014 | Americans abroad after Trump

Isabelle Roughol
Isabelle Roughol

What was it like being an American abroad during the Trump years? How do they feel about the election and the years ahead? Is it time to go back and give back? This week, I brought together three American expats to talk about politics, home, what was broken and what remains.

Sources & credits

Sarah Browne is veteran innovation catalyst based in London. She is a proud member of IDEALondon, a partnership of UCL, EDF and Capital Enterprise. She is from Wisconsin and California.

Geoffrey Cain is a writer and journalist based in Istanbul. He is the author of “Samsung Rising: The Inside Story of the South Korean Giant That Set Out to Beat Apple and Conquer Tech.” He is from Chicago.

Lauren Tormey is a content designer at the University of Edinburgh. She has written about her experience of the British “hostile environment” immigration system and wants you to help her change it. She is from New Jersey.

Music by Dyalla.


Transcripts are published for your convenience, but they are automated and not always cleaned up. Please excuses typos and occasional nonsense, and always check the audio before quoting.

[00:00:00] Isabelle Roughol: [00:00:00] Hey, it's Isabelle. You know, independent media is tough. Borderline is entirely self-produced and self-funded. So please consider supporting it by becoming a member on Patreon. You can click become a member on borderlinepod.com or look for Borderline on Patreon members. Get extra content. They get every episode early, and most importantly, they helped me keep doing this by making a small pledge each month.

[00:00:24]Many of you have told me you've been meaning to do this and you keep forgetting and to absolutely keep bugging you. So here's me bugging you. Thank you so much to those who have pledged. Special thanks this week to new member Nora Lamoudi. Now on with the episode.

[00:00:38]Pulled quote [00:00:38]

[00:00:38]Sarah Browne: [00:00:38] My heart has, has been utterly broken by what has happened to our country.  I have reached a point here in which I really feel like I no longer know at least half of my country.

[00:00:54] Intro [00:00:54] Isabelle Roughol: [00:01:05] Hi, I'm Isabelle Roughol and this is Borderline.

[00:01:09] When things aren't right in your home country, living abroad can feel like a blessing, but it can also come with feelings of powerlessness, a longing for easier days at home, perhaps guilt. So after a rollercoaster week, after four difficult years, I wanted to check in with Americans abroad.

[00:01:27] What have to last for years been like carrying that American identity around the world? How do they feel about the election? Is it time to go back and give back, or have they moved on forever?

[00:01:38] I have three American emigrants on the podcast today. Let's hear them introduce themselves first.

[00:01:42]Lauren Tormey: [00:01:42] I'm Lauren Tormey. I live in Scotland and I've lived here for nine years and I'm originally from New Jersey.

[00:01:49]Sarah Browne: [00:01:49] I'm Sarah Browne. Um, I've been here in London for three years. I grew up in Wisconsin, but most recently lived in California. Um, and I hope to stay here a lot longer.

[00:02:03]Geoffrey Cain: [00:02:03] I'm Geoff. I'm a writer based in Istanbul, Turkey. I've been here two years and I've been overseas in different countries for 12 years now. Um, I'm from Chicago, Illinois.

[00:02:15]Isabelle Roughol: [00:02:15] And that's Geoffrey Cain, by the way.

[00:02:18]A note on timing, I kept delaying recording this podcast, hoping that we would finally get results from the US election. We finally pulled the trigger on Saturday and of course, a couple hours after we hung up, we got the final call. But we already knew when recording that Joe Biden was a sure thing as the next president elect, and you'll see that what we discussed remains absolutely relevant.


[00:02:42] How's everyone feeling?

[00:02:46] Sarah Browne: [00:02:46] Exhausted, utterly exhausted. And impatient, even though I understand the value in patience for our democracy. But for me, not good. Let's get this over with.

[00:03:05]Isabelle Roughol: [00:03:05] Lauren.

[00:03:06]Lauren Tormey: [00:03:06] I think I'm just a bit numb at the moment. I think on election night, I didn't wake up as much as I did in 2016, but yeah, it wasn't looking good.

[00:03:21] The fact that Florida and Texas were called so early, just made me lose hope. In the sense that I know that, you know, it seems pretty likely it's going to be called for Biden at the moment, but just the realization that so many people still support Trump is just hard to grapple with. It's not going to feel as good as it should, because of the way this has been dragged out and the fact that there are still so many people voting for him, which is just,

[00:03:49] Sarah Browne: [00:03:49] yes,

[00:03:50] Lauren Tormey: [00:03:50] it's so sad.

[00:03:51] Sarah Browne: [00:03:51] Yep. Seventy million of our country, our fellow country people, still worship him.

[00:04:00]Geoffrey Cain: [00:04:00] Yes. So I have to say that it really feels like waking up from a bad dream, I guess. It's this, It's this mixture of exhaustion and this surreal sense of what the, what the heck just happened in the last four years in America.

