Newcomer

From a book I’m currently reading:

“Initially the community may welcome us warmly – even overwhelmingly. But in every culture the newcomer is still exactly that – and newcomers by definition don’t fit in yet. Our basic position in the new community is one of statuslessness. We carry knowledge from past experiences – often including special knowledge of people, places and proceses – but none of that knowledge has use in this new place. No one knows about our history, abilities, talents, normal responses, accomplishments, or areas of expertise. Sometimes it seems they don’t care. Soon we question whether our achievements in the previous setting were as significant as we thought. […] Even with an initial warm welcome, we may discover it’s not as easy as we thought it would be to make close friends. Circles of relationships among our new acquaintances are already well defined, and most people aren’t looking to fill a vacant spot in such a circle.”

More here.

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5 thoughts on “Newcomer

  1. rasman1978 April 14, 2008 / 11:49 am

    I lived in my birth country for my first 20 years, and I can definitely relate to a lot of that TCK information. Thanks for bringing this topic to my attention.

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  2. V-Grrrl April 16, 2008 / 2:57 am

    My husband was born in the Congo to Belgian parents, lost his dad in the unrest after the first Congolese revolution, and then had his Belgian mother re-marry an American who worked for the U.S. State Department. He subsequently lived in Greece, Algeria, and Turkey before coming to live in the U.S. as a teenager.

    He attended French schools, American schools, British schools, Catholic schools as a child. Eventually his parents sent him to a military boarding school as a teen.

    When his family came to live in America, it fell apart. Big problems internally and externally. While he and his siblings are very close in age, they have never been close emotionally or as a family (there’s only a year between each of the first three kids, then four years later, the last child was born). It’s hard to believe they were raised together.

    When I lived in Belgium, my children attended school with American military families. The thing that amazed me the most about those families, some of which has been in Belgium for five or more years, was how insulated they were. They socialized exclusively with each other, they meticulously duplicated American sports leagues, traditions, and activities, shopped from military commissaries and exchanges (even if they had to drive to Germany to do it), and lived in a bubble. It was weird to me to observe this and it seemed suffocating.

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  3. simonlitton April 16, 2008 / 8:13 am

    While I can perfectly understand missing your home culture and wanting to keep in touch with it – especially if you’re a trailing spouse or child and it wasn’t necessarily your idea to move – I find it bizarre that someone can want to have nothing whatsoever to do with the country in which they find themselves. Expats in Brussels do it too; watching only the BBC, reading only British papers and shopping only at Stonemanor, as if in deep denial about the fact that they’re not living in Kent any more.

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  4. rasman1978 April 16, 2008 / 8:46 am

    Non-integration is what causes most immigration fears, I think. When Pakistani expats take over a neighborhood and turn it into a little pocket of their own country, it’s somehow not as cute as when the Chinese do it. It’s a natural human tendency to stay with the people that are perceived to be most like you. With a sufficient number of your own compatriots around, it’s really hard to venture away into the sea surrounding your island.

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  5. simonlitton April 16, 2008 / 9:02 am

    “people that are perceived to be most like you” – that “perceived” is the problem. Once you get over the fact that people in your host country talk funny and eat weird food, you often find that you have as much in common with them, if not more, than with the average person from your home culture.
    As for Chinese pockets being cute, I’d take Brick Lane over Chinatown any day.

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