Being involuntarily exposed to the European community through my previous workplace, I noticed quite a curious phenomenon: people were consciously searching for their fellow countrymen while living abroad. I, on the other hand, would avoid them like the plague and had zero to no social interaction with Frenchies outside of office hours. Now is this just another testament for my weirdness? I keep on whining about homesickness, feeling like an outsider, struggling with life here and yet I alienate myself from those who, one would assume, represent the closest to home I could get around here.
Just last week I was invited to the Bastille Day celebration hosted by the French Embassy. I figured I should go, network a little, and enjoy the free food in a lovely setting. By the time I stepped into the ballroom, I felt the immediate urge to turn on my heels and flee. But I didn’t and made my way through the crowd. I saw a few familiar faces, spoke to a couple of people and avoided plenty more. I am the first to say that it is refreshing to meet someone with a similar background, but nationality alone doesn’t provide that. Except for the fact that it is quite pleasant to be able to speak your lingo after having spoken a different language for the longest time, nothing links me to fellow countrymen aside from our passport.
More often than not, such encounters even turn sour, when the views and opinion of the Philippines differ. Sadly, I have met quite some foreigners with a colonial mindset, assuming their supremacy over the country that welcomed them as guests. In those moments, I consider myself more Filipina than anything else, and find myself defensive about the country and its people, uncontrollably ranting about foreigners who I deem not respectful of their host country. Note, that I just subconsciously called fellow countrymen “foreigners”. On other days, I am particularly European; craving for the cuisine, the culture, the language, the architecture, and the weather, while being increasingly cynical and negative about the Philippines, vowing to never send my future children to a local school, cursing the inefficacy of work processes and wondering if I will ever be able to handle the informal family hierarchy that rules society.
Confusion and contradiction are the name of the game. I don’t identify with Frenchs, or Germans for that matter, and I still feel outlandish around Filipinos. Bottomline - part of me will always be alien, no matter where I am.
I know this all sounds like I am extremely anti-social and difficult to please. Yes, that’s partly true, D. will confirm that in a jiffy. But, I do meet people that I feel I can relate to. Nationality isn’t a criteria. A similar background is defined by worldviews, mindsets, values, and experiences. There is some kind of stereotype when it comes to the people that I feel most comfortable with and whom I’ve considered good friends since: all of them are well-traveled, have been exposed to different cultures, are open-minded and have strong personalities. Once I refrain from taking sides and just accept my position, maybe then I’ll feel peace of mind. Meanwhile, until I can actually put my wise words into action, I just have to deal with the reality that I will always be torn in between 3 worlds. Never quite in, never quite out.