[00:04:15] And actually, the night here in Istanbul, the election was starting in America, I think the counting was starting, I went to sleep and I tried to stay up as late as I could. And then I woke up the next morning,  eight or nine o'clock or so, I open social media, turned on the news, and it was just like, everyone was screaming at each other on Twitter. I mean, It was just like a free for all of everyone was just so angry and upset. And I, I actually had to spend a couple hours reconstructing the night before that I had missed because I was sleeping. And I guess it was because, uh, it really all started when Donald Trump did what he said he would do, which was, he would try to find a way to stop the counting or, or go to the Supreme court or, you know, or whatever, whatever he had planned.

[00:05:01]But, uh, you know, I think that my exhaustion is starting to subside now. I'm starting to feel a little better after a few days, after having a little time to process what's been going on and how things are looking. At least we do have a Biden victory.

[00:05:16]Tthe optimist in me is that, I guess we do have a bright side here. I think the bright side is that, you know, usually almost every president, you know, no matter how terrible they are, they're, they're almost always reelected for one term. Um, And even authoritarian dictators, uh, you know, in places like -- you know, Isabelle, you would know -- Cambodia, Philippines... Here in Turkey we have a 17-year uh, prime minister. Uh, These guys are elected over and over again, despite being pretty terrible leaders. And you know, that, that gives me some hope that at least, you know, the system worked in some ways this time. The system worked in getting this crazy man out of office and you know, getting someone a little more moderate, left center...

[00:05:56]Isabelle Roughol: [00:05:56] But it barely worked, it feels.

[00:05:59] Geoffrey Cain: [00:05:59] It barely worked.

[00:06:00] Worries about the future [00:06:00] Lauren Tormey: [00:06:00] Yeah. That being said, like,  even if you know, Biden has an acceptance speech, I'm not like trusting he's been elected until, he's in the White House. Like, It's still a long time to go until January 20th and like, I don't know what's going to happen. I mean,  Leading up to the election, my thing or the thing I was thinking about was that I thought it was just gonna end badly no matter what the result is. I just thought there was going to be some sort of uprising or riots, you know, based on no matter who won.

[00:06:28] And I was more concerned about a Biden win, in the sense of what Trump supporters would do. And we've already seen a little bit of that at the moment with this whole you know, election workers being threatened, this whole "Stop the count" protesting stuff. Um, I'm worried about what might happen when the election is officially called for Biden.

[00:06:50] Sarah Browne: [00:06:50] Yes, I totally agree. It's, you know, the other shoe really has not dropped. And, you know, Trump is so nuts that you know, everything that he's done for four years, it was completely against the norm. And so, hey, who knows how, how bad it can get? I mean, I think, you know, we've all kind of. been shocked every time something worse happens. You know? Like, what?! And,

[00:07:17] And so you know now, okay. So, you know, Biden finally has some sort of speech and Eric and Don Jr. who are already going ballistic, god only knows... So it's not like we get to relax after the victory has been declared.

[00:07:40]Geoffrey Cain: [00:07:40] Yeah. And I also think that um, you know, even if Biden does take office in January, you know, this, this populist movement, this, this authoritarian right wing thing that's going on I think that it, it suggests that there will be more Trumps in the future. Uh, He showed that it works, you know, it works what he does: getting up there and making people angry, um, you know, playing on their, their fear and you know, their, uh, I guess they're, they're, their working class poverty, um, you know, playing on a lot of these political factors.

[00:08:08]It's a, It's a powerful force and you know, the world now um, does not look like the world 10 years ago, 20 years ago. I think that we actually have entered a new era, where we are going to see the resurgence of more Trumps and more populists. They're going to uh, you know, attack the Bidens. They're going to attack the left.

[00:08:26] And, uh, they might come back. I mean, It could be after Biden has a term or two, maybe there's going to be another, you know, another real estate developer from, from Chicago or New York or Los Angeles who you know, thinks he has great ideas, but is really just a bit of a narcissist. Hmm.

[00:08:42]Being an American abroad since Trump [00:08:42]Isabelle Roughol: [00:08:42] I should say I didn't set out to have like three Democrats or three pro Bidens or anti Trumps, whatever you want to call yourselves um, on here, it's just really hard to find pro Trumps among Americans abroad. I mean, I think generally it's a more left crowd, um, but especially since Trump, so I didn't set out for this, but this is the episode. Um,

[00:09:03]I wonder, you know, because of that, what have the last four years been like as Americans abroad? I think Americans are already among all expats and immigrants kind of a, a group apart because of the way that the rest of the world looks at America.  But I feel like the last four years must have been extra weird.

[00:09:23] Sarah Browne: [00:09:23] Well, one of the reasons that I moved to London was Trump's victory.

[00:09:30] And even though I was living in California where, you know, I was in that echo chamber, um, and felt you know, fairly safe and secure um, you know, from the red state stuff going on, um, I just... um, Too many nights watching MSNBC and going, "I can't handle this. I'm outta here." So moved over to London and was very kind of relieved and also amused that every time I talked to somebody and I said, "Oh, I just moved here, tadadada...", people automatically assumed that I was not a Trumpy, that I was completely a never-Trumper. So I never felt any, um, any issues with that. I mean, There were no questions. Everybody just made the assumption that, um, obviously I was you know, not a Republican. Um,

[00:10:27] But what I did notice that absolutely struck me and kind of left me in tears. Um, I was in Croatia on a boat. And I was approached by this couple who at first thought I was Swedish, okay? And then I said...

[00:10:46] Isabelle Roughol: [00:10:46] You are blonde.

[00:10:49] Sarah Browne: [00:10:49] And then I said, "No, I am American." And the couple who turned out to be French and the man looked at me, he said, "I am Muslim, Muslim -- blergh. can't talk -- Muslim. Do you hate me?" I just, I just, I had tears streaming and I'm like, "no, you know, why do you think I'm over here?" You know,

[00:11:14]And there was this assumption that, I mean, I've been to France a zillion times, I've been to Croatia, you know, whatever, and never once had there been a thought of "you're American, so you must hate me for some racist reason."

[00:11:29] Geoffrey Cain: [00:11:29] Yeah, so that's... uh, I think actually I could speak a little more to that, uh, living in a Muslim majority country. Um, you know, I came here in 2018, uh, my first time. So this was well after the attempted Muslim ban, when Trump first took office. But a lot of people here, especially more on the opposition side, the left-leaning opposition who are more, um, I guess more, you could say anti Islamist, but not, not anti Muslim, a little different there... Um,

[00:12:00] They would talk to me and they would tell me like, "Hey, do you realize that uh, you know, what's happening in America now, it's actually what's been happening in Turkey for the past 25 years?" Uh, that, uh, you know, there's a,  There's a strong man who's emerged, who you know, had all these promises to the people that he was going to uh, you know, help them join the European Union and become this leader among the Middle East and that Turkey would rise again. It would be a return to the, the days of the Ottoman empire, you know, when Turkey was a prosperous nation. Uh, But then, you know, as he ascended and took power, he became hateful and angry and he played to this extreme um, interpretation of Islam, I mean this almost this borderline jihadist uh, you know, thing going on here.

[00:12:43] I mean, I mean,  the economy is now in tatters. The currency has collapsed. Um, There's a lot of resentment in this nation and you know, there is a lot of frustration with the direction that it's gone. And you know, the opposition here, they would talk to me and they would say like, "You realize that if Donald Trump is, if, if he is in office for more than one term, and then he manages to lift term limits, you know, it's basically going to be the same thing. There's going to be this rise of you know, this powerful Christian right, preaching all these you know, these hateful ideas about their religion. Um, The economy is going to tank eventually. The dollar won't be worth anything. America's going to lose its global leadership" and it already has in a lot of ways. Um,

[00:13:19] So that just kind of scared me and I actually began studying Turkey's history pretty in-depth, just to see how a nation could be splintered and divided and turned into something so negative in such a short amount of time.

[00:13:34]Lauren Tormey: [00:13:34] So I'm, I'm the, I'm the oldest immigrant of the group or the oldest ex-pat. Um, So I left or I've been in Scotland for nine years and it's, well, it's funny to be on a podcast talking about this election result, because it was actually the 2004 election was one of the things that first triggered me to think that maybe I need to leave the U S .

[00:13:58] Isabelle Roughol: [00:13:58] That was George W. Bush's reelection

[00:13:59] Lauren Tormey: [00:13:59] That was George W Bush, when I was 12.

[00:14:04] Isabelle Roughol: [00:14:04] I was going to say, you don't look like you voted in 2004.

[00:14:07] Lauren Tormey: [00:14:07] No I did not, but it was like, but I was always like, you know, since age, well from about 10, was quite like news-obsessed and, um, I was just like, I couldn't believe that he was voted into office after like all that had happened. I was just like, Oh, I mean, just like, you know, the real, quite elitist thing to do, pass off every American as being ignorant or whatever, only to move to another country and realize, "Oh, ignorant people exist everywhere." Um,

[00:14:30] But for me, I think the past four years has made me realize how much I've taken for granted certain democratic principles. I didn't think I would ever be living in a time that the peaceful transfer of power between presidents was something that was put into question and that that might not happen.

[00:14:53]Broken relationships [00:14:53]

[00:14:53] And for me on a personal level, it's been really hard. I mean, I've always had conservative family members, but to have conservative family members who support Donald Trump, that's just been hard to watch that.

[00:15:07]Especially being an immigrant,  for a president who hurts immigrants coming to America so much, you know, the idea that recognizing that the experience I've had with the UK immigration system, like, "Oh, that's terrible. What they've been putting you through Lauren," but like not having any empathy towards people that come to America and like yeah.

[00:15:25] Being in a very weird state where I'm so far away from these people that, you know, you know, when I'm on a, I'm on a call with someone, with a family member, it's like, how much do I really want to get into this?

