Wednesday, 4 April 2012

The Others

A few years ago, when I was going about my life as the only Algerian girl in London, when it was rare to meet a fellow Algerian in the street, in the park or at the supermarket, I believed I was the only one here, whatever I would or would not do, I would be the first, PHD in Maths and further maths or a Masters in Superhero science or a BA in Mickey mouse history wouldn’t matter, with no home-biased competition, I would be the first and therefore I was on top, so suddenly the drive to compete or be the best was less prevalent. I was already IT.

To my family I was the hero, there was nothing I couldn’t do, they have total and utter trust and pride in me, and I ate it right up.

Then a few more years later, when I woke up form my glory daze (pun intended), and stumbled across a network of Algerians living in London, graduates, professionals, highly educated, smart and interesting people…I was pleasantly surprised and shocked at the same time, I am not the only one?
I thought I held the National flag here!

A sudden panic takes over you and the realisation that whatever you have achieved, someone else did it better and all the years of delusional eminence come crushing down on your average sized brain and your mediocrity rushes up to the surface.

I had to investigate these intruders and find out in what parallel worlds we have all been living all these years, and discovered a brilliant albeit not a very large network of young Algerian professionals, graduates, researchers and artists etc… who have been living in the same world-apart dream, probably in the studies phase, integration phase or the wow phase AKA the tmakhli3 phase, a lot of these individuals were obviously busy building the foundations for their new lives or careers, most of whom never crossed path, to their/our knowledge at least, or perhaps they crossed paths but refrained from direct interaction due to the famous Algerian sense of mutual suspicion and judgment.

You: Who goes there?
The Others: Euuuu a fellow Algerian Academic
You: That cannot be, I am the only Algerian Academic here. Imposter.
The Others: Yeah and I am Stephen Hawking
You: hmmmmm

Now if we attempt to analyse the cause of this, we can argue the following:
Algeria is relatively underrepresented in the UK and the host population is generally ignorant about the Algerian culture, geography or demographics, which makes the rapport ambiguous as they (Algerians) remain somewhat of an unknown entity with no known cultural references as is the case of the Italians with Pasta, the Egyptians with the Pharaohs or even the Olive Oil which is now linked to most Mediterranean cultures except that of Algeria. Instead Algerians feel stigmatised with Terrorism which they feel angry about since they were the victims and not the perpetrators.
They feel they have to fight for their culture and presence in the host country, always arguing what is Moroccan and what is Algerian, what is N. African and what is Middle Eastern, Berber or Arab. They may feel belittled and insignificant in the face of a world that does not seem to acknowledge their importance, their contributions or their talents, they certainly may feel frustrated about their culture being highjacked and unrecognised, which pushes them to over-achieve, compete and perform to prove they are worthy, capable and developed young people who are no different to any of their counterparts out there.

In the process of becoming Algeria’s super heroes, Algerians scrutinise each other and remain very suspicious of each other, they generally hold a low and quite negative opinion of their compatriots, they blame each other for the bad reputation Algerians have acquired on the international scene, evidence of this is clear when certain Algerians tend to stay away from the community if any and from anything Algerian generally, when abroad, which makes forming a community more difficult or at least a lengthy process.

Algerians in the UK remain a smaller group compared to other more established and cohesive ethnic groups, to which they may belong or feel they belong. This ambiguity about not belonging to the Arab world or to the African world, has been discussed in very few researches, Dr. Caroline Nagel (a Researcher and author from the University of S. Carolina) has highlighted the effects of belonging to the ‘Other Other’ category in the UK census as “a feeling of marginalisation in the UK discourse on the politics of race” but we should stop here and not divert too much from the topic.

Having said that, in the last few years, and this has probably not been documented yet, we notice that few associations have sprouted here and there, mostly with hidden agendas and armed with the old FLN mentality, these as you might have guessed have been created by the over 50’s and have yet to have any real affect on the community or creation of;

What is really interesting is how the Young Algerian Elite group that flourished and stabilised after years of studies and research, are now in stable and permanent professions and lives, have taken the initiative to create a cohesive community and rapport that is built on mutual understanding, trust, empathy, music, literature, academia, culture, integration and the odd political focus.

