|Burgers and the Trump Tower, of course.|
It's been a year since we moved to the US! We had lunch with Ben's parents today and we all agreed that time just flew by. It's still so clear in my memory: we all had lunch on our way from the airport, it felt just like today, it was very sunny and a bit breezy, and I had huckleberry lemonade because it's what you're supposed to get in North Idaho.
|Our first Idaho lunch on the way from the airport.|
It's no news to anyone who knows us or is familiar with the blog that we love it here. We're very lucky to live in such gorgeous place with Ben's family in town (and they are the best in-laws I could ever hope for!), good jobs, little Sonya bunny, a nice apartment, and lots of fun activities in the area. The main downside (and from the very first moment we decided to move we knew it'd be the toughest thing) is how far my family is and how much I miss being around them. I'll just stop with this thought right here before my eyes get so wet that I can't see the screen.
I decided that since I don't need to really discuss how cool it is here or convince anyone that we've been enjoying the American life so far (and all the Reese's peanut butter cups -- yes, still obsessed with those!), I'd finally write about this one thing that kind of bothers me... When people bring up Russia wherever I go. There are dozens of different scenarios but generally it goes like this: I say "Thank you, you have a good day, too" (as I'm buying something at a store and getting ready to leave) and the person gets very excited and says "Where are you from?" "Russia," I respond. "I knew it! My friend in Seattle had a friend from Russia!"
It's generally absolutely inoffensive, sometimes I get a good laugh at what people say to me after the "I knew it" part, but eventually, after a year, it just gets old. I wanted to write this post to finally get it all out of my mind and maybe change my perspective on it, but also as an encouraging note for people in the same situation everywhere around the world. I want to remind myself and everyone living somewhere other than their country of origin that it's nothing personal, it happens to "foreigners" in every country, just because, you know, people are curious and they like to talk.
I really don't like when people talk about my accent. The thing is, it's not a strong accent! I've been speaking English for a long time, and I lived in the US for nearly 9 months before moving more permanently last summer, and I do speak English well. Of course, I do make some mistakes and I have slight accent, but trust me, I'm working on it! And it really discourages me when I talk to someone for a long time and then they suddenly get excited and say: "Where are you from?" - "Russia" - "Oh, I knew it! (no, you didn't!) You have such a cute accent! Say something else with your accent! Aw, so cute!" Yes, lady at the insurance company, I'm looking at you! Last time I had to go to their office, she saw me entering the door and yelled: "Aw, the Russian girl with the accent! Say something!" Like seriously? This actually makes me feel like an exotic zoo bird that is meant to entertain this lady with my cute accent.
Let me clarify something: as a traveler or tourist in a foreign country, you might be asked where you are from and people might say you have a cute accent as well, but you usually have in mind the eventual end of your trip and return to your home. Which is probably why I never minded people asking or taking interest in me as a foreigner before. When I meet people in a hostel or somewhere traveling, I ask them about their home country, too. And of course I don't mind sharing the fact that I'm from Russia with friends, or answering honest questions about Russia or anything else that comes as a natural course of conversation. As an expat, though, I don't like to have my "foreignness" highlighted, and I'm actually scared of being a "forever foreigner" in my new country. Whenever someone asks "Where are you from?" I feel that I am an alien here and don’t belong, while actually I am trying to call the US my home. It's not the same to have a personal conversation with somebody about myself as a person who happens to be Russian as it is for someone to ask "Where are you from?" and then follow it with a long stream of fun facts, stereotypes, news items, etc., etc.
I guess as annoying as it sometimes is, the "Where are you from?" question from the strangers is still better than some of the things that people who I know say -- "Oh, Katie, last weekend I went here-and-there and I met this 45-year old stay-at-home mom of 5 who lives on a farm with her husband who is a hunter. She is from Russia! You should definitely meet, I even got you her phone number, call her!" I can't even tell you how many times I heard various versions of this offer for the last year. And it doesn't matter that I never said I'm looking for Russian people to be friends with, or I don't have friends, or even the fact that this brief description points out that we have absolutely nothing in common with this person from Russia except that she/he/they are from Russia! And I was born in Ukraine, after all!
Ben and I were joking today that I need to print big infographics with "Fun facts about Russia" and "Did you know? Russia edition" and pin them to the wall around my desk at work. I really like my co-workers, but when I hear: "Oh, Katie, did you hear.. did you know..." and then some fact or person or event from the news about Russia, it upsets me. I understand, they don't mean anything bad, it's just me being fed up with hearing it so often everywhere like everyone feels like they need to connect to me on the fact that I flew in here from Russia.
Did I mention people at parties/barbecues/bars? There was this guy who we met at a couchsurfing meeting last fall, and then recently he came to a bbq at our mutual friend's: 10 of us were sitting around a table when he enters: "Oh, hi Sarah, long time no see, how are you? Hi, Ben, haven't seen you since fall! Oh, and you.. let's see... Masha? No? OK, Natasha? Olga?" - and he just keeps dropping all the possible names he heard were Russian. You don't remember my name, it's OK, just let me tell you I'm Katie. Don't, oh, don't just be like "I know you're Russian, that's the only thing I bothered to remember about you, so I'll just proudly pronounce all the Russian names I know since I'm so culturally educated and worldly." Very rude, sir.
There is no right or wrong on this topic (except for you, mister cultural fail), I can talk about it a lot since we live in a small town in North Idaho and foreigners are just not very common here. I just feel like it's a part of my first-whole-year-in-another-country experience, and I wanted to write down what I feel and think now, so I can compare it to the situation in a year or five. And as I mentioned in the beginning, it doesn't make us any less happy or excited about being here and I'm thankful for this fun last year of my life.
|One year later family lunch and a nice umbrella stick in the middle.|