[00:15:34] Because it's just, like, You know, my relationship is already so much sort of far apart with them because I only see them once a year if that. You know, I'm living in another country. And to just, I don't know, just have to witness the fact that there's people that I love and care about that have gotten on board with this. When Donald Trump said he would shoot someone in the middle of Fifth Avenue and no one, he would still have supporters, like it's that level of support and like, like, Oh, that's just so hard to, to grapple with.

[00:16:04] Isabelle Roughol: [00:16:04] Have any of you lost relationships, broken ties with people back home over this?

[00:16:10] Sarah Browne: [00:16:10] Oh, yes. Um, I have um, some very old and dear friends from college and um, you know, we used to try to set up a little zoom meetings, et cetera. And then one of the friends said, you know, I think we better suspend doing this until after the election, because there are dear, dear wonderful friends.... Um,

[00:16:37] One of them lives in Atlanta. She's totally rich. Um, She completely hates what is happening uh, in Georgia. And I imagine that right about now, uh, she's flipping out completely. Um, And I went to visit her, um, a couple years ago and ashe took me to her fancy, schmancy country club in the suburbs of Atlanta, and we were sitting at this table having dinner. And, um, I heard the person at the table next to us say, you know, "I need some more wine or I need dah, dah, dah".  And, And this person answered and said, "Oh, let me get the darkie over here."

[00:17:27] I flipped. I... I mean, come on. And so that's the world she lives in. And so we ended up getting into sort of um, a bit of a conflict in which she sent me this email that had been going around you know, with her red state friends, in which the things they said about us, the 'libtards', were so utterly inaccurate. And so, I mean, aside from just being inflammatory and all of those kinds of things, it was so clear to me how different our worlds were and how, even though we're longtime old friends and we came from the same you know, neighborhood in Wisconsin, she had moved into this area that I just, I simply could not understand.

[00:18:22] And so she's sort of not speaking to me much so, and I don't know when, when we will, if ever resume our friendship.

[00:18:32]Geoffrey Cain: [00:18:32] It's the divisions that our nation, it's... uh, I don't know. It feels like it's almost a, it's a cold civil war. Um, I mean, I personally haven't stopped talking to family or friends, but I do know many, many people who have stopped talking to brothers or sisters, who are just starting to get back in touch now that the election is winding down.  um, It's troubling because I just don't know, I mean, when was the last time America saw a situation like this in its politics? I mean,

[00:18:59] Was it the civil war itself? You know, I mean, Was it two armed sides, uh, doing battle over this, these different visions of what America is supposed to be and what it's supposed to stand for? Like, Are we basically going through that same process again? Um, It's just something that I wonder . . I mean, I don't know. I mean,

[00:19:17] I have looked at some of the historical polling numbers recently and 2000 seems to be the year um, that was also the most divided, but you still didn't see anything you know, like what's going on in America right now?

[00:19:30] Isabelle Roughol: [00:19:30] Yeah, I was a, um, I was a young immigrant in America in 2001, 2002. So I arrived two weeks before 9/11 . So , and I, and I, you know, I remember, I mean, obviously 9/11 actually brought people together, but then the Bush years were extremely divisive. Um, And then, you know, I was living between France and America when the whole buildup to the Iraq war was happening. And obviously, you know, I, I had to put up with the whole 'freedom fries' crap, uh, um, but that feels like... that feels like nothing next to next to today.   It just, you know, I, um, my,

[00:20:00]Going back and giving back [00:20:00]I wonder, do you picture going back to the States at some point, or are you immigrants or emigrants from the U S um, for life?

[00:20:11] Geoffrey Cain: [00:20:11] I'm actually moving to Washington DC in January with my wife and I'm going to begin work at Congress.

[00:20:18]Isabelle Roughol: [00:20:18] Wow.

[00:20:21] Geoffrey Cain: [00:20:21] Yeah.

[00:20:22] Isabelle Roughol: [00:20:22] What motivated you to do that?

[00:20:24]Geoffrey Cain: [00:20:24] So I'm taking a year off from my usual job. So I do, I'm a foreign correspondent.  I felt, you know, I've been overseas now for 12 years um, you know, in many different countries and um, I decided it's time to go back for one year and just it, this is a fellowship, so I'm not actually full time employed by Congress, but I'll be um, brought in as like an outside advisor, working on issues in technology and foreign affairs.  I don't know what it is yet. I haven't gotten my assignment.