Such associations are to name a few: The Algerian Solidarity Campaign who despite their very political outlook and mission, remain a prominent community reference for the young Algerian professionals in London who gather at every event and mingle, talk of politics, culture, Music and the mother country.

The first Algerian radio in the UK, or The Caravan of Andalusi Music association etc, is another example of these newly created community groups that serve a purpose for inclusion and cohesion, to give the Algerian community in the UK a foundation and a platform for communication and strengthening their relations, and to raise awareness amongst the host nation about Algeria and the Algerians, and of course so we all stop thinking we’re the king or queen of everything, other people have done it before you and realise that other Algerians have also studied in renowned universities and obtained PHDs, speak English as well as you and are all under 40 or thereabouts. We’re all flying the flag and as it turns out it is you who are the others.

Dz-Chick…humbled by her fellow Algerians

Links to read:
A very interesting piece of research to read:


  1. Remember, you’re unique...just like everyone else..

    But how many chicks there are with PhD in Maths, possessing the same writing talent and pertinent gift of social perception..only a CarryBradshawian blogger like you. Surely, not many.

    And that is why there is no Other but Cheikha Dz aka Chick Dz

  2. Cheers Here and There
    I am flying the flag all alone .... You're all imposters who can't even write English, the google translate server is down in California!

  3. On the other hand ... (there's always the other..) do Algerians people who do bad stuff (commit crimes etcc) ever think the following:

    "I'm surely NOT the only one"

  4. yeah the ever annoying "one person cannot make a difference", I'll just steal this car, one Algerian criminal is not going to ruin the reputation of all Algerians!

  5. That reminds me of my first years in Canada, I was then craving to meet up with our people. Then I was avoiding them for the past years! In my opinion, I was always thinking outside the box. Then I found out that some had preceded me. But then, it's not supposed to be a competition of who succeeds first or more.

  6. It's not supposed to be a competition but it inevitably becomes one. I believe that when people from the same country meet abroad (not on holiday) and live abroad, they mark themselves a target or a goal and it's usually to be better than the other one!

    Some will say 'oh no it's not always the case', it is, that's why some of them distance themselves from their compatriots, perhaps because they can't compete or think too highly of themselves.

    OR it could be too early and I am talking gibrish ... Can't decide which!

  7. I'd say you're talking gibberish and I am better than you :)

    P.S you spelt gibberish wrong :)

    Have a nice Easter break


  8. You see Maleko my point exactly

    Tu te fais rare... But I know and hope you're lurking in the background!

    Have a lovely break! !

  9. je me fais rare because I'm busy competing with fellow algerians and lurking is part of the strategy to be the bestest algerian ever :)

    and now I need the best easter egg :)


  10. How is that going for you? I think you're one of the bestest Algerians in London ... Hell anywhere!
    Take it easy on the chocolate! Watch those love handles Maleko

  11. I have the best love handles and the best moobs too :)

  12. Excellent! keep grooming those lumps Maleko! Soon you'll be in a league of your own! Ah hang on you already are!
    Ze best of ze best

  13. no need for vejazzling or a brazilian, we Algerians do it quietly and confidently and don't feel the need to shout about it, we just get on with it sans "smear" as they say :)

  14. Hello there, your post made me curious so I did a quick google search and found this - speaking of "sans smear" and PhDs, flags and whatnots:

    A network for algerian post graduates in the uk! Who apparently has been around since 2007..

    I guess they didn't do a great job waving their flag either, otherwise their network seems to be the kind of place you would have looked into yourself to find those others..

  15. Thanks Anonymous I see they have had a few events but for a group that was created in 2007, it’s not active enough.
    The association I mentioned (Algerian Solidarity Campaign) I mentioned it for a reason, they are extremely active and hold every interesting events, political debates, they organise musical events etc… and extend their invitations to all nationalities, so I believe they’re flying the flag in the winds direction so rahou yefarfar

  16. I agree.

    The association you mentioned seem to have been around for a year.

    I think one of the main challenges for these kinds of groups and associations is surviving the "novelty effect", i.e. how to sustain activity in the long run. It's almost always easier said than done.

