Tuesday 12 February 2013

There is more to Safety in Numbers!

Oh look at me; I am an annoying inquisitive fly that won’t go away!
Go on squash me….squash me!
As a foreigner (God I hate this word) living in London or anywhere else, you find yourself part of a few social circles, the (back) home crowd, Algerian in my case and the other crowd, the one mixed with international friends including the host crowd i.e. the Brits, all your English friends who love you for your eccentricities, your funny accent and say things like “you’re so lucky you tan quick”.

The (back) home crowd is the one that after a while gives you social anxieties and feelings of forced competition, as though you have been thrown into a racing track you can’t climb out of, are forced to compete, you feel lost and confused but you have to run because everybody is and you know the right thing to do (if you’re bothered) is to beat them.

Feelings of resentment then start bubbling up to the surface, feelings of being forced to hang out with crowds where feelings of being constantly judged overwhelm you, judgement on what you wear, the way your hair curls, the University you attended and the degrees you have, then the job you hold followed by the salary you’re probably on as calculated through your CV, as viewed “secretly” on LinkedIn.

What university did I attend?

If I get to kick a man’s balls for every time I was asked this question. You will all be neutered (I am freakishly strong).

I was once travelling in Asia and I got into the subway, I took a seat on my train and was reading my book, when I raised my head to check where I got to, I found myself in the middle of a very distinct Non-Asian congregation, it looks like all the foreigners mainly European were drawn to the same train car, as if proximity to another stranger or foreigner of the same colour makes the culture shock less painful or brings home closer.

That got me thinking about Safety in Numbers, it is not about safety per-se as we were obviously very safe and our presence didn’t seem to phase the locals at all, quite the contrary I think the Chinese go out of their way to ignore you and pretend you’re not there, especially when you look lost or trying to get their attention, they then mutter something in Chinese, which I concluded was “stupid tourist”.

We are all attracted to our own; our identity is based on belonging to a family, to a tribe, to a group, a nation, a religion then to a social circle or an Ethnic minority as is the case of the Algerians in the UK or indeed the Europeans in China.

Which brings me to my next point, being abroad after a number of years does bring about nostalgic feelings and the need to belong, to join and to integrate the home (as opposed to host) community if there was one, listen to the same music, talk in the same language, tell old popular jokes, even certain words in your mother tongue become hilarious, because they become so distant and carry no sense that you can presently relate to, so you gather, laugh, say funny things like “3id Achajara” and “Abou Koulaita”, talk about old times or simply be in proximity of each other, brings a sense of community, of belonging and of safety that lessen the pangs of nostalgia and the coldness of the Ghorba*.

And this is how you develop the Algerian overdose syndrome (a special thought to a certain someone who probably invented this!).

If the community is small, you will probably suffer the same hangers-on and the regular social climbers , the unpopular and the followers who seem to be everywhere and all the time. You bump into them (I insist) everywhere, the unremarkable and the forgettable, you don’t seem to remember them or having seen them, only a feeling of annoyance lingers long after they’re gone, like the ever annoying desert fly that won’t go away, only when it does, you remember being annoyed but can never really put your finger on why (in the case of the fly, it is literally the case), this over-closeness and over-congregating habits can be suffocating and give you the feeling of claustrophobia.

So what to do when you overdose on the home crowd?

Pull away, get lost, hang out with your international circles, where you are just you, you don’t take yourself so seriously, you don't catch yourself posing (Yeah you know who you are) nobody calls you by your suffix (Arabs are massive fans of titles), nobody cares what you studied or where, you are just you and what you bring to the table isn’t determined by which University you attended but by your personality, your views and your sense of humour. Everything else is usually excess to requirement and they all know and accept you have just the right amount of weird.

In the end, communities are great, for public holidays and National celebrations, but once their presence is no longer serving its purpose, which we determined above if I must repeat myself, is reducing pangs of nostalgia and making the solo life in a foreign land more bearable AFTER a number of years or equally in times of crisis, if it no longer serves its purpose, then I ask you? What is the point.

At this point, I am hoping some of you agree with me, otherwise I should be asking myself another question: what am I still doing here?

Dz-chick…There is Safety in Numbers, perhaps, but I am an adventurous weirdo who likes odd numbers preferably fewer than 3…
Picture from: www.jedessine.com
*if you can translate it...go ahead


  1. The special someone12 February 2013 at 18:01

    Niiiiiice! DZChick at her best. Melancholicly insightful and thought-provoking

  2. well i guess that is Darwinian to have safety in numbers

  3. Starting 'friendships' between algerians sort of have to start in a formal manner, hence the obvious questn of what university/course u went to/did. Especially when talking to the opposite sex, otherwise a woman would think you're hitting on her and same goes for the man I suppose. Which is different when dealing with Europeans because even if they think you're hitting on them, they dont make you uncomfortable about it. Moral of the story: with Europeans be yourself, with algerians be formal, until the 100th time you hang out with them ;)

  4. thank u for the wink "abu koulayta" & " Aid Echadjara " looool u didn't forget ... I am pleased
    and everything else ... no comments

  5. its all about finding the right balance I would say - agreed, its easier said than done!

    when it comes to the feelings of nostalgia, it (from my experience) actually reflects a feeling of lonelyness... and there are many reasons to feel that way these days, and being away from home/family is juste one of them. It then just makes sense to want to fill that gap by meeting alike people (other Algerians, who also are away from home). So if I know what my needs are then, my state of mind, then I know what to expect from each relationship & avoid any overdose.