[00:20:52] But I decided that it's time to return just right now, now that the dust is hopefully starting to settle I mean, assuming that Donald Trump is out of office by then, I think now would be a good time to you know, help out and to try to repair some of the damage that he's done or at least you know, to, to do something, you know, that would help, that would help America in advance instead of being stuck in a replay of the Trump years. And, uh,

[00:21:15] But anyway, so the reason I decided to do it uh, now, um, is because after being overseas for all these years, uh, I've actually, you know, like, like I saw a lot of this coming... like even I moved to Cambodia in 2008, and this was the height of the Obama movement. I mean, This was like optimism, you know, we're, we're doing the right thing. We're moving forward, we're making progress. Um,

[00:21:34] But I started seeing the signals back around then. I mean, there was the economic crash of 08 and there were all these strong men leaders, these dictators who were just consolidating power as Obama was becoming uh, the president. And, you know, I saw it in Cambodia, that was the year that the Cambodian dictator Hun Sen consolidated uh, his total authority over the government. Um, And you know, there were other places I went: so, you know, even in South Korea with democracy, Japan, um, there was one-party rule for a long time, the Philippines, uh, you know, Russia... I spent a lot of time in Russia, in central Asia, the land of dictators. And it was like, you know, people say that America is headed towards a more inclusive democracy, but the entire world is moving in the opposite direction.

[00:22:16] So, um, you know, When Trump won in 2016, I was kind of surprised, but I wasn't totally surprised because it seemed like that something like that was going to happen eventually. And so I knew that you know, like eventually seeing Trump win, I got to get back to America and do something there. You know, I have to get involved in some kind of politics or policy and just try to make, make it a better place.

[00:22:37]Staying away [00:22:37]

[00:22:37]Sarah Browne: [00:22:37] Well, I plan to stay here as long as the Home Office will give me a visa. I really don't want to go back to the US. Part of it is, um, that I love it over here. I mean, Obviously that's a key reason. Um, But I don't... My heart has, has been utterly broken by what has happened to our country. I am old enough to uh, have fought the good fight for George McGovern back during the Vietnam war. Um, But I have seen um, so many times when our, our country has, has functioned beautifully and um, has been something to be truly proud of. And so. What, what the country has become now, you know, I don't think that's going to change anytime soon.

[00:23:33] And quite frankly, you know, like Jeff, I mean, I, my first instinct is always, I got to go help. I got to go, you know, take whatever skills I have and, and help improve our country and make it better and, and get it back on track. But I have reached a point here in which I really feel like I no longer know half -- at least half -- of my country. And I mean, I'm feeling it horrendously over here. Um, you know, I wish I could just basically sort of cut the emotional ties a bit more than, than I seem to have. Um, But I don't know if there is enough weed in this world to keep me mellow if I move back.

[00:24:20]Isabelle Roughol: [00:24:20] Lauren.

[00:24:22]Lauren Tormey: [00:24:22] I have no intention of moving back, but that's way bigger than any election decision.  I mean, I came here for university. I've lived my entire adult life in the UK. The U S is, is my home country, but this is my home. Like, This is where I learned how to be an adult. Like the idea of moving back... you know? Sure there's family there, but like, That,  that seems like the immigrant experience again,  learning how to live there. That's not the life I want for myself. Hm.

[00:24:47] Isabelle Roughol: [00:24:47] That's interesting. Because you know, obviously we're talking about politics a lot, but there's a lot more than that. And actually it's pretty rare for people to you know, make entire life choices based just on the politics, um,  you know, you know, unless you're a refugee fleeing, fleeing war or oppression, which, you know, the U S is bad, but it's not that level.

[00:25:09]Sarah Browne: [00:25:09] I think it's, you know, for me, like, because I had not lived um, across the pond before, um, I didn't know what another kind of lifestyle could be. You don't have to worry about guns every two minutes. Um, you know, Obviously it's still a crazy city and we've got the lockdown and, and this and that, but it's not just crazies everywhere. And you know, I don't, I don't want to live a life where I feel unsafe, whether it's unsafe because I can't you know, go to a party in Wisconsin and not get into war with half of the people at the party. Um, you know,

[00:25:51] As long as I stay in California, you know, I, I do feel um, with, you know, I'm with friends. Um, but you know, So much of the country where friends and family live, um, it's, it's not a comfortable place to be. You know, I'm, I'm too old to not be mellow, you know, and, and I spent most of my career um, you know, being very intense and very driven. Um, And that's just fine as long as you have a respite in your personal life. But this means intensity non-stop, 24-7. So it's just better to be here.

[00:26:27] Lauren Tormey: [00:26:27] Although I care about what's happening at home, I'm more invested in bringing about changes in the UK.  Ultimately the decisions that happen here are gonna affect me and you know, it's THE place I now call home and it's the place I want to fix. But I guess I do like having this still this connection to home that I would never want to give up entirely because  my family is always going to be there. I want to make sure they're okay you know, and everyone else in America is okay. But  while all this craziness has been happening in America. I also see it in the UK as well.

[00:27:04] Sarah Browne: [00:27:04] Yeah.

[00:27:05] Lauren Tormey: [00:27:05] And it kind of riles me up to be more like, let's protect where I am now to make sure it doesn't get to that point.

[00:27:14]Geoffrey Cain: [00:27:14] I'm just curious. Have any of you I mean, now that -- Lauren, it sounds like you're a very long-term ex-pat -- has anyone here thought about actually just taking on citizenship in another country?