    I don't like the website of the Algerian Solidarity Campaign but I sure wish them the best and will check them out, some of their past events look very interesting.

    PS - yefarfar wella yerafraf!?

  17. Algeria Solidarity Campaign ma solidarity ma walou, that's exactly the "avec smear" contingent :) they're supporting Dhina ba3da, enough said ! stinks of NGOs, I'm out as a dragon would say :)


  18. What a cruel world ! I'm glad I didn't left Algeria ! I'm great at spending afternoons slurping shitty coffee and pickin' up hot hijabi chicks ! Can anyone compete ?

  19. Maleko am not the biggest fan of the ASC but they are the only association so far that seems to have managed to do something about getting the Algerians in ones place and discover they're not all alone or the only DZ geniuses since Hlib Echkayer*!

    Homo Erectus no one can compete! You've got the best deal out of all of us! A penchant for mediocre coffee and hijabi chicks! I think that's poetic On some level ...

    * milk in plastic bags

  20. Luv all the blog entries and enjoy most discussions...but Ive yet to see a discussion thats totally free of the obligatory asinine comment

    some things never change

  21. My only concern with competitiveness is the lack of cooperation as a result.
    Some people unfortunately think that if you succeed they will fail.

    I pride myself on helping other Algerians and giving them career advise all the time.

    Sadly I rarely ever got any help or advise from so called very successful Algerians.

    I am determined though to make sure Algerians learn from my mistakes, it makes me feel better about myself.

    It needs to be more about collaboration and less about competition

    This is why I think it is wrong to be thinking the way you do DZC.


  22. Dz chick, why do you claim you have a PhD when you don't? :) Does it make you feel better? Some sort of inferiority complex?

  23. You tell'em Hereandthete

    ATO this post is not about me, so you can say you agree or disagree with me, I just stating facts as I see them and as they were reported to me.

    Anonymous I am also pretending to have a BA in Mickey mouse History ;)

  24. You have brilliant ideas

  25. I have just discovered your blog and would like to thank you for the very interesting content.

    Although I am also algerian, I cannot relate directly to most of the things you mention. I have left Algeria at the tender age of 10 and have lived in a country where there are virtually no compatriots at all.

    I then moved to France. The algerians I met there are exclusively born in France and are hence a case of their own.

    I have been living in London for a couple of months now and I start getting to know you guys. I am fully aware that the sample of people I met is not large enough to consider any form of interpolation but I did notice this tendency to compare one's achievements when two fellow algerians meet. Now I must admit I was very surprised, at first, by this behavior. Is it something you would regard as intrinsically embedded in the algerian culture or is it due to the fact that most of you traveled abroad with the mission to succeed so you assess your respective success bu using comparison?


  26. DZC,
    I understand.
    But I really truly believe the reason why you were worried when you knew of the Others, is because "There would be no execuse anymore"
    People not just Algerians like to blame it on something. If there is an Algerian who is "more" * successful, then suddenly some people feel guilty.

    The reality though we are all different and we need to stop thinking we should all be the same. We need to get rid of this communism poison that is still lurking. That we should all be the same. Instead we need to appreciate each other's talents.

    My two cents

    * Makes more money, as human beings would not give a damn usually what you do if they think they are richer than you.

  27. I'm kinda dandy but not at that point ! As we say here "I deal with what's available on the market !"

  28. Mtiqer you JUST discovered the blog?? it took a while!! ;)

    I think there is an element of truth to your observations, some Algerians do over achieve just so that their mothers could brag about it to their friends and their neighbours, but most people want to achieve for personal satisfaction, life improvement and to get places in life...isn't this the point?

    ATO I of course agree with you, people need to learn to accept their differences and know that being Algerian does't mean we're all from the same mould or should head in the same direction. we're not one big family...we are all different and comparing isn't the way forward.

    Homo Erectus I thought the Algerian market was inundated...maybe you just have a penchant for Hijabis

  29. dz-chick: I just discovered your blog because I was in a relationship for a couple of years so I didn't have any reason to google "single algerian girl london" before xD.
    Mieux vaut tard que jamais!

