Underthecurrent


Feels Like the First Time: Being a Foreigner
September 29, 2011, 3:19 am
Filed under: overtly political, voyageur | Tags: , , ,

A long time ago, this space debated the use of the word expat versus immigrant. For the record, when people ask, I just call myself a foreigner.

Work is a microcosm of the larger community. From behind a counter, a lot about relationships between local groups is apparent. One of the most interesting, personally, has been the relationship between Aussies and foreigners. As yet, I have yet to meet a foreigner who has been fully accepted by the community here regardless of how long they have lived in town or what they do. This initial impression has been confirmed by a little something that happens after ten at night and about twenty tiny little glasses of beer when yet another random mildly xenophobic comment about someone else in the bar is uttered. Maybe it’s the song they chose on the jukebox, maybe it’s talking too loud. Some will say they fit in fine, like it here even, but those ten pm truths are sharp and constant and for some the desire to fit in is palpable.

To be fair, no one has said anything truly xenophobic to me, but this is probably because I fit in a different category of foreigner. I’m transient, part of the entertainment.

I can’t help but compare with my life in Africa.

Maybe it’s because everyone is so different, so multilingual. Maybe it’s because the second passport is often a status symbol. Maybe it’s that people are more relaxed about things generally, TIA. All I know is that my life in small town Africa was marked by the openness of people. It’s not lost on me that a country notorious for xenophobic attacks over the last couple of years is a place where my own experience was tolerance and acceptance. Yet another paradox.

I really enjoy the people in this town, and they have been incredibly nice to me so far, but today I’m just a little homesick for that small town an eight hour flight away.

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