[00:27:26]US problems catching up to the world [00:27:26]Lauren Tormey: [00:27:26] I would love to be a citizen of the UK, but I don't want to pay the extra 1300 pounds over the 6,000 pounds I've already just paid over the last five years. So that's, that's the only reason I'm waiting, but I've literally like have just become a permanent resident so...

[00:27:41] Geoffrey Cain: [00:27:41] Congratulations

[00:27:42] Lauren Tormey: [00:27:42] Thank you. But now my, now my current battle is taking down the UK immigration system because it needs to needs to stop hurting people.

[00:27:50]Isabelle Roughol: [00:27:50] It's it's, uh, I, I did a whole episode on that..

[00:27:52] Lauren Tormey: [00:27:52] It's how I discovered your podcast.

[00:27:53] Isabelle Roughol: [00:27:53] Oh, great. It's um, yeah, it's a, it's a really messy system and, um, it, it was interesting listening to you because, um, yeah, I think you're definitely the most settled immigrant, uh, of anyone on this call. The thing that you're running from in the U S seems to be catching up to us in the UK in many ways. Um, and obviously Geoff in Turkey, it's long been there. Um, Is there a, um, a refuge, you know, somewhere else from all these things or, or do you stop somewhere and fight it where you are?

[00:28:24] Lauren Tormey: [00:28:24] That's the thing I think I've realized is that like, like I was saying earlier about how like there's idiots everywhere, like. problems exist everywhere. Like Sure there might be on different severities, but like, I don't think there's some country I could go to that would feel like, you know, some sort of safe haven for everyone. And  like, I don't want that. Like,  It feels like such a privileged thing to like seek after. Like, well, I've made my home, um, that now I'm like , you know, dead set on making this place better. Like I'm going to do what I can to you know, make sure we don't have systems in place that like actively hurt people. And that we're all looking to create a society where we're like compassionate towards others and you know, everyone's, everyone can live an okay life.

[00:28:59]Sarah Browne: [00:28:59] Exactly. Well, that's why, um, uh, totally aside from uh, the wonderful government in New Zealand, um, which will undoubtedly be uh, very quickly ruined because all of the big tech founders have you know, gobbled up land in New Zealand. And so. You know, once they decide to, you know, retire there or do whatever they're going to do over there, then Jacinda is going to have to deal with them, with big tech. And that's going to be very interesting. Um, I know a lot of people talking about you know, going there and, um, it's a conversation in California at um, all the cafes about, you know, how much land Elon Musk has purchased there, et cetera.

[00:29:46]Isabelle Roughol: [00:29:46] I'm always fascinated by the privilege associated with these conversations where people just assume that they can move to whatever country they want to. Um, a hearing hearing, you know, really wealthy people, especially in Silicon Valley, just decide they're going to move to New Zealand without a care in the world as to whether New Zealand is interested in having them is, uh, always cracks me up.

[00:30:08]Lauren Tormey: [00:30:08] Even like members of my family, like the non Trump supporters of my family who were just like, "Oh my God, if he gets reelected, I'm gonna have to leave the country and, you know, move somewhere else." And I'm just like, like, "have you been, have we not established how difficult has it been, like my immigration experience?" Like. People don't just accept people. Like There are barriers in place to make it very difficult for you to move. Like even, you know, with all the white privilege that you may have, like, you don't just pick up and move somewhere.

[00:30:35]Geoffrey Cain: [00:30:35] I've actually found that Turkey is very, very immigration friendly and actually Turkey, I think it hosts the largest number of refugees in the world, either the first or second in the world. Um, it's not something I realized before I arrived here, but it is a very um, friendly country to foreigners and to immigrants. And it's, it's the kind of place that a lot of ex-pats end up settling down in.

[00:30:56]Isabelle Roughol: [00:30:56] All right. We'll add it to the list of options.

[00:31:01] It's interesting how you know, we were talking about you know, caring about the politics, you know, wherever you are and changing where you live. I don't know if any of you found that, but I get really riled up about politics in the UK or politics in the U S, but it doesn't, it doesn't get emotional in the way that it gets emotional when it's home. Like politics in France hurt in a way that politics nowhere else will. Um, Is that something that you are feeling as well?

[00:31:31] You can't escape America [00:31:31]Lauren Tormey: [00:31:31] I think the weird thing about America is that it's just so omnipresent, like it just infiltrates everyone and everything. Like the amount of British people, like getting in touch with me, like, to just tell me details about the election like I didn't even know about, because they are like more invested in it apparently than I am.

[00:31:47] Isabelle Roughol: [00:31:47] Everyone is an expert in the electoral college now, all over the world.

[00:31:51] Lauren Tormey: [00:31:51] Exactly. Um,

[00:31:52] It takes over the world. Like, I mean, Even you know, the shows I watched, the movies I watch , like, I'm still drawn to the more American things, but like, yeah, it has to do with like being home, but it's also just like, it's everywhere. It's so easy to get out because it's just in your face all the time.