    Of course most people want to achieve for personal satisfaction.
    What I was mentioning however is rather the definition of achievement and thus satisfaction. It seems like, for a lot of algerian immigrants, to succeed means to perform better than other algerian immigrants. Now I have hardly ever seen, french people for example, getting disappointed on themselves because they have met a more successful french guy in London. Even if most of the french guys I know, have left their country for the same reasons algerian people did, namely to try and achieve what they were not able to do in their back home.

    That's why I wonder, if the first motivation/satisfaction for Algerians isn't in fact the social image of themselves.
    Making your mom proud is one thing but hearing her say, when you are a kid, "Look at the neighbours' son. He is your age but he already knows this and that" is another thing. The latter could indeed lead you to think: "I will only be personally satisfied if I become 'better' than all the neighbours' sons!"

    What do you think?


  30. Mtiqer Ha! well there's no time like the present. :)

    Algerians define or measure their achievements by comparing them to other Algerians?

    Although I eluded to this in the post, I wouldn't say it's the general consensus. A lot of these Algerians only meet after they finished their studies OR in the process of, I think it's an expensive and timely thing if someone decided to drop their MBA halfway through bec he discovered someone else studying Medecine etc...BUT...this creates some sort of competition whereby they want to perhaps go further run their field, by doing research or something like that!

    I have noticed titles are important in the Arab world, Dr, engineer, etc...maybe people feel under peer pressure and are overwhelmed by feelings of failure and underachievement, go back to University and take a PHD in plastic and chewing gum consumption or something totally unrealistically stupid from the University of nowhere...just to prove themselves. hey to each their own.

    I hope i am making sense, I tried to answer your comment but I am little dazed this morning.

    The family pressure does play a huge role in how we perform or go about our lives when we leave home and travel abroad. Our parents traditional views and expectations of what is successful is, can be quite hard for us to manage, when we are compared to neighbours and family friends! So I guess the problem starts early...with this feeling of having to beat everyone who might cause my parents to think I underachieved...or that there is someone out there better than me - GOD FORBID.

    I think you're right, I have yet to meet someone English or else who thinks that way, I think it stems out of the upbringing and the culture.

  31. A video I came across in the last few days. For me symbolizes parental pressure in Arab and Indian families.
    The girl looks rattled with guilt and burdened with her mother's ambitions. At such a young age she is already very mature and carries a heavy responsibility to achieve the dreams of her mother.

    When she is 30 she is not going to think very nicely of her mother for the lost childhood.


  32. I honestly believe that it depends on the kind of community that you live in. I live out side of london where the algerian community is quite small, but hamdullah the small few stick together- to the point where we go on hoilday together and make anual trips to the same places together (including algeria).
    This might be due to the fact that we live in a mostly english area (small towns and villages) where the most exotic person is half scottish, making us value each other more.

    ..point of view of a YOUNG algerian

  33. ATO Seen the video, didn't come across as though her mother was being pushy at all, just supportive...but other cases do exist! this wasn't one of them in my opinion.

    Labess Good to know I suppose!
    Why YOUNG Algerian? exactly how young are you? this isn't a PG blog you know! :)

  34. young enough to be told to 'nble3 foumi' when the political situation in algeria is bought up! Really enjoy these debates and points of view though!

  35. Labess Dont let anyone tell you to shut up about that! it's your problem as much as it is theirs though no? wela nbala3 foumi?

  36. 100 % behind you, ygouli beli-politique kbira 3lia?! thats what I meant by young ;)

  37. @Labess:

    I, too, would love to be a 100% "behind" DZ-Chick BUT she just won't let me be! She's a 'techti elbina o m'derga etass" kinda girl..


  38. @ C
    since when did 'tetchi' and politics come into the same circulation of words ?! To be quite honest though a significant majority of algerians are 'tetchi'!!

  39. I should have added this point to the post:
    Finding a healthy balance is paramount, creating a community and calling it inclusive is one thing but if it borders on gethorism (yes, it’s a word), segregating the group from the host culture and community and becoming an exclusive ethnic group is another.
    What is the tipping point?

  40. I see what you mean, there are many people who live in society that seem to think it is alright to carry on living the way they did before they moved here; the cultures, norms and values of the two places are completely different and when that ethnic minority is singled out and told that they can't carry on doing the things they are doing (i.e bouzelfouf making in the garden) it becomes racism.

