You Know You’re A Foreigner When….

Another inspired topic from Lin for the weekly Friday LBC blog post, which no doubt comes from the fact that she is a domiciled foreigner where she lives.

My own take on the subject is based on my experiences traveling overseas.

The first obvious one of course in language. Despite being fluent in English, it is a disadvantage in most countries of the world. Imagine poor old me in the middle of Germany or France! You can read the Roman script on signs but cannot make sense out of them and most people that you try to communicate with turn out to be non English speaking.

On the other hand, traveling to say Bangladesh or Pakistan or Dubai, the last because most locals are Indians or Pakistanis, one feels comfortable that he is among people who share a linguistic heritage with you.

The second one is of course your appearance. I would stand out like a sore thumb in say a place like Hong Kong or for that matter anywhere in Europe due to my colour or facial features.

The last is food. Imagine landing up at a party as a guest of one of the invitees only to find the earlier two disadvantages plus the exotic spread on the table. Being a vegetarian has its own disadvantages and trying to find if a dish is one or not from people who speak a different language is not easy!

Needless to say, I have experienced all the three as well as some more unsavoury prejudice induced behaviour about which I would rather not write.

34 thoughts on “You Know You’re A Foreigner When….”

  1. In Malaysia I know I am a foreigner because I dont speak the language, dont know the right way to eat the food (what combinations? in what order? what time of day?)

    In the US I kept moving to the left to let people past and of course I was getting right in the way. I also walked on the wrong side of sidewalks and crossed the road dangerously

    1. Driving on the wrong side of the road, looking the wrong way to cross roads etc should have also been included in my post. Thanks for pointing out these to me.

  2. Brilliantly done, Ramana.
    And yes, I have also experienced the big three.
    I, with the pale pink complexion and long slightly bony pony build, known in our family as the southern Irish Rose, don’t really fit in in a land of much shorter, much darker, often olive skinned, even among the blonds.
    As to languages, I speak several, and can usually manage to finagle something when I travel,
    and here in Gutenberg Land, my language skills good enough that I am almost never recognized, which actually makes the matter worse, because all they want to know then, is where I am really from, since I don’t look the part. And forty years in a country doesn’t count.
    I talked about the third, food and drink,
    and the particular problems with living in an area where foreigner is anyone, including others of the Rhineland Palatinate, and other Germans, and Europeans, not born within a ca 12 block radius of the sound of the cathedral bells
    at my blog Quahog on a Tightrope. It will be up in about ten minutes at Dunnasead.co
    Dunnasead recently posted..And Gutenberg Lived Here: The Morris Dancer- Is That A Car?

    1. Thank you Lin. As Kylie has pointed out and Shackman has pointed out in his post, driving on the wrong side of the road, looking the wrong way while crossing roads etc were left out. I did see and also mention in my comments on your post the similarity in our approach to the topic.

      1. Also left out is the fact that it need not be food, language, religion, other customs, often it can be something as simple as family line, or as small as a dialectical difference, a definition of a holy book, a difference of education or no education. But sometimes, as I often find in working with the many students I have who are neither American nor German, there is a simple line of connection that, when linked to good will, makes the entire foreign thing unnecessary. Although, I must admit, I once had a Frenchman who is still furious at me about “French” fries.
        Dunnasead recently posted..You Know You’re A Foreigner When…

  3. I think the most obvious sign that you’re a foreigner is simply feeling completely lost while all those around you look completely at home. Whether it’s language or skin colour or food or whatever, it’s that feeling of being all at sea that defines it.
    nick recently posted..Was my face red

    1. In India, from one state to another one can feel like a foreigner for all the three reasons that I have written about. And within each state, there are differences too.

    2. Looney, ou have touched on a less common perspective of what constitutes a foreigner. In your “own” country.

      My mother grew up in Neustettin (close to Danzig). You couldn’t have gone much further north east as borders of the Reich where then. When “The Russian” advanced my grandmother fled with her four youngest, her husband and three eldest sons already at the “front”. It was an odyssee of modern times right across what was then (and still is) a big country. On foot, on cattle trains, you name it. Want drama? Become a refuge in times of war. And that is precisely what my family became. They ended up in Bavaria – a tiny village where a spade was a spade and a refuge was a “Fluechtling” (in that derogative way) and was known as such. Obviously not Judenstern but a stamp nevertheless. My grandfather who survived being a Russian prisoner of war (his eldest son wasn’t so lucky) and my grandmother were affable people. People who integrated easily. So the transition for the villagers to accept them as a welcome addition didn’t take long. And then, naturally and as I do, some years later I came along (born out of wedlock but with a sunny smile) and the villagers didn’t bat an eyelid.

      Thinking over what I just wrote, reminiscing somewhat tearfully over two of the wonderful people in my life (my grandparents) and having exiled myself to another country for most my adult life I do believe some of us are at home anywhere (in my case, say, Mars) and others always hanker. I go back to the motherland and I am at home, I come back to the fatherland (that’s the Angel’s father’s) and I am home. I feel privileged.

      I know this little outpouring hasn’t stretched the infinite space a comment box affords so, my dear Ramana, I won’t apologize for taking up so much of it.

      U
      Ursula recently posted..Ephemeral

    1. In India too, from one state to another one can feel like a foreigner for all the three reasons that I have written about. And within each state, there are differences too.

  4. i haven’t been able to travel in my lifetime as extensively as i’d like.
    and now… it’s not on the radar for me at all!
    but i do remember feeling totally foreign in a tube in london and perplexed at the map.
    and everyone was in such a HURRY! i felt shy to ask and they even spoke my language!
    i’d hate to think how i’d feel not speaking the same language and being lost.
    tammy j recently posted..a tiny winged soul

    1. The London tube commute is an experience like no other. Particularly during peak hours it can be frustrating. But so would the local trains in Mumbai.

  5. I remember being in the Netherlands at a deli looking at the menu on the wall. I can’t say reading it because I couldn’t. When I saw Ros Bief I decided that was close enough to risk it. The next day we went to McDonald’s for some relief and they offered Fry Sauce and Fanta and I didn’t know what either of those was–familiar landmark but still a different country.

    1. Finding a Mac in Rome for me was a delightful experience. I would not have been put off by Fanta because it is available here, but Fry Sauce most certainly would have confused me.

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