Won’t You Be My Neighbo(u)r?
Won’t You Be My Neighbo(u)r?
Hello there, friendly future neighbor! We’re the new immigrants in town. One of us anyway, the other has just been away awhile. We may dress funny. We may talk wrong. We may eat foods with chopsticks and even throw “u”s into your well-established alphabet. But we are just people. We know we’re different. We know we’re not from here. We know we have an accent. Pointing it out is as redundant as saying ATM Machine. So please, help us help you. Want to get to know us? Great! But please actually get to know us as friends, not as a sparkle at your next cocktail (or karaoke) party.
Here are the top 10 questions immigrants are asked (and may be sick of answering):
- So where are you FROM?
One word answer. A place you won’t have heard of if I give you the actual town, so let me save us both the embarrassment and give you the nearest famous landmark. I’m not actually from there but you don’t actually care unless you make the point to follow it up thoughtfully.
- How long have you been here?
Another one word answer, but can lead to an actual discussion. This one works. If I’m seasoned we can talk about the changes and, inevitably, how this place was so much better back in blah blah. If I’m a newbie you can welcome me and I really will want to hear you describe my new home. Thank you for the information, potential new friend.
- What do you think of it here?
There is only one PC answer upon first introduction. It’s sooo lovely! I had no idea it would be this beautiful/ interesting/ incredible! Take this with a grain of salt. It’s your home; unless we’re really jerks, we respect that and we’re not going to insult. No blog-worthy insight coming from this question.
- Is this a lot different from home?
Umm…duh. Oh sorry, are we still being PC? Then, Oh yes! But it’s amazing here! Don’t push this one too hard. It will inevitably end with us having to insult your home or ours if asked to compare apples to very new, strange apples. We don’t want anyone coming out feeling annoyed.
- What do you think of the food?
Good work on getting to something more specific. Again, we will have to be nice. If not, shame on us. Food is the backbone of life. Even if you admit yours is weird, politeness should keep us from agreeing. However, this does open up the possibility of mutually amusing anecdotal stories. Well the first time I used chopsticks… [insert day time talk show level hilarity]. Not a bad ice breaker.
- Do you miss home?
Yes, and I don’t want to talk about – OR – No and I really don’t want to talk about it. Steer clear of this one.
- How long are you here for?
Nope, doesn’t work. I live here now. I didn’t ask you that. Accept me as a neighbo(u)r not an out-staying-their welcome guest. Sure, ask me when I arrived. But the unspoken other book end to this question series is that I may never leave. So get used to me.
- How old are you?
Only in Vietnam. I understand now that this is a necessary question because in Vietnamese you address others in relation to their age. However, if your culture requires a similarly specific type question be sensitive if it takes us aback at first. Maybe even explain why you’re asking. Yes, it’s our job to adapt to your culture, but take pity on us new arrivals. Everything’s weird.
- How much do you weigh/ do you make?
Again, possibly only in Vietnam. Cultural differences be danged! These are just being nosey. Don’t be nosey. We are not exotic race horse whose teeth need examining. Treat us that way and we will not want to like you.
- Can we have coffee to talk English?
Thank you for liking me. Thank you for wanting to get to know me. Please at least pretend it’s because of my personality and not for the skills I can teach you or cool points you might earn for posting Facebook pictures of you with a real live FOREIGNER! Calm down there, pal.
As the new kids in town, it is up to us to adjust. But ultimately immigrants are just the new people down the street who would love a welcome plate of cookies. We want to meet you, not to have to prove ourselves. So, thank you in advance for letting us be your neighbor(u)rs.