[00:32:06]Sarah Browne: [00:32:06] Yes. The U S is very in your face, no matter where you are in the world. And, you know, I think that that with Trump in office you know, stirring chaos, you know, on a daily basis, sometimes like through three or four news cycles, it's, it's very, very hard to shut it off.

[00:32:29] And, um, when I first came here, um, I used to you know, go online and watch MSNBC and then I couldn't handle it anymore because every day, it kept getting worse and, and every day it was yet another piece of integrity that was lost and I could do nothing about it. And so I, I switched to CNN, which is a whole nother story.

[00:32:59] But because of my age, I went through the whole Nixon thing, whatever. And we thought that was the bottom, okay. All of us, I mean, I was a kid, but all of us thought what Nixon did was like the bottom of the barrel and it could never get any worse and ha. You know, I mean This whole, whole Trump thing has exposed every single hole and gap and loop in our constitution and in our government.

[00:33:34] The famous question is, do you feel better off now? And I cannot understand how the Trumpees feel better off. I don't get that, you know, um, of course they say it's cause we're all socialists. So whatever.

[00:33:52]Geoffrey Cain: [00:33:52] Uh, Sorry I just lost my connection for a second , but the last thing I heard was about how America is so, uh, in your face and so intense.

[00:33:58] And one of the things I always noticed that I really dislike about going back to America is that ... like, I've been to all these different countries. I've been exploring the societies, the cultures, the politics, the history. And you know, I'll be working on something related to say North Korea for a couple of years. And then like, like most recently I went back to America. And all these people who are watching you know, cable news, watching Fox, or like reading Twitter, reading their friend's comments on Facebook, they start telling me about North Korea and how Kim Jong-un the dictator, how he operates and how he thinks and what he wants and what America needs to do to topple him, or, or to stay out or whatever they think.

[00:34:36] And it's just, it's, it's this. And I've noticed that it's gotten more and more intense over the years. Maybe it's due to you know, social media. We're all enveloped in our own, you know, post-truth  bubble of information that we just, we just take in without thinking as critically about it.

[00:34:50] But it's just, you know, that's one of the things that I am not looking forward to again, when I go back to Washington DC . I'm gonna have my own thoughts about say, you know, the Middle East and its politics, and uh, you know, a random guy on the internet says like, this is stupid or, you know, like you, you don't know what you're talking about.

[00:35:06] And it's just, it's something that it's, it's very American. And I haven't really noticed it in a lot of other places. I mean, there's, I think there's a more conversational style in a lot of countries around the world. I don't think there's as much of a sense of like, you know, "I'm right and you're wrong and just listened to me" and people start yelling at each other.

[00:35:24]Isabelle Roughol: [00:35:24] I mean, Social media isn't particularly pretty um, anywhere, but I've certainly noticed: you know, I have social media followers from all over the world and the pontificating and the mansplaining always comes from a middle-aged American man. Like always. And I, you know, I literally, I have followers from everywhere, but it's always the same profile, let's say. So maybe something there in the culture.

[00:35:52] We love you America. I feel like we've drawn up a pretty dark picture. And at the same time, I mean, I know it's a country that I personally love uh, in many ways and I keep returning to and where I've spent my formative years.

[00:36:13]Um, So I want to believe that there is a way out of the worst of it. And I wonder if you do, to conclude. Okay, we have a President Biden, looks like. January 21st, where should he start? And, do you think there's a way back --  or forward rather than back?

[00:36:40]Lauren Tormey: [00:36:40] I think there definitely is a way forward. And I think, I mean, I don't know how everyone else feels on this call, but like, Yeah I was not happy to vote for Biden. He was not my preferred choice, especially living in Scotland,  it's made me pretty left wing. So there's definitely other choices, better choices for that um, in the Democratic candidates.

[00:37:00] Um, But you know, just like I said there's idiots everywhere, like there are good people everywhere. And I think the thing I've realized as an American ex-pat, it's just, you know, you don't need to rely on a leader to do the work for you. It's about the people living in a place that want to put in the work to make it better.

[00:37:20] And so I think, you know, even though I don't agree with some of the politics of Biden, I think it's on the more progressive people in the U S to like, you know, People who probably wouldn't have, you know, you know, didn't vote for him in the primaries, like keep him on his toes and make sure that he's like actually doing things that improve people's lives. Um, Where he starts with that,I mean, you could really pick any issue at this rate.

[00:37:45] I don't know. I hope that Americans don't just sit back and think, well, let's see what he does. Cause it's not, it's not, not one person's job to change or make things, you know, it's people that live in a place constantly having to say, this is what I want. This is how I think we can improve our lives. That's going to actually, they make changes.

