It’s taken me a while.
For some time – actually since I got here until about a week ago – I was rather indignant at the thought and feeling of being treated like a foreigner. And then I got it – that is what I am.
And now I realise that, and realise that I will be for my duration here, life should be a little easier.
In New Zealand, generally I welcomed foreigners – O.K. maybe I snubbed a few South Africans around the time of a certain world cup, but I never ignored the Aussies. I think most New Zealanders welcome foreigners. There is a difference. We know they are not likely to stay, are likely to be tourists, and if not tourists they are useful (read employable or wealthy recent settlers).
Belgium like much of the rest of Europe, North America and even Australia have a rather a different set of problems, mostly driven by the fact that protecting the border is a difficult – at times impossible – task.
So who am I, where is my residents card, passport, etc. are quite reasonable questions, and you don’t need to be anywhere near a border control.
Which brings me back to my post on expats.
It’s rather humbling to be a foreigner, which when I am as arrogant as I am at times, is rather a good thing (when the penny drops).
For a New Zealander; I don’t think being in the UK brings this reality home, Australia certainly doesn’t and in the USA it is mostly at border control (once you’re in go for broke – as many of them do). And in part that explains why Belgium came as such a jolt to me, but I know I am, and will remain the richer for it (and I apologise to the hapless Postal worker who faced a four letter expletive from me when he asked me for my passport to collect a 10 euro parcel).
So what is my point?
Two main ones:
It is very easy to have you mind feed you complete an utter BS about your situation. This is valuable knowledge in all sorts of settings – your are NOT (insert as you see fit)
People have a right, and a natural inclination (as do I) to protect what they feel to be theirs. And in many ways I think all power to them.
So here is the trick.
Those two thoughts so strongly oppose each other that it is no wonder we have so many feudal battles in our past present and future. (And it probably also explains why at times the Belgians seem over aloof and direct – some would say blunt).
Anyway, more soon, in the meantime I’ll sleep easy knowing that last night we had a great night with the young Belgian couple from next door, who epitomize a spirit of warmth, friendliness and openness – which just has to be admired and we are lucky to be part of – and that you seldom encounter (anywhere).