When talking to my fellow expats, one common thing I hear from most of them is the feeling of not being accepted. This feeling of not being accepted makes most of them feel foreign and unwelcome even after living more than a decade in a different country. They feel foreign and unwelcome because their adoptive countries are unaware of their countries of origins history and because they mix up their country with another. If you’ve ever met a Romanian and mixed-up Bucharest with Budapest, you’ve probably seen how much that offends us. Or if you’ve ever met a Romanian and asked them if they were gypsies, you were probably surprised why they stopped talking to you.
Here’s the thing, nobody owes you a thing in this world and you don’t owe anybody anything either. Nobody has a responsibility to make you feel accepted, the responsibility of your feelings sits with you. You want to feel accepted? Start by accepting that you moved to a different country, and it is your responsibility to open a channel of acceptance. Accept that your neighbors did not receive the same education as you, accept that they grew up in a different country than you and their knowledge and view of the world is shaped based on the education they received. If you want to feel accepted, you have to accept them first, open a channel of communication and educate them. Acceptance cannot come by default; you are not entitled to it. Acceptance is the bridge you build by interacting with the people around you day by day, without feeling offended by thier lack of knowledge.
I was never offended by people calling me gypsy in Scotland, unless they were doing it to imply I was rude or stole something. I was in the office of a client in Stirling and one of the colleagues made a joke about me stealing a mug from the kitchen. I kindly answered: “Romanians steal hearts, not mugs!” while my other Romanian colleague and my Ukranian colleague were looking at me scared that I would explode into a very colourful rant. When I have the time I explain to people the difference between Rroma, Romanians and what we call gypsies, I do it. If I don’t, I hope somebody else will. I think I was more offended by people calling my accent Russian than being called a gypsy and given the current world context, I think you understand why. I will provide more context in a future entry.
Anyway, back to acceptance. I am an alien living in Scotland. It’s not that I don’t feel accepted, is just that I don’t care.
Here’s the thing… I grew up not feeling accepted. I did not feel accepted by my father because he wanted me to be a boy. I think my mother wanted that too, because she never made me feel all that loved, and accepted either. I grew up until I was 12 in a different side of the country than the one where my parents were born and there were people calling me a stupid Moldavian when they wanted the make me feel bad. Then my parents moved back to their birthplace, the Romanian provence of Moldova, but because of my accent, every time somebody wanted to shut me up, they called me a stupid Oltenian.(Oltenia is the southern part of Romania, where I grew up until I was 12. ) Also, in a weird twist my parents ended up living in mostly orthodox area, while we were catholics, so yeah… don’t even get me started in the lack of acceptance because of my religion. My father’s mother made me and my sister feel un-accepted because of that too. And then I went and studied in a male dominated field.
Do you need more examples to make it obvious that I grew up not caring who accepts me or not? Because I have waay more. For most of my life, I felt like nobody did, so the only way to move forward is to stop caring about it. So, I did, and I think this made me a lot more comfortable living abroad than most. Maybe something is broken in my mind, maybe my parents made a big mistake by never making me feel loved unconditionally, because now as an adult I feel like I have to work hard for everything, to feel like I deserve it and it is worth it. Essentially I’ve barely ever felt accepted in my own country, thus I don’t expect a foreign country to fix that.
I have no idea is this is wrong or right, but what I can tell you is this: I don’t expect people I meet in Scotland to accept me by default, just because I am here. People that I meet in Scotland, and I want to be accepted by, I will make an effort, because I came to this country, so I have to prove myself worthy of being accepted. I have to prove myself, I have to educate them and let them see me and where I come from. When this works, it all the more satisfactory.
The proof that this is worth it, is my 82 year old half-British, half-Scottish neighbor that comes over to see me every two days if I don’t go see her, that takes care of my cats as I would when I am at work or on vacation, that has dinner with me every Wednesday and insists on bringing me food and taking me to the theatre and concerts and this is the same neighbor that greeted me when I moved into the building by calling me a Gypsy, not to offend me, but Gypsies are the only Romanians she ever knew about. I took the time and befriended her and educated her, and she in turn educates others. Considering all my friends in this city are her friends too, I think they accept me well enough.
And I still don’t care if they do, however, because I know who I am and what I am and I do not need they acceptance and approval. They don’t pay my mortgage and my life is not influenced by how they feel about me.
Stay safe, stay happy and Слава Україні!