[00:38:01]Sarah Browne: [00:38:01] You know? I've been thinking that on one hand we have, you know, all of this horror, utter, absolute horror that uh, we've been through over this administration. But on the other hand, I think in some respects, it's good for the country to put it all out on the table. To basically, um, you know, like a lot of what the, the Trumpees are about is like a bit of revenge over eight years of a black president. Um, So that was sort of simmering, this and that, then Trump was elected and then all of it is now regurgitated for everyone to see. And. Um, sometimes you have to have a clean slate. And so at least now we know how ugly it can get, and that may help us decide what it is that we want to save and revive.

[00:39:05] And for me, one of the main things that I have learned in being in London is what a massive, massive difference the NHS makes. And I don't think anybody, um, like people in the U S have absolutely no clue what it's like to get um, you know, free medication and you know, all of these things that we have.

[00:39:32] I have a friend in Seattle. I had um, a medical problem um, last year and a friend in Seattle had the same problem. And so he had the us healthcare system and I had the NHS. And I didn't have a single bill. Nothing. So, you know, My recovery was not blighted by having to sit there and wonder if my insurance company was going to cover something, you know, if I was going to have to pay X amount for this you know, medication, whatever.

[00:40:04] And so, you know, one of the things that I liked obviously about you know, Biden-Obama was the, the much maligned Affordable Care Act. But Biden and his people understand that something has to be worked out. I mean, It's not there yet, but it makes a massive amount of difference if you do not have to declare a medical bankruptcy after, you know, I know people who've had to do that because they had a complicated pregnancy. So, you know, I would hope that taking that anxiety and providing us with real care, I would hope that would be a priority because I think that would ease a lot of um, some of the inequalities that exist in, in that particular area.

[00:40:58]Geoffrey Cain: [00:40:58] That's one of the saddest things I think about American society today is the incredible debt loads that regular people have to take on to get you know, basic life necessities, such as healthcare or an education. I mean,

[00:41:13]We tell our students, we say, uh, you know, go, go to a good school, you know, study hard, get into a good university. And, uh, by the way, here's your $200,000 bill that you're going to have to pay off for the next 30 years while you're struggling to pay for all your other stuff, too. Um, This cannot continue forever. A society  uh, that's constrained and almost enslaved, uh, a society uh, that's divided between debtors and debtees.

[00:41:37]Um,  I mean, it's, it's, It's something that has not uh, ever worked. Um, and it's actually something that even in Thomas Jefferson warned about. Uh, I think it might've been in the Federalist papers or one of those. I mean, This is a theme that goes back really far. You know,

[00:41:51] the coming decade, the 2020s, we have all these advances in technology happening now we have, um, you know, AI, we have, uh, you know, all these other self-driving cars. I mean, in theory, We're supposed to be approaching the age of very little work and say universal basic income. And I just wonder, you know, when is that going to happen or is somebody sitting in Washington, DC or New York going to, are they going to try to find a reason to keep us, you know, in debt more to, to make us stay in debt, to keep us working, to keep us useful and productive, um, you know, to keep us in line.

[00:42:25]I just wonder, and it's an open-ended question: you know, where is America going to be in say the year 2030? Are we actually going to make use of a lot of the tools that we're creating now to create a better society? Or are we still going to be paying off our massive medical bills and undergraduate education bills and all of this?

[00:42:44] Outro [00:42:44]

[00:42:44]  Isabelle Roughol: [00:42:46] That's the question now, before Joe Biden, Kamala Harris and the whole of America.  I checked in with all three guests after the election was actually called. They all confessed to feeling a certain sense of relief and even a little joy at seeing the celebrations at home, perhaps more than they had expected.

[00:43:06] Are you an American abroad? What have the last four years been like for you? And how do you feel about the election? Please join the conversation. You can get into the comments on the newsletter or find me on social media. All the links are at borderlinepod.com.

[00:43:21] Thank you to my guests today: Sarah Browne, Lauren Tormey and Geoffrey Cain. Geoff is the author of "Samsung Rising: The inside story of the South Korean giant that set out to beat Apple and conquer tech." I strongly recommend it. Samsung is a weird and fascinating company and the book reads like a spy novel.

[00:43:40] Lauren wrote about her experience with the difficult British immigration system and the so-called hostile environment and how to change it. If you want to join her in that, you'll find a link in the show notes or on the newsletter.

[00:43:54] If you enjoy Borderline as always, please consider becoming a member on Patreon. I swear, I do a little dance whenever I get that notification  and this week I got to dance thanks to Nora Lamoudi. Thank you.

[00:44:05] You can find the link at borderlinepod.com as always or look for borderline on Patreon. Members get extra content. They get the episode early and they help me keep doing this. It really means the world to me.

[00:44:18] I'm your host, Isabelle Roughol. Borderline is a One Lane Bridge production. Music by Dyalla. Talk to you next week.

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Journalist, podcaster, media consultant. Telling stories & building better newsrooms. Writes The Lede. Ex- LinkedIn News, Le Figaro, The Cambodia Daily. 🎓 Mizzou '08, Birkbeck '25.