people here speak at LEAST 3 languages.

Usually their native language, plus English, and a third or fourth from some other countries they lived in for a while. They learn English starting at 7 years old, and continue it for the rest of their studies, also getting to practice it regularly due to the international population here. Unlike in America, where I didn’t learn Spanish until I was in high school (age 16-17), and we only did two years of it. I never had to use it in real life either, so I have forgotten a lot.

Thanks to their vast cultural exposure, traveling, and going to university for free, the people here are super intelligent.

I have always been a high academic achiever and “gifted”, and these people make me question how smart I actually am. I’m definitely not stupid, but I don’t feel like I have been given the best education. And to be honest, I have learned a TON in just in a month of being here.

Due to all of the aforementioned things, life just seems more pleasant here. People are supported by their government, and by their peers. It doesn’t feel like an endless daily grind, full of stress and wondering when the next metaphorical shoe is going to drop. Maybe life is meant to be more simple.

I suppose I should circle back to my first point: being from a particular country doesn’t have to be your identity.

Just because it is an identifier, doesn’t mean it has to be THE identifier. Being American is just a small part of my story…which is still being written.

Can’t wait to go back and read this in a year and see how time changes things.

*Siri, play Natasha Bedingfield’s “Unwritten“*

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