    But you shouldn't lose your identity either, telling people that you are from 'the french part of algeria'?! and telling people that you are called 'dino' when your name is nacerdine bouhamza.

    A middle ground has to be found

  41. @Labess

    For your own health and safety, please begin reading all traffic signs. It appears as though you're trying to make the connection between "techti" and "tetchi". The schism is terribly obvious, and the abyss between the two can be very dangerous if you should lose your footing. Who knows where such a fall might lead, maybe even in Dz-chick's arms..


  42. @ C
    thank you for your concern about my health and saftey, however I have no idea what on earth you are going on about and i struggle to understand your derja.

  43. @Labess

    "techti elbina o m'derga etass" = Dz-chick loves elbina (whey/petit-lait/elben) but she's hiding the mug (etass) Algerian expression of which you are obviously not familiar with.


  44. @ C
    Obviously not- thank you for clarifying.
    I still struggle to understnad what you issue is.

  45. Hello! DZ-Chick.

    Wesh raki, ya khti? Sorry for the absence, as I was on holiday back home with minimal access to the “triple double U”. :-)

    What a most excellent and inspiring post this is and a very pertinent one. Well done h’biba!

    Here is my take, in two parts, as you inspired me to write quiet a bit and the blog's page allows a maximum of 4,096 caracters only -sorry! :-)

    PART 1:

    I remember those days when one would search for DZ people in the UK/London with a candle, as we say back home, and find mostly eager male compatriots in an illegal situation ("Harragas") or a few struggling students. That was during the 1990's and early 2000's.

    The demographics of the DZ "community"*, certainly in London, has changed somewhat, as, over the past few years, the "ex-students-now-new-professionals" and "ex-single-male-harraga-now-new-family-fathers" component of this community has substantially increased and is, in my opinion, helping to stabilise the still-male-dominated community (70 or even 80% or more) a bit more.

    In terms of (the perception of) why do DZ people abroad seem to avoid or dismiss each other, I don't see the "competing" factor as the main factor at all, let alone unique to Algerians. The main factor, in my opinion, is that some of us living here in the UK as legal immigrants had the following perception, rightly or wrongly (I am not making a judgement here): DZ's were apprehensive about mixing with young, poor, desperate, illegal, status-less, male, Algerians, who might have a criminal penchant or a religious extremist one. That is the perception, I believe and not always the reality, of course. Nevertheless, that has helped shape DZ people's opinion a lot, here, globally, and back home. This was against the background of –and let's not forget- what happened in the 1990's back home and the resulting reputation of London -but not just- for being a hub for the above "category". The result is that some of us simply became suspicious, condescending, if not arrogant and afraid of mixing with people (mostly young male) who could trigger in us the most primal fears of taking advantage of us.

    This is also reflected back home, by the way, where people have been barricading their front doors and windows when they use to leave them open; where they started to keep less-and-less their word and deal with their fellow Algerians, not with mutual trust and in the spirit of building a relationship, but simply in an unethical, opportunistic, "one-deal-one-screw-you-bye-bye" kind of relationship. The "ladder of values", as they say in the language of Voltaire, has been inverted in Algeria -but not just. This mentality, by the way, is not unique to Algerians. It is a myth to think so, I believe. I have discussed this blog with some North African and Arab friends whose social/economic/cultural fabric of their societies has been undermined and left in a poor, near-dead state, in all senses of the word, and they attest that their society shares most, if not all, of the abovementioned traits.

    In very general terms, and without too much stereotyping, admittedly -and hacha elli ma yest'helhech, of course- Algerians have increasingly become austere but I believe that there must also be some other deep cultural/historical factors for such a base-line austerity and suspicion that were fashioned by a socialist-egalitarian culture imposed by the dictatorial regime of the past 50 post-independence years; by tradition/religion, as well as by a brutal independence war and 132 years of colonialism that has marked the Algerian psyche deeply with great human loss, mistrust and missed societal opportunities. But I am neither an anthropologist, sociologist, nor a historian to delve into this rationally and with academic rigour and it would perhaps be foolish of me, and beyond the light scope of my comments on this fine blog, to do so......