    When it comes to socialising, I would say that there are times when one needs to have "light" conversations/small chit-chats... and other times when one needs to have some more "true"/"meaningful" conversations. And either way, these can be done within a group of Algerians or non-Algerians. And after all, it doesn't really matter where these people come from cos I can have both in both.

  6. I can totally relate to what you are experiencing. Judging others and trying to make them feel uncomfortable about themselves or their achievements is a quintessential Algerian characteristic. I know from experience that even if you have been to an Ivy League University, landed a job of your dreams, married the cutest guy, there will always be a question or a comment to hint that your life sucks.

    You do not have to reach out to people who do not care about much else than to make others feel bad about themselves. I feel liberated when I socialize with international friends, when I am with homies, I just try to defend my choices in life! It is like being in court...and I am not exaggerating

    1. Exactly ! .... in other words : i 3ayou la3rab !.....

  7. Dz Chick you are a loner, the only odd number smaller than 3 is 1 so you either prefer a tête á tête or just being on your own! Either way I can relate to that as quality is much more valuable than quantity!

    People move as flocks of sheeps, there is not enough individuality in this society hence people need to hold on to something, be it culture, religion, social class etc...squash that inquisitive fly, it just carries germs around and polute our space!

    The Algerian crowd you are mentioning, which clearly is not the one residing in popular areas of London, is highly superficial. Many PhDs in Bullshit and the qualifications, universities attended, job titles & salaries cannot compensate for the lack of common sense, humanity, personality and open-mindedness.
    Still one common trait in both uneducated and educated Algerians.........sizing up one another and judging! Ignorance transcends social classes.

    There is no safety in number Dz Chick, ask the Jews and the Africans, the safety is in carefully selecting one's associates.

    London is not a village, you shouldn't be constantly bumping into the same crowd unless you are also moving with the Algerian flow! You,the hangers on and social climbers share the same social platforms, they bump into you too ;-)

    Great piece as always......thank you!

    In the wise words of Albert Einsten: 'Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results'

  8. DZC
    On ne me pose jamais de questions sur mon parcours universitaire...et pourtant j’ai un master en business. Je devrai changer de cercles d’amis.

  9. Je viens de realiser aussi, que j'ai quitte l'universite il y a 20 ans. Il doit y avoir prescription. J'allais dire on a les amis que l'on merite, mais je n'y crois pas trop non plus. Avec l'age, j'ai compris qu'il fallait arreter de faire des compromis socialement. C'est pas parce que tu es algerienne que tu es mon amie.

  10. Great piece of art as always welldone you dz chick.

  11. Anonymous 1 How is it Darwinian? Please explain

    Anonymous 2 If he’s hitting on my, I would rather he didn’t ask for my CV. But how true is that, after the 100th time you can chill and bring out the crazy in you.

    And yes I do realise, what we mostly have in common is having come here to study, so it’s kind of a natural question to ask. When you’re still studying or just out of Uni, but years later…just does my head in.

    Tarik Hargtna!!!! haha Et Abu Koulaita is mine!!

    Anonymous 3 Yes the criteria is always higher and tougher when facing the home crowd. It’s that home biased theory again.

    I think the judgment is omnipresent yes, on many things going from where you are from back home, to what area of that city you live in and let’s not forget the one with what’s your dad’s job, everything really boils down to this, your father and his job. Then maybe whether your mother works or not, then how many siblings, then French or Arabic, then we can start assessing you on everything you achieved here. True story.

    Miss Polemique

    Every one out there should bare their own company for at least a few hours, otherwise something is seriously wrong.

    I obviously love myself and entertain myself, I also talk to myself which makes companionship something of an extra rather than a necessity or a need. Take note people!

    London is a massive metropolis, but Facebook reduces it to a village, I am not sure why, but despite my greatest efforts to diversify my usual hang outs, I seem to bump into people a lot more these days, and not necessarily Algerians, but from all circles and nationalities and eras and I don’t believe in coincidences. The world is definitely getting smaller

    Clue is in the name Miss, “Followers” and “hangers-on”…they follow, so no they don’t “bump” into me, they know who is going to be there and they seek people out whether they’re friends or not. They seem to wander into EVERY event, gig, movie or whatever there is. News spread quick, people gossip; people are interested (not to be confused with people care) and before you know it, that secret little hang out becomes the local cafe! GRRRRRR

    I don’t quite understand the relevance of the Einstein quote, however!

    MTF Je ne savais pas non plus! Tu vois, cela ne m'intresse pas, c'est toi et ta personne qui m'interesse, et le fait que tu sois Algerienne n'est pas facteur contributeur.

