When I came to this country

No one, save for my parents, really gave a damn about whether or not I’d have a hard time “fitting in,” “perserving [my] identity,” and “negotiating [my] cultural traditions in an alien environment.”

No one asked my parents as to whether or not teaching me sex ed went against their core beliefs (well, it didn’t, really, but whatever).

No one wanted to “embrace” the “diversity” that I supposedly represented (although people did ask me to “say something in Russian” a whole lot).

No one patted me on the back and applauded me for being “different.”

No one “invited” me to “dialogue.” If anything, I invited myself (and haven’t really shut up since – unless you count the times I’ve inserted my pedicured footsie straight into my mouth; I find that pink toenail polish does make those situations slightly less ugly).

NO ONE INVITED ME TO THEIR COUNTRY CLUB EITHER (unless it was a pool-party, ha! As if I’d fall for such obvious condescension!).

No one excused behaviour they perceived as odd with “mutliculturalism.” Even now – the fact that I wear make-up to the supermarket is perceived as totally weird by some of my fellow progressives (maybe not being conspicuously “ethnic” has something to do with this; whatever – a lot of women back home in Kiev do it, and I find it brightens up those drab toilet-paper aisles).

Since I’ve more or less settled in, I’ve discovered that no one cares as to whether or not I will explode in righteous fury at films such as “Blades of Glory” – you know, that slice of evil Western propaganda that suggests that all Ukrainains “have guns” and “smell like soup.” I mean, people were so upset for Persia and “300”! And for me – nothing. Not even a snarkier-than-usual review in the NYT. Not even a mention of these “gun-weary times” or something.

Should I be pissed? Dump a bowl of borsch on Will Ferrell? Sic my pet bear on John Heder? Start an aggrieved Facebook group?

Should I make up for my miserable middle school years by organizing, oh, I don’t know – the Ukrainian Liberation Front (ULF – other former “pinkos” welcome, provided we swap pirozki recipes), and chasing down the oppressors (whichever ones we can find) with pitchforks? Should I find someone to sue? Or just settle for burning my J. Crew catalogue?

Decisions, decisions.

13 thoughts on “When I came to this country

  1. hahaha ! Do you suffer more of misconceptions about Ukraine (meaning that people have a slightly idea of where Ukraine lies) or of ignorance (meaning that people don’t know and don’t want to know where Ukraine lies) ?
    On my own, I’m a “baltic addict”, working on that subject in Sciences-Po Paris and spending my days telling what is Latvia, where it lies, that it IS a european country (yes, I sweaaaaar).
    I’m not sure it can be a consolation but even in Western Europe, people don’t know and don’t want to know…
    Anyway, have you ever lived in Ukraine?

  2. It sucks even in France … two or three years ago, 90% of the students of my master program in Belgium did not f*** know to give the name and the correct place of the 25 EU countries… So I don’t imagine Ukraine… (by the way, i’m currently reading an interesting “history of Ukraine” and i’m in the “cosaks period and the Hetmans states”)

  3. Well, I mean – I don’t think it even matters if people know where you’re from, you know? I think it’s just a shitty time no matter what. You’re going through puberty, and you’re miserable. Being foreign is just the icing on the cake.

  4. One of the reasons I wrote this post has to do with the fact that I don’t believe that multiculturalism would have made the slightest difference. I guess it all depends on how you view the concept, but I think I turned out all right without being patted on the head for being so foreign and exotic. 😉

  5. Multiculturalism, it’s a strange concept: because you should define what culture is before …
    It’s is clear that it exists but what it is exactly? It is difficult to say…
    For example, i’m from “bretagne” (a little western region of France) but does that mean that I have a culture different from the other French or the other Europeans?
    I don’t know… I guess you don’t read french but otherwise I would have advise you a very good book on multiculturalism wrote by a very famous franco-libanese writter

  6. I read you, I think, as you intended. I think we are still suffering from the shift from the ‘old world’, where we do what our parents did with expectations of otherness not obviously a choice- to the one we are in- where we are expected to be somehow more individual, make our own way- yet institutionally things are still geared towards the factory.

    It’s also worse if you are a freak of any sort- ethnically, dispositionallym what have you.

    I am enjoying your blog.

    Craig

  7. It is always said that “coming to the new world” is difficult for old people, but i’m deeply conviced that it is also the case for young people

  8. Have any of you read The Namesake, by Jhumpha Lahiri??
    I so get this post…. But I’m finding more and more that this is more the rule than the exception..Diversity is a drowning cat in America. There is a factory (to borrow Craig’s term) model to follow.. it’s in the media, in the politics of the country, in the celebrity, in the advertisements… You’re beseiged from the time your born.
    And worse, thanks to the negative effects of globalization.. most cities abroad reflect the same factory’s goal..There are “not American” Americans everywhere.

  9. Meh, i’m not an immigrant myself so I can’t really comment on it, but whenever I visit another country I simply adapt.I don’t whine so much about “losing” my identity, in fact I hate stumbling across fellow countrymen.
    Some things are good to lose and being immigrants you chose consciously for life in another country with another culture and heritage.
    You adapt.
    My uncle and aunt have been living in the USA for decades now and people do not even recognize them as foreign.They think my aunt is from New York.
    Of course you always keep the little oddities like certain foods.
    But over time you become whatever your surroundings make you to be.
    I would bet most Ukrainians would consider you American by now, perhaps they are already hearing an accent.

    I have to say though that from all the countries I have visited so far the USA was by far the most interesting.
    Just the space over their gives you a completely different mindset.Europeans tend to think smaller or limited like as if they are in a box.But in the US you have that horizon to horizon view which causes one to think that UFO’s might actually be real.
    The sky is the limit , the “American dream”.
    But then it might just be a naive observation from someone visiting for a couple of weeks.

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