The whole question came when an Arab colleague wondered by my desk on Friday and decided to check out my blackberry! So without too much introduction he picks it up and starts flipping through the various menu options until he gets to my inbox! Now he must have realised by my slightly stressed tone that I was a bit annoyed but did that stop him at any point? No! And he handed me back my phone with a sly note that he hasn’t seen anything!
Now how do I know that no English colleague would ever do this in a million years? Well maybe because one of my closest friends at work, who admired my previous XDA-Exec and was planning to buy one has actually asked me out for dinner in order that I show his the ins and outs of the device at my leisure and during the whole time never went from one feature to the other without asking for my permission first? Maybe because my boss once noticed my phone flashing with a new e-mail has turned it face down so not to allow anyone including himself to even glance at it!
During my time working in this country I have come across a mix of Arab and non Arab workers. The pattern that I noticed every time, with all the people that I have worked with is the respect that I get from all except my “Arabic speaking group”! With me being one of the few Arabic woman working in this environment, it was staggering, to outsiders as well as to me, to see the patronising behaviour towards me and towards any Arabic female arround. the reaction was the same whether it was the one who was raised in this country since he was a child or the one who is here for a short time. Nationality differences among that group accounted for one exception; Algerians were the most civilized by miles while the rest were unbelievably … what’s the word! Arab!
I was talking to another friend and when I told him, I prefer to work with British and he was astonished with my note. I realised after saying that that I was more “racist” than the majority of the people I work with but maybe my judgment is clouded by my personal experience.
Maybe this is a horrible view that I’m adopting, maybe it is not the same for other places and with other people, maybe I irritate them with my freedom and they consider me as someone who has sold out her origins to merge into the British society. And to be honest, the majority of my friends here are British; I enjoy the fact that I can chose how close or how far I want to be with people without a long winded explanation of why I want that. I enjoy the freedom of expressing my thoughts and ideas without judgment of other or society. I don’t have to conform to be part of the group, I go out with my colleagues after work for a quick drink down the pub but they all know that I get high on my tomato juice and after the first time they offered out of courtesy they don’t need to ask or insist anymore. I can talk to my Brazilian friend for hours about everything and anything and so can she without worrying about how she’ll look at me the following days.
A lot of people think that to live in a foreign country and keep your identity you have to keep your society within you! I read a post some time ago objecting to the racism of the locals in that country, well why do all Arabs, and sorry to generalise and please jump in and tell me not all are like that, think that the whole world has to accept them as they are? Why do we not tolerate other people’s view and expect them to tolerate ours?
British people are considered one of the least accepting among other nations yet
And maybe that is why my Arabic “friends” feel the urge to prove their role as guardians of the weaker less capable female countrywoman. They still carry their society within them; they still see that I disgrace them when I go with the guys for a drink or travel on my own to another city to attend an English league football match! They probably shake their heads and think with a sorry expression how my parents are allowing me so much freedom or maybe they worry that I’m too much of a rebel and can undermine their traditional protective role that they’re so used to.
The funny part in all of this is that I never used to feel that while I was working back home! It’s as if you somehow get used to the notion that you will be treated differently because you’re from the gentler sex, and the shook only kicks in when you’re here being expected to put as much as anyone else, and using the “I’m to gentle to do this” is the worst career move you can ever do! I sometimes worry how to readjust when I return to
Tell me, have I lost my identity because I feel like this? Have I sold out to this new country that I’m living in now? I don’t know and I’m not sure that there is one right answer for this. Whether there is a right answer to begin with or is it something each one us wonderers who live in two world, love two world and belong to two world has to figure out on our own!