Monthly Archives: July 2012

Being a foreigner

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Foreigners, BAH!

They never really learn the language, have strange habits, are lazy and take advantage of our social system. They steal our jobs and women, and they work for low wages that normal people cannot compete with. They steal and deal drugs. Or women. Or both. All in all, we don’t like them.

Don’t understand me wrong, I am not a rascist. Our cleaning lady is a foreigner and we really like her. And we always say hello to our foreign neighbors, we even invited them over for coffee once! No, our foreign people are ok. It is all the other foreign people that are the problem. The ones you read about in the papers and see on tv. Most problematic are the ones that you don’t know but who have the guts to walk around in your town with their strange foreign outfits. Obviously they are not integrating at all and therefore must fall in the lazy, drug-dealing, job-stealing foreigner category.

But have you ever been a foreigner yourself? And I don’t mean a holiday to Spain where you could use your 5 words of Spanish and claim you speak the language. I mean starting a new life in a country with a different language and culture. If you would do this you would realize that you don’t speak the language at all. People are not really happy to have you in their peacefull country. And even when you change your appearance to local standards, do language course after language course, and invite your neighbors over for coffee, you will always be the outsider. A lazy job-stealing one to the people you have not yet invited for coffee.

Being tolerant comes from acceptance through actions, not mere words. Especially in times of crisis it is convenient to blame the unknown, the outsiders. But it is in times of crisis when working together for a better future is the only way out of the mess. The nationalistic tendencies that are lingering in Europe (and beyond) are feelings of fear of the unknown. We can see that our long (European) history is abundant with fear of new things, foreign things. We have crossed each others borders time and time again and mingled our cultures and habits. What was once considered purely Italian is now almost daily on everyone’s plate. The Dutch have won a golden medal in snowboarding without even having mountains. What was once typical for one culture can be accepted and integrated by another culture.

Where does my culture stop and does yours begin? When does integrating becomes being accepted? When does the outsider become a local, and what about his children?

How do you feel about tolerance in your country? And how do you think we can promote it? I’d like to hear your input!

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