Wednesday, June 28, 2006

We are those people...Foreigners

It just hit me, we are the foreigners. In Costa Rica we were SOOO foreign that it wasn't worth mentioning. But, here in New Zealand we speak the language and go to work like everybody else (vs. stay at home with our computers, aahhh those were the days). Last night we were sitting at a table with an Australian, a Kiwi, and two Irish people. We were the token "Americans", or foreigners...

But in the eyes of others maybe I always was a foreigner, even in the states. I always felt like yes, I have darker skin and hair, but I never really felt foreign or foreign looking.

But, people here in NZ (pronounced nzed) can't place my background when they talk or look at me. You can see the questioning in their faces.

First off, is she Canadian or American? They always ask "are you Canadian?" They say Canadian, because the don't want to offend Canadians. Canadians get royally offended when mistaken for Americans. It's kind of like mistaking a New Zealander for an Aussie. It's all about the little brother complex. American and Aussies could care less, but Canadians and Kiwis get mad.

After they establish American they really don't know where to go after that. 'She's dark, not quite white'... they are thinking. They fall back to Native American Indian. You know just like in the western movies. I really must cut my hair a little shorter before I really take on the Sacagawea look. I'm too dark to be white, obviously not black, but no other ethnicity is on their radar screen. They are unaware of how Latino the US has become.

Exactly as unaware, for me, of how Asian New Zealand has become. New Zealand has opened it's borders, so to speak, and a lot of Asians have immigrated here (there are also a lot of South Africans). There has been so many immigrants so quickly that some kiwis are slower of acceptance as others. Racism is a strong word that I don't like to use. It's more like the melting of two very different cultures; western and asian. You know somebody is commenting on this tension when they say "I'm not racist, but [insert Asian sterotype]..." This saying is very common.

So, these are the funny encounters I have had. I've realized that I must look more hispanic than I think I do. I was in a store and a clerk came up to me and said "Are you hispanic?" This really threw me for a loop and got me thinking about this subject. She happened to be from Ecuador and we had a great conversation in Spanish. She picked me out in a crowd instantly.

As Gene would say, 'your people', recognize you. Now there's a funny story!! When I first met Adam's dad on Thanksgiving he asked me what 'my people' call a griddle. I swear his spanish was probably better then mine at the time. This is now a family joke on Gene. "What do you people call this?" It's the modern American Thanksgiving story.

FYI: I'm 1/4 Mexican, 1/4 Italian, and 1/2 Gringa. That makes me the American melting pot representin' in New Zealand.

5 comments:

Dakota~ said...

HEYYYY!
WONDERFUL TO READ YOUR BLOG.,
EXCUSE THESE NEW ZEALAND PEOPLE IGNORANCE, IF I AM LOOK YOU FIRST TIME I CAN SEE YOUR NOT NATIVE AMERICAN!
NATIVE AMERICAN!!!!!!!!! ITS VERY OBVIOUS YOUR LATINO NA !
DAKOTA~

Dodderyoldfart said...

Kia Ora
Welcome!

I work for Transit NZ too... right down at the sharp end.

And you mean our roading is planned?

Goodness me...

Michelle said...

Hi!

I stumbled upon your blog and have been enjoying reading it. I too am an American in NZ. I live in Morrinsville. I'd like to invite you to a message board for other Americans living here too. http://groups.yahoo.com/group/American_Kiwis/ Take care and I'll be checking the blog for your updates. :-)

Lee said...

I love your blog - my family is thinking of moving to New Zealand and so I'll be checking back in.

Bert's Big Sis said...

Ok, Bert!! Where in the HEEEECKKK do you get ANY Italian??? Because I sure as heck don't know anyone in our family from Italy!!! Dad is straight "Wet-Back" Mexican, and mom is so Heinz 57 that even she doesn't know- EXCEPT to say for sure none of her genetics come from Italy. Please educate me!!!! (Love, Big Sis)