Was thinking the other day about how British one can become after a few years living here and realised it could really go either way, one can easily withdraw into oneself and refuse all signs of “Britishness” as a repudiation of the former self, some panic when they realise that they started thinking in English so they grow a beard and start wearing boxers, others refuse to speak English to their compatriots but mostly they grow more neurosis and despite their long London tenure they refuse to be labelled a Londoner for fear of what that might represent. Poor lambs!
Meanwhile in a parallel world not too far away, others who have passed the seven year mark have acquired a look, a special kind of look, an annoying mixture of arrogance, jadedness, know-it-all attitude and a hint (or two) of neurosis with a questionable and supposedly dry sense of humour.
These self-proclaimed veterans are also discernible through their slightly larger heads, dress sense and a politeness that is mixed between being a Brit and being wlid/bent Familia , you might not recognise yourself here or realise you’re IT; the following ought to make it easier;
when out of your own accord you’d get in line, any line and start queuing up for pure conformity, or when you say sorry more than 50 times a day, even when the man clearly jammed you with his shopping trolley in the supermarket, when you tut at people then become mortified they actually heard you or when you avoid confrontation at all costs even if it means giving up the last sandwich on the shelf or the last seat on the train! Doesn’t ring a bell? Ok how about this?
- When you catch yourself trying to sound posh! Might be a good start to try to sound English first then upgrade.
- When you think it’s cool to speak in a Cockney accent and evidently, you can’t hear yourself
- When you have a specific and proven method to describe the geographical situation of Algeria using minimal words, you’ve done it so many times…
- When you always roll your eyes and know when it’s coming “I have been to Tunisia and Morocco but never Algeria”
- When you alternate between socialising with the Algerian and English crowds and using one as an antidote to the other
- When someone says your name wrong and you can’t bring yourself to correct them, so forevermore you will be known as Rhonda!
- When you always pronounce Algeria with a very deliberate A, to avoid the puzzled question “you’re from NIGERIA???”
- When you are so tired of answering the same questions about your religion, country, race and weather, so instead you send links you have saved in your favourites
- When you make every effort not to look Algerian (yeah you know who you are)
- When somebody says you look Italian and you say “Ohh thank you”
- When someone else says “oh but you don’t look Algerian” and you thank them with a beaming smile (yeah you know who you are too)
- When you start matching your umbrella to your outfit, because you’re adaptable
- When you work really hard at avoiding the Algerian stereotypes but people will still find you abrupt, direct, honest, and strong and other synonymous words they invented for rude.
- When you dread the Monday water fountain convo of “how was your weekend?” but go through it with a smile and a faint interest
- When you feel inadequate because you only speak 3 languages
- When you are tired of explaining such words as Darja, berber, Na3dine and why you speak french
- When you feel pressured by the international social convention to do something on Saturday night or bare the guilt and shame.
- When it takes you a few years to adapt to cooking a meal in less than 10 minutes, after you’ve watched your mother do in no less than 3 hours.
- When you pride yourself in how few Algerian friends you have
- When you are disgraced by people who pour hot water over couscous to cook it
- When you think shop assistants are scary snobby little shits but like the rest of Britain and despite your alleged abruptness you’re too scared to say anything
- When you hold back the tears after your haircut, but smile and say you love it
- When you lower your voice on the phone when you see or hear another Algerian on the bus
- When out of the whole empty train carriage, someone would sit next to you, out of indignation; you’d turn to the window and stare at it with loath shaking your head ever-so-slightly so that they don’t notice
- When you insist on giving directions to anyone who asked rather than admit you just don’t know
- When your sense of humour becomes a beautiful mix of random, dry with a hint of cynical
All this to drive the point home; you can take the person out of Algeria, but you can’t take Algeria out of the person.
Dz-chick…Dz-Brit with a proven track record ;)