I’m always asked about where I’m from.
Back in Dubai it happened a lot because it’s what everybody asks you when you first meet them, along with “how long have you been here?” and “do you like living here?”, because almost everybody is an expat, and practically nobody wants to live there forever.
And since I’ve been living in the UK, I’ve been asked over 5 times now in only 4 months, and before I’m even given a chance to answer, they start guessing. Spanish? No, no estoy Español! Italian then! No. And then I interrupt their guessing and say Lebanon, because I can play the guessing game for a very long time: Canadian, Portuguese, French, Greek, Argentinian! And you’d be surprised to know people never guess Lebanon, and some have never heard of it, because when they ask me “Where is that?” I’m not sure if I should feel offended or… exotic! I chose exotic! I’m rare!
When you grow up in Lebanon, you learn 3 languages, Arabic is your first and French and English are your second and third depending on your school. A lot also chose to learn more languages. The best secret about this is that we understand you when you least expect it.
During our last vacation, I heard people talk about me and my family, in French, not in a million years did they expect me to turn to them and answer them in their language! One woman was mocking me for wiping the table and the high chair at a restaurant before putting my, then 18 months old MM, down for a meal (If you’ve been to Ubud in Bali you’ll understand my “hygiene” concern). The other incident involved a teenager and his dad playing water polo in the hotel’s exotic pool, when the teenager looked at MM and had the impulse to tell his dad: “Oh look, she has varicella”, because poor MM was bitten way too many times the night before, damn you mosquitos… You should have seen their faces!
Back in Dubai where almost everyone you meet is an expat, you relate and you have so much in common that everything feels familiar and you make friends very easily, but here, and because the majority are British, you feel like an expat, like an alien.
I know I won’t feel like an alien forever, it will get easier, I will become more familiar with everything. I’m also wondering now if an alien was reading this, what would it think?
Have I mentioned that I don’t believe in aliens.