  12. Thank you M - whoever you are :)

  13. Welcome to the university of life!

  14. So what does your father do?
    Does your mother work?
    How many siblings do you have?

    Remember: Often we are our own worst enemy.

  15. Well said DZC.

    This may sound too harsh and extreme, but I have (sadly) made a decision to no longer socialize with my homies. I can no longer relate to my own people. It's a chore to try to get along with. It doesn’t bother me for not knowing anybody from “back home” in the city I live in. I get ticked and irritated whenever I have an encounter with wlad labled, no matter what their social class or education level. I have become too judgmental towards my own people and I cannot tolerate a lots of stuff about us (manners, language, culture, etc). I don’t know how I turned out this way. Btw, I am not a stuck up person or a prick.

    El Badji

  16. University of life is right. I am learning. There’s no end date is there. Well until I die that is.

    Wink all answers to your questions will make you judge me, or have preconception of what I am or should be like. And often we ARE our own worst enemies yes. Thanks for the reminder.

    El Badji that does sound a bit harsh but not uncommon, I guess you must have you reasons (I am guessing accumulated for years). I am reaching a level of overdose but I know in my case it’s reversible because I am in love with everything Algerian and can never stay mad for too long, I adopt a good strategy, instead of getting angry, try to find the funny side and laugh. So now after I let out an angry whining blog I laugh and resume/reboot.

    Having said that, there is no obligation for you to be with Algerians or to suffer or not their manners, language or culture but the fact you are here on my blog, says otherwise :) BUT if you start to just laugh instead of getting annoyed, you will at least not find it a chore.

    1. Dear Dz-Chick: No true questions, here. Was just joking. Hence my moniker - wink.. :D

  17. Wink obviously I knew but couldn't help but answer... Geeky of me!

  18. You welcome Dz chick! (whoever I'm)?
    Well I'm just one of your fellow citezen who loves reading your post!
    For the home crowd (men) I don't like the ones they expect you to pay everything for them (coffee, drink, lunch, dinner, bus fair....ext)
    Have a good weekend Dz bella

  19. Look forward for your next post!!!!!

  20. Dzchick! what a sad post! Voyons!
    The side effect of the security feeling within the tribe is the bad feeling of being oppressed.
    But the side effet of loneliness is depression...

    Okay I know now that a protective cup is necessary fos asking you in which university you have been :D

  21. we never forget DZC

    Enjoy: http://www.zikdalgerie.com/arres-best-of-1901-musique.fr

    The first one I like

    Not recommended with wine


  22. DZC, thank you for the tips.

    My problem is I don't appreciate the way people are valued in Algeria.
    A human being should be valued no matter who they are, whatever social class they belong to and whatever education level they achieved. Algerians have this filter or barometer they measure you with, a list of questions they use to place you in a certain category. What does your father do? What college did you attend? What do you do? Do you have a car? Do you own your own apartment? Your social status as a person is valued based on the answers to these questions. The kicker here is that people asking these questions have none of the above. With wlad labled, I play things down on purpose to see their reaction and it's interesting how fast they write me off.

    I visit your blog to validate my thinking on certain issues. I tend to agree with you a lot and I like the way you break things down. Keep going!

    El Badji

  23. Honestly El Badji, it is a two ways street so their questions dont bother me, it is their filter for people who can be in their circle of trust if you like .. so if my answers to : how much I make and what jobs my parents have dont meet their expectations then I am not their cup of tea and if at least their questions dont match my expectations either then they are not my cup of tea .. I wouldn't generalise that to be an issue of all algerians .. thank god .. otherwise we wouldnt have enough choice of Algerian circles .. wa tahiya eldjazayer .... :-)

  24. I agree with you that this behavior is not unique to our culture, but i wanted to single us(algerians) out. I may have some issues i need to work on, I maybe need to go see a shrink to see it there is hope to get rid of this social block. I think it's too late since I am too old to change...:-)

    El Badji

  25. Thanks M! What’s wrong with going Dutch! God Bless the Dutch!

    These freeloaders do my head in.

    QatKhal Sad? I didn’t think so, maybe just morose ;)

    “The side effect of the security feeling within the tribe is the bad feeling of being oppressed. But the side effect of loneliness is depression... “Exactly, doomed either way!

    May I suggest you keep the protective cup on …AT ALL TIMES? You just never know when I’m going to lose it.

    ATO No we never forget,

    Thx for the link, very usefulJ. My favourite is El Gaada Diwan Bechar, recommended with Lagmi or a strong Mint tea.

    El Badji Thanks, I shall keep going as long as there are issues to expose and people to slap (virtually).

    Yes, in an Arab society (perhaps in other societies too) you are valued more on your family’s possessions and location (quartier etc) and other ridiculous criteria than on your own personal achievements, knowledge and persona etc, very superficial and judgmental approach; everybody is pigeonholed and deemed suitable/datable or avoidable.

    Playing things down to watch reactions can be fun, think of the blogging material you must be sitting on :)


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