Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Four million Americans call some other country home

By Jerry Schwartz, Associated Press Writer

NEW YORK: More Americans than ever before have decided that America is no longer their home.

They’ve put down roots abroad, from Cuba (an estimated 2,000 Americans, the latest figures show) to Britain (224,000). They’re in Germany (210,880), in the Philippines (105,000), in Israel (184,195).

If they were a US State—call it Expatria—its population, some four million Americans, would place it right in the middle, along with Kentucky and South Carolina.

Expatriates, citizens of this floating, far-flung state, are changing the very definition of “American.”

“What does nationality really mean in these days, in these times of great mobility, at a time when there is an opportunity to make one’s way in a society without really any serious impediments?” asks Tom Rose, a 68-year-old retired businessman who has spent all, but a few years abroad since 1961, most of them in Paris.

Rose and others have forsaken America for many reasons. They fall in love with a foreigner, or with an exotic place or culture. They are looking for an adventure, or for a cheaper place to live. They go because their job is there, or because their heart is no longer here.

Or, like Glen Rubenstein, they have given up on the American political system.

Rubenstein is following a trail blazed in the 1960s and ’70s by draft resisters who fled to Canada; the number is estimated between 50,000 and 100,000, and about 25,000 remain there today, men in their fifties and sixties who have built new lives.

The disaffected had left the United States before. After World War I, members of the Lost Generation—disillusioned with the war’s slaughter, dispirited by America’s conservative nature—settled in Europe, particularly in France. The number of Americans living overseas more than doubled, from 55,608 in 1910 to 117,238 in 1920.

But that was a small increase compared with what was to come. In 1940 there were almost 119,000 Americans living overseas; in 1950, there were more than 481,000 and in 1960, 1.37 million.

These were, for the most part, not disgruntled people. In the postwar era, America’s muscular economy sent businessmen and their families all over. At the same time, travel became easier, and cheaper, and Americans became more affluent and open to foreign adventure.


No comments: