Tuesday 15 March 2011

Where is the Algerian Niff

A friend of mine remarked, “You have a lot of Algerian friends haven’t you?”
Stunned by this statement I wondered: is there something wrong with having friends from your own country?
She argues it is essential for integration to immerse oneself in the culture of the host country in order to grasp the true meaning of the local culture, traditions and mindset, improve the language and feel at home.
I personally have finished my integration phase in early 2004 if not earlier, thereafter I started meeting fellow Algerians at work or through other friends or social networking circles and for me that is not trying to “stick to my own” but a rich and valuable addition to the array of nationalities in my friends list.

Why is this new trend I am noticing, knowing or hanging out with fellow Algerians is considered “ghettoism” or self inflicted segregation. Not all Algerians in the UK hang out in Finsbury park, they don’t all have 3 credit cards with 3 different names, 3 passports with 3 different colours stacked under the mattress, an Algerian passport that expired in 1999 and stories for the grandchildren about crossing 2 seas on a barge, evidently, or there will be no Algerians reading this blog.

“I want to end up with an Algerian, I even have plans to move back to Algeria
This was considered the statement of the year, male friends understand and are probably relieved that I want one of theirs or maybe they’re indifferent, girlfriends with few exceptions are astounded and do not understand why I want to move back to Algeria and even less why I want to end up with an Algerian, as though my choice was inferior  and  will interfere with our friendship, will make me beneath them somehow because they choose a Lebanese or Palestinian because it’s the new trend, I feel our friendship questioned because of my poor choice and low standards.

“Why are you talking in Arabic, we only speak in French” says my friends sister who’s visiting from Algeria, I say visiting but I mean taking up residency although a 4 months visit is relatively short for Algerians, the average visit is between 6 to 12 months.  After a surprised exchanged look with my friend, didn’t know what to say, a few stunned silent seconds later I muttered “we miss speaking in Arabic I guess” and French has lost its appeal with us, apart from the few words that we just cannot find synonyms for in Arabic, like “ca va” and such..  why should I speak in French to my fellow Algerians in England? I would rather speak in English. English is more neutral a language for Algerians here in the UK, speaking French makes people uncomfortable, not all Algerians master the French language and this is quite a complex ridden area as it brings back into the equation the correlation between the social status and the use of the French language.

“I feel am working for an Arab bank” my French colleague said, listening to my phone conversation in Arabic. If I was speaking in Spanish would he have had the feeling of working for a Spanish bank? highly unlikely. If I speak in Arabic, French colleagues look at me as though I infringed a law, an unspoken law, my French-Algerian colleagues laugh awkwardly and prompt me to whisper as though we’re plotting something against the universe.
Why such discomfiture around Arabic? Is it due to the fact it is the language of the Quran? And thus the language of Islamist Terrorists? We all already know that anybody reading in Arabic on the train is considered suspect, God forbid you write in Arabic, that is clearly witchcraft.

The stigma attached to the Arabic language is such that it deters people from using it in public. What's next?
This islamophobia, arabophibia or xenophobia, is pushing people to deny or hide their origins, religions and culture, so in effect it hinders integration.

I am Algerian, Muslim and I speak Arabic, it also happens that I speak French and English, I might change continents, countries and passports but I will never change who I am. A true Algerian and proud of it.

 Algerian Niff – niff is arabic for nose, the Algerian niff implies the Algerian pride


  1. starting about 23 seconds ago, i like you a little bit more ;).

  2. Thank you Tonton DW, I guess you agree :)

  3. i think it takes stronger resolve to stand by your principles and beliefs e.t.c especially in a non-native multicultural environment.

    it's an admirable quality, one that i haven't seen very often amongst fellow peers. am proud of you :p

  4. Thank you tonton ;)
    Are you proud of your identity and heritage? do you defend it? examples?

  5. i am but i guess my case is slightly different. i grew up in a true multicultural environment so in a way i have been exposed and prepared although living abroad with complete freedom is a different matter.
    my identity has more to do with my upbringing rather than regional values in a way.
    e.g. i don't drink and won't eat non-halal food. i am lucky to be surrounded by good people (friends from different cultures/walks of life) who respect my choices. that being said, i don't impose my choice on a group of people just because it suits me. i eat out and just choose something vegetarian or some seafood to get on with it.
    during ramadan, i fast and get on with it sans étalage, not that am super religious/pious but i hold on to what i can :).

  6. Are you saying that people that chose to marry non- algerians are not true algerians?
    How about their children? very intrested in your view on this!

  7. No where in the above blog did I say that. I simply state my choice and the criticism I get for it. How can you not be a true Algerian simply by marrying a non-Algerian? That’s not very logical. You are who you chose to be.

    I cannot comment on the children of mixed marriages, whether they are Algerian or not depends on a number of factors, including the nationality or the non-Algerian parent and his/her religion, culture and also on Geography sometimes.

  8. Tu cartonne demoiselle :) I like yr Niff ^^

    I hope Inchalah I'll get married Muslim girl .(coz in those days is not easy to find Muslim girls)

    DzLondon .

  9. Merci DzLondon. Inchallah you'll find someone to love and be happy with.

  10. hey me too am looking for someone nice lol - where are all the nice girls :p?

  11. Dz-Chick, Im so proud of you girl, you stand your ground and I have lots of respect for you, few Algerians girls will do that nowadays; the 4 months visit made me laugh out loud, still dont get this concept of staying in relative house for more than one week!!! luckily for me I stopped these kind of "d'ssara" from my family and friends and the friends of the friends from early stages of my relocation to London.

    I would be sad if you move back to Algeria as we wont read all these great blogs, remember internet connection over there is still bad, unless you have been offered a fantastic job with Ouyahya and Benachenhou!!

    let me know if I can ship some salmon and broccoli to you?

    Naima -

  12. Naima, you made me laugh with the broccoli and salmon - and that would be a yes please if I move back. But dont worry about the blog, it shall continue from Alger or wherever I would be.

    I don’t even have the internet at home would you believe, I am a blogger with no internet, evenings and weekends I blog through my blackberry.

  13. blackberry blogging - explains a few things :p

  14. Hi DZ-Chick,
    I personally have no problem whatsoever with Algerian women getting married to European men or with any other nationality, however, and as you stated, when an Algerian woman wants to get married with an Algerian man it feels like she's aiming low and her 'choice is inferior' to the ones who got married to English guys etc...There is no race better than other and every country has its riff raffs as well as pure people, from this point of view I feel sad for those women who think that way, I am also happy to read your article, it makes feel ‘Eddeniya mezelet bkhir’
    The whole thing reminds of my ex, I was engage with a mixed race woman, her mother was European and her father was Algerian but considered himself and a unique Alg (an exception) and his wife thinks the same of him, they simply hated Algerians. When I visited them for the first time, they made feel that ALL Algerians are crup but me, for them I was an exception, but they had forgotten that my father was Alg, my mother was Alg and my grandparents were too, I said I am not an exception I am an Algerian.

  15. i somehow need to find ways to amuse myself at work; i think my commenting has peaked too early lol

  16. Loving it! The inferiority complex is so unnecessary. It's up there with the "one person can't change a country" mentality. Because, if you don't try, you'll never know!

  17. “I want to end up with an Algerian, I even have plans to move back to Algeria”

    Immigration is like marriage. Every now and then, one think of quitting (in the case of marriage, there are "milestones" or "crisis points" every 5 years or so). In both cases, some nostalgia is involved. We (wanna) think that it was better there or then, but is/was it really?

    The truth is you're not the same girl that left Algeria X years ago. And Algeria has changed meanwhile. In other terms, you're missing something that doesn't exist anymore. Unless we can go back in time?

    I've heard times and times people talking about "going back". Few even tried and came back after few months/years for many (good) reasons.

    Of course, I'm not disputing your right to go back, just giving my point of view on the subject.

    As for the rest, I'm surprised we're still having such trivial debate about halal/no halal, arabic/french/english/any other language, marrying a muslim or non muslim, Algerian or non Algerian, etc.

    We're in 2011 and everybody is entitled to live the life that he/she wants without having to justify anything to anybody. Point.

    JTHO from somebody that enjoy reading your blog... :)

  18. salam..
    Great post. I've never set foot outside Algeria and it has been my dream to 'see the world'. Hence why I enjoy reading your blog, because it gives an outsider's look from the inside.

  19. Thank you all for your valuable comments and for sharing stories.

    Allola - Glad to be of service :)

  20. I don't thing this is a matter of 'niff'; whether it is befriending Algerians, speaking in Arabic, or keeping your food habits, etc. Because in doing so your preserving your identity. Those little things are what make the core of who you are. And it's not like you have to choose either be Algerian or English, you can be yourself and still integrate in the host society.

  21. any ideas for next post?

  22. To Anonymous: It is a matter of Niff with regards to the story in a whole...Being fully integrated into the host culture AND despite all the comments, criticism I /we remain Algerian and preserve our identities, principles, religion and language.

    You’re reading too much into the word Niff as we know it traditionally, try to see the big picture and every sense of the word “niff = Algerian pride”

    Tonton dw: the plan is to aim for 1post a week, but I think you're getting greedy ...or bored!

    But yes I already have next weeks ;) ....patience is a virtue my friend.

  23. you're right, am a bit of both ... habeas corpus ... or it mea culpa? something like that anyway. nothing better than some random latin proverbe to big oneself up in the upstairs department.

    indeed, patience is a virtue, one that i haven't quite mastered yet, i just need some more time ... and patience to get there

  24. tonto dw you do have a job? not sure why i thought you were on the dole!!!
    DZ-Chick , I read a comment of someone who quoted that "you're not the same girl that left Algeria X years ago. And Algeria has changed meanwhile" I do agree with that as I always have the feeling that I am an alien each time I visit Algeria (hence very rarely), not sure if you will be able to cope with the whole "choc culturel" knowing that you will probably be limited in the variety of topics, discussions and whole new life back home?? I dont think I would be ever be ready to move back home as I have changed a lot and I'm not ready to use my mental "reverse gear" yet, but still have my Algeiran niff in certain things.....

    Naima -

  25. getting slagged left right and centre here - yes i get paid to do this

  26. Merci Dz-chick a toi ossi je te souhaite tout le bonheur Inchalah ^^

    Dzlondon -> Admin page Algerians in London .

  27. speaking of foreign languages and such, sometimes if am on the phone with friends/family i take on regional accents just for a laugh and check out people's reactions. you can see from the look on their faces what they must be thinking lol.

  28. i would like to get in touch with you... can you please e-mail me on hello@why-create.com

    Thank you

  29. hello everybody. I'm very proud to be Algerian and very very proud that I have come across your article. my best wishes.

  30. Great Post as usual!
    Being someone who has lived in Algeria..then abroad...then back to Algeria...but still chose to return abroad ...I think I do have some kind of 'outlook' on the whole going back home matter. If you believe you are ready (im my case I wasnt yet), and miss it, just do it. Algeria has changed true...but im sure so has London...yet you've clearly adapted. But of course...it will not be an easy ride!

    Now, I might just be naive, or my algerian Niff just hates it when someone criticizes my country in a certain way...just wanted to react to Naima's comment about 'Bad internet'connexion...I mean come on...that's just stereotyping.
    But what bothered me the most was the use of 'reverse geared'...Ok, TRUE, ways of thinking or doing things in Algeria can be outdated (or actually I'd rather use the term traditional..sometimes chaotic) but the word reverse?!! Because, even its definitely not my place to judge...it does sound to me that you feel 'superior' cause you live in London. Just saying...

  31. @Naima: he is right, I am not the same girl who left Algeria all those years ago and Algeria isn’t what the same place either, so I could be in for a shock, however, we're adaptable and knowing its your own country, you do make an effort and accept the limitations and try to make some changes too, and yes one person CAN make a difference.

    @ Tonton dw: they're thinking: bloody foreigner...or I wish I could speak another language.

    @Anonymous: Thank you very much

    @Yasmine: Thank you, I agree, I might go back and be swiftly on my way back to the UK within 3 months, but if I did go back, I intend to make it work, I am very stubborn and am sure with all the family support, things will just flourish and get better ….for ME.

  32. my god this is so true..i love your blog..just seen it..ya3tik saha..u r like speaking my mind....very well done to you..keep it up..they are algerians with you..like rass khchin and everything but as soon as they meet european or a british they start to be polite (based on a horrible experience, i will tell it when i finish your some of ur posts)..love from me and i pray for ur happiness with someone decent..

  33. kima ykolo...nifak zjaj ila tkasar rahet ur price...I am so proud of being Algerian, Muslim and I speak ARABIC...(proud of u too)

  34. salamou allah_i 3alaikoum
    Baraka allaho fik ya DZ-Chick you gathered all the family in your blogs.
    To be so honest and even more transparent i am here through a Google search guess what "any girl wants an Algerian?" and i felt obliged to click I'm feeling lucky instead of search but i didn't :)
    Now I'm feeling really lucky without the need of that button.
    My first post on Blogger was on another Blog of yours, which led me here.
    Diversity of comments made me forget who was talking about Niff "I prefer to say Naif" and coming back to his mother country, and I'll say sorry sir you can get one out of two, returning back to Jazaïr el3izza wa elkarama or keep your nose in it's place and stay where you are . We have already plenty of people sticking their noses everywhere :), oh I've got a trick for you, you just come and leave your nose in a bank and u can get a brand new detachable nose tout options x) here because here you can not go everywhere with your nose attached "police-stations, gendarmeries, ...and the court of course" for only one reason, because all the people in there produce Self-sufficient mucus for the government and we don't need to export such valuable things to abroad *d*.
    Would you please excuse my Sense of humor but as we say here "hamm ydha7ak & hamm ybakki" i.e "A trouble makes you laugh another makes you cry"
    So it's up to you to chose go back NoseLess where you heart is stuck or stay where your nose is stuck, I think I'm so talented in making things look funny.
    Just to inform you since your are seeing another angle of the moon, the last Naif caught wandering in the Algerian Territory was on 5 July 1962 and since then we are living in peeeeeeeeeeace wa al7amdou lillah.
    God help us to keep our noses clean oops up, so we can't know where we step.
    You can make a song out of that last one hihi since I'm no so good in poetry nor in English (feel free everybody).
    God Bless You All, In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful "but help ye one another unto righteousness and pious duty. Help not one another unto sin and transgression, but keep your duty to Allah. Lo! Allah is severe in punishment"

    Thank you all.

  35. I am ur fellow from this old beautiful city we call Algiers :)
    u know i really feel the same when i see people hiding their true selves even here, this new generation is a mess! well sorry if u got a little sis ^^
    i am really proud of u, :) as a fellow and as a brother
    may allah guard u

  36. dz chick
    I am Algerian, Muslim and I speak Arabic, it also happens that I speak French and English, I might change continents, countries and passports but I will never change who I am. A true Algerian and proud of it.

    ALLAH ALLAH 3la bent lbled, i didnt see u but i have a feeling that raki ki lghzzala. :)

  37. @ Soltan: you changed your mind about me now I guess!
    See you were too quick to judge!

  38. dz chick

    nah i wasn't too quick to judge, even u said that when it comes to Algeria we react fast and violent sometimes lol. :P
    chicko: do u have a group in FB?

  39. Soltan, I have a Twitter I never even update but I think a FB page is a bit much! no?

  40. dear chickoo

    am a facebooker not a twitter person, i think its a good idea if u open a group in there, u will find alot of ppl wanting to read ur blogs. it took almost 4hrs to finish reading all ur blogs but it worth it, i think i learned few things from them. so matbkhliach bmore. lol, am waiting for ur group invitation in FB. :)

  41. Somebody else mentined I should have a FB page! I just don't see it! it's a bit of self promotion thing isn't it! I think I would draw the line at a blog. :) sorry to dissapoint you but that means you'll keep reading me and I will keeping writing :)

  42. A true Algerian and proud of it.

    Let me tell you, ...from what you wrote in this post...well you are!

    Ya3tik essaha bent bladi, Rejla ta3 essah!

  43. Merci dz-cheikh, rajla ta3 essah ;)

  44. نساء واقفون


  45. نساء واقفات

    Ya S....Nissa'a Waqifate....el i3rab you totally forgot it!

  46. Dz-Cheikg - Actually I think S meant it ironically!

  47. Sa7a 3idkoum
    Ghafara alah'ou lil'jamee3
    Bonne fête,happy 3eed

  48. brinkka2011 says: Ive been meaning to read this and just never received a chance. Its an issue that Im really interested in, I just started reading and Im glad I did. Youre a good blogger, 1 of the best that Ive seen. This blog absolutely has some data on subject that I just wasnt aware of. Thanks for bringing this stuff to light.

  49. Ha ha DZ-Chick, the Algerian niff is almost unparalleled..... this post was great as per usual nonetheless one feels obliged to touch on a few points.

    Can one be a proud Algerian and yet be unable to speak Arabic, has never been back home or never got involved with an Algerian man???

    Well I sometimes ponder on the matter although reflection is not necessary. I have always been proud to be Algerian although not overtaken by an over-zealous pride that borders on feelings of superiority.
    Yet again I don't speak Arabic as I grew up with a mother that spoke French most of the time.
    I could have made an effort to learn it later on in life but one wasn't convinced by the beauty of the language, very shallow perspective which I deeply regret now.

    Are Islam and the Algerian identity intricately tie? I am not a practicing Muslim, does that make me less Algerian? Potentially, as islam is part of our culture.

    I do not own an Algerian passport as I have never had the urge or necessity to do so as it doesn't define who I am. Again I have never felt the urge of visiting my home country until very recently. My lack of enthusiasm to attempt to discover my roots by travelling to la mere patrie is atrributed to feedback I got from some of siblings or even my beloved aunt who have travelled to Morocco and Tunisia and found those countries far more welcoming that our own. I guess I will have to find out for myself although I do not question their judgement, I will have to make my own.

    I have met many Algerian men from back home who pretended to be from one of the Mediterranean countries of Europe as they were unaware of my ethnicity. The irony is that they did speak fluently Arabic, were Muslims, claimed later on to have the Algerian niff and yet again they denied who they were to impress a woman.

    I don't speak Arabic, I have never dated a brother, I don't practice our religion but I have never ever claimed to be anything but Algerian (tell a lie, I did ONCE in Finsbury Park when a group of Harragas were after me, assumed I was Brazilian, I didn't interact with them in fear they would detect a slight French accent and confirmed in Spanish, one should let them know Brazilians speak Portuguese)

    Ultimately they might be more Algerians than I am but I have always proudly claimed my heritage.
    Still I am conscious of my deficiencies in cultural identity and do envy yours DZ-Chick. I am proud that you are a proud Algerian.

  50.  Recognising ones own shortages, qualities, deficiencies or whatever you want to call them, makes for a strong person and a conscious one at least. I don’t think speaking Arabic or practising Islam is the key elements in feeling Algerian. It is about belonging to a certain nation through your own references that make you relate to that culture or nation, be it through the land, the language, the religion, the family, tradition or even just the looks. So please don’t worry about lacking in Algerianity my deer MP, you are who are. Nobody can convince you otherwise or take it away from you because you are different.
    Being proud of being Algerian for me relates again to the above references I mentioned, but mostly to my family, to the land and the place that made me what I am today. What’s there not to like if I turned out ok and made my parents and friends proud, then I have every reason to be proud of.

  51. Thank you very much for your kind words DZ-Banksy.

    One of my favourite quotes is: 'There is nothing to prove and nothing to protect, I am who I am and that's enough' Richard Rohr
    I live by this motto ;-)

  52. I just want to refer to your post, not to the comments - I didn't read them.
    Well done Dz-Chick! Always be proud of were you are coming from and who you are.
    I met in the past few Algerians, who when asked 'where u from' - answer straight back - France. Liars!!
    But I also met very proud (and these I respect!) who say openly and very straightforwardly 'I'm from Algeria'. I like that!


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