    (continued in Part2 below)

  46. (continued from Part1 above)

    ....coming back to the very UK element of the subject, I am very optimistic about the Algerian community in London/UK, which, I believe, is certainly changing for the better. Anyone who lives long enough here and has the means to move about London/UK would notice the difference, albeit still at a burgeoning stage and confined to some stratas and groupings of the “community”. It is interesting to see those small DZ organisation that you mentioned. I will have a look later as to what they stand for and do. These should be encouraged no matter what they do as long as it is positive, moral/ethical, help spread awareness, and do good deeds, even if we don't agree with them about the approach or modus operandi.

    One thing that I cannot stand with a passion, though -although I understand the negative sources of it- is that some of us have a deeply rooted inferiority/superiority complex (depending on the case), including very well educated people, who absolutely cannot stand not being under the spotlight first less than other DZ people who appear to be doing something good and successfully, which they are not doing themselves, but that they should be doing. So, instead of DOING something about it by ACTING and doing the same, they, not only, un-constructively, criticise their fellow DZ “doers” for being active, deliberately or subconsciously, but also love to bring the doers down with “green-with-envy” flames of stigma, preconcieved ideas, stereotyping and insults.

    This is a social and psychological pathology and I, coming from the medical profession, suggest a simple remedy for them: get a life! If you are “competitive” and you can’t beat them, then join them, as the saying goes. Do something positive (and not just think about it!) and reach out to the people you think, in your ivory tower, you could and should reach out to; inspire and even help people improve their awareness and well-being, and not as a “here-you-go-I-did-something-good-for-you-so-now-I-am-a-star-and-finished–with-it-and-you, but, rather, have a sustainable and committed approach to one’s action. KALB ELLOUZ for their thoughts, me thinks!

    For me, there are two categories of people in this domain: the genuine and selfless doers who do little talking but much action and the masturbato-selfrightious-pseudo-intellectuals (or pure bums) -excuse my Cockney. The latter just want to look good, socialise and don't take any risks. They fall neatly into the category of cowards. There.

    So, in fine, I say your blog is spot on and fantastic; keep writing sister and may be your mighty quill will kill their pathetic little quail. :-) As to me, I am an optimist-realist. The smell of DZ in the UK/London gets increasingly fragrant with the new generation of DZ's and with people like you, ya khti. You inspire us all, DZ-Chic!

    A bon entendeur(se)!

    Fehla Ou Nouss

    * : I use this word very loosely, as a community should have many of converging gatherings that bring its individuals together. Still much work needs to be done for DZ in UK/London, hence the need to ENCOURAGE and SUPPORT any positive, genuine, independent, DZ-generated initiative.

  47. Fehla ou Nouss Thanks for the thorough and well thought-out comment. I really cannot add anything I didn’t mention in the post itself or you didn’t highlight in your comment above.
    We make a fine team.
    One thing though, you mention the do-ers: One day I am sure we will see a solid, cohesive, integrated, culturally and economically viable Algerian community here…maybe not in the near future but more when my breast are in my socks, but I will be proud and can say I was a co-founder because I did my little bit.
    Kelb alouz for thoughts for all of us indeed.
    Muchas Gracias

  48. Bla Mziyya, ya khti. We could make a fine team indeed but some will MOUT BEL GHIRA! :-) Keep up the good writing!

    ps. I am not letting my SDER meet my socks -no way! There are plastic surgents for this. ARWAHI NGOULEK WEEN, ya hbiba! :-)

  49. Very awesome blog !! I couldnt have wrote this any better than you if I tried super hard hehe!! I like your style too!! it's very unique & refreshing…

  50. Fahla Ou Nous Might take you up on that offer in a few years ... Joan Rivers step aside!

    Anonymous cheers, glad you like it

  51. Dear Dz-Chick & Fahla Ou Nous

    Are you, by chance, able to provide a full description of your babylons that one must be in contact with to fully appreciate?
    There are those who say that I have the Midas Touch when it comes to knockers. They would appreciate greatly in value through my use of them. This is so because I invest wisely in only the most desirable of things, and they always increase in value. If they are of significant value then they ought to be treated with a due respect.



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