Birds of a Feather

Why is it that when we go and live in a foreign country, we are tempted to feel superior to the natives? Let’s face it – it happens even to the best of us.

If we go and live in a rich and highly developed country, we criticize its citizens as being petty, stubborn, narrow-minded people who cannot see beyond their own horizon. Their government is boring, their ideas strange, and the laws and regulations too rigid. They do not even have their own language and their dialect that they speak is but a gutteral, gurgling sound.

The women are put down as being unattractive, bound forever to their kitchen and children who are spoiled rotten because they have more money to burn than those of the other less “developed” and “poorer” nations. While the women are being derided, the men are considered notorious for their non-existent humor. Instead of praising the country for setting a role model to the world of behaving in a civilized manner and for their almost crime free society, we ridicule them as being a police-run state where everybody is watching everybody else behind the cleanly washed and crisply pressed white curtains.

If our work takes us to a country that has become rich because of its valuable and indispensable natural resources, we look down upon their citizens for lacking in culture. In our opinion they have nothing but money. Indeed, they should be confined to a make shift tent and not live in a luxurious villa with hundreds of servants to see to their daily needs. Their means of transport should not be a Cadillac but a camel.

Surely they do not deserve all these things for it is we who have helped them acquire their wealth and prosperity. Our professors have taught them business administration and finance. And it is we who do all the work for them.

What humiliation it is having these brown skin people as our employers – having them tell us what to do. Wasn’t this country, once upon a time, ruled and governed by some of us? Had it not been for our presence, their fame and fortune would not have grown and multiplied. Ha!

If we happen to go and live in a so-called less “developed” and “poorer” country than our own, we even feel smug as we say, “Oh, we don’t eat that stuff you know. It’s sooo yucky.” Have you never heard a remark like, “But in my country, we don’t do it like that. We do it like this.” In other words, whatever the locals have been doing for generations, from time immemorial is totally wrong. There is no other way than ours. Our way is always right because it is the best. After all, have we not come from a more civilized country to help these poor people see their way? We are the heroes who have come to rescue them from their misery and poverty. We want to educate them and make them rich and prosperous. Who’s talking about altruism? The word does not exist in our vocabulary.

If you ask people why they go abroad, the answer you get will be varied, ranging from vacations to relocation. When we set out on a journey, we all have good intentions like wanting to broaden our minds, to gain experience, to get to know other people’s languages and cultures. Last but not least, we are eager for an adventure and to discover something exciting and different from our own.

But once we have been a little while in the country we have come to work and live in, our enthusiasm begins to wane. After we have seen practically everything there is to see, boredom begins to set in. The lights and sounds that we once found exciting become a nuisance. The natives of the land are no longer charming and attractive but stupid and uncouth. The throngs of people who crowd around us while we’re doing such simple chores as shopping begin to annoy us. The shoving and pushing in the streets put us to the limit of our endurance. We then start asking ourselves, “What am I doing here in the land of the heathens?”

We yearn for the familiarity of home and language and we’re homesick. Some recognize the syndrome and act accordingly, while others may become victims to depression and alcoholism. To cope with the situation, most of us will seek contact with people of our homeland, who share our common language and culture. We are no longer interested to mix with other races.

At best we may share a few words with them in passing and no more. By so doing, we are defeating our original purpose of going abroad to learn. We are behaving exactly like the proverbial “Birds of a feather” flocking together.