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In the last edition of Navigator, I shared how my experience living abroad has shaped my identity—and asked for your reflections. Some of the responses I got from y’all are excerpted below:

Kevin, writing from Lahore, Pakistan:

I was born in the U.S. but moved to China when I was two until I was five. [When I moved back] I remember practicing English with my first grade teacher. And, being the only Asian American in my school, I felt further like an outsider. Despite not having the legal challenges of being an immigrant, I felt I had many of the social and psychological challenges of being an immigrant.

For the past seven months or so, I have been living in Lahore. Almost all my friends are Pakistanis and while it’s different from home, I have made a life for myself here that's comfortable and familiar. I don't expect to settle down here so maybe that makes my mentality different from some people who live in foreign countries: I always have a foot out the door. However, it has made me question my sense of self more. So perhaps I don't have a more sure sense of self, but an even less sure sense of self.

Mike, writing from San Diego, California:

I’ve lived extensively in Mexico and South Africa, and spent a year in The Netherlands.  

I was born in the U.S. but feeling out of place forms one of my earliest memories. Religious beliefs, political manias, and standard conformities that are swallowed thoughtlessly by society—all have contributed to a sense of alienation from my native culture that dissolves when I'm living in other countries.

María, writing from Aguas Buenas, Puerto Rico:

[I] lived for a summer in Argentina; came back home to Puerto Rico for some years. Then, moved to the Netherlands for two years and then again, to China, for another year.

Every experience has made me closer to understanding who I am and how I want to contribute to the world. Why? Because these journeys made me question my values and everything I believed in. They made me embrace and share the great things about my very misunderstood culture/country/territory (see: the history between Puerto Rico and the U.S.).

Casey, writing from Shanghai, China:

I am an Australian writer living in Shanghai. My husband and I moved to China 11 years ago. I was 24 and was really just starting out in my work and adult life. We now have two little girls, both of them born in Shanghai.

We have built a life for ourselves in a (very) foreign country, learning to speak Mandarin and being treated with great kindness by Chinese people by and large. I know that I will never feel Chinese, our experience as long-term expatriates is different to that of immigrants, but I do feel less of a tie to my national identity.

Reading List:

At CityLab this month, we’re running a series on how cities changed after the assassination of the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., 50 years ago. Check it out!

Here’s what else we have on tap: “[Y]our bean is wack”: The war between Chicago and Houston over public art. ¤ How a congested street in Santiago, Chile, turned into a colorful, pedestrian promenade. ¤ “FOLLOW FOR MORE RELATABLE ROBERT MOSES MEMES.” ¤ A photographic ode to Britain’s municipal trash cans ¤

Here's what else we're reading, watching, and listening to:

Inside the “American Gothic” farmhouse. (New York Times) ¤ A Korean American in Seoul. (Buzzfeed) ¤ The end of Sonny Walker’s, a Roxbury institution that has been “a haven” for generations of black Bostonians. (Boston Globe) ¤ The “hellish and beautiful” architecture of Wes Anderson’s “Isle of Dogs.” (Dezeen) ¤ Nashville, aka Bachelorette Central. (Buzzfeed) ¤ “My dad moved to Atlanta 29 years ago with one suitcase, and began to name the new things he saw, and press himself into this life, and a world sprang up around him.” (Granta) ¤ The fascinating repository of rubbish in the basement of New York’s Tenement Museum. (Atlas Obscura) ¤

View from the ground:

@forkedfilms shot a stark silhouette in South Bend, Indiana, @bongleohuang captured a van driving down a historic street in Nuremberg, Germany, @julio.a.c photographed the details of a building in Detroit, and @mh_malik carefully framed the coral balconies of Rome.

Tag us on Instagram with the hashtag #citylabontheground.

Over and out,

Tanvi

@Tanvim

About the Author

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