As an expat visiting family and friends in the USA these past three weeks, I am struck by how very kind and civil Americans are to each other, especially to people they’ve never met.


Despite all the squabbling over politics, the all too frequent gun violence, and general sense of gloom and doom you’ll hear on the news, the Americans (aka: my peeps) I keep bumping into of all ages, races, and walks of life have been just so…. freaking… NICE during my visit.

This mural in Cambridge, MA sums it up perfectly

This mural in Cambridge, MA. sums it up perfectly


Kindness and civility don’t make for eye-popping headlines, but in this country there is a vast abundance of it floating around almost as an afterthought.

I certainly never really noticed it growing up here and it never occurred to me that this way of behaving towards strangers and acquaintances was anything unique or special in the world.

In exactly two weeks I’ll be marking my 10 year anniversary as a dual American/Portuguese citizen living in Rome, Italy. The very same day as my anniversary I’ll be moving all over again with my husband, two young sons, and elderly cat in tow, this time starting from scratch in Yangon, Myanmar. Today though, I’m sitting in my childhood bedroom in Swansea, Massachusetts, USA.

I’ve been a traveler and foreigner living, volunteering, and working in foreign lands on five continents for most of my adult life and indeed I have noticed that the vast majority of people I’ve come across have been VERY kind. These days I’m marveling at ordinary and easily overlooked little acts of kindness my fellow countrymen and women, the Americans partake in daily and would like to shine a spotlight on just a few examples from my current trip.

There’s the African American teen who bought our broken iPads at a Providence Place Mall tech buy-back kiosk that went above and beyond the call of duty for an hour trying to get us the best price. There’s also the lawyer updating our will who told us, “No charge. Just send me a postcard.”

It’s the chatty people I’ve found in almost every line (at the coffee shop, a carnival, in the grocery store, etc) that randomly speak to me as if I were an old friend as well as the flashing headlights of cars at stop lights signaling, “No. After you. Go right ahead and make that left turn.” (This is especially heartening after living in Italy, a country I also love, but where most people don’t form lines.)


It’s everyone picking up their trash after a day reuniting with family at Goddard Park in Warwick, RI. so the next group can enjoy the same spot. It’s also all the doors people are holding open, sometimes for more than a few minutes, for approaching strangers about to enter the restaurant or shopping center.

I can’t forget the bright, young dentist in Fall River who somehow managed to fit THREE appointments in two weeks into his already overbooked schedule so my sons could get their teeth checked and fixed. He even came in an hour early just to fit us in. (They tell expats in Myanmar to go to neighboring Thailand for dental treatment so this was a big gift for us.)

It’s the clerk at the Swansea Town Hall who made sure I can vote from afar this November while also showing me her favorite cynical office signs. And it’s the short-staffed Portuguese consulate worker in New Bedford who pulled strings anyway to get my second passport and ID card renewed in record time.

It’s the waitress who calls me sweetheart and makes sure my coffee cup never goes empty. It’s the immigrant neighbor across the street from my parents who pulled me into her house and wouldn’t allow me to leave until I was loaded up with homemade kale soup and her special baked beans in hand.

I could go on but you get the idea.

So as I listen to fireworks exploding miles away this evening as Americans get ready to celebrate Independence Day tomorrow, I am thankful to be “home” for my first 4th of July in five years and the gift of being able to reconnect with family and friends before yet another life-changing transition.

I’m even more thankful to come from a place where kindness to strangers is just the norm or at least the expectation and ideal for the majority of Americans.

There’s a sign in Boston’s Logan Airport meant to welcome foreigners that has Barack Obama telling visitors that the greatest gift this country has to offer is “its people.” A few weeks ago while dragging my exhausted sons through customs after a nine hour flight from Rome, I rolled my eyes at his message.

Today I nod my head in agreement.


Celebrating the independent spirit, the freedom of the road, the anticipation of adventure and challenge… Jacqueline Seidel and I are so excited to be offering our book to all aspiring global citizens. Check it out and grab your copy! Free At Last: Live, Love, and Work Abroad as a 21st Century Global Citizen