Thursday, 4 March 2010

Post No. 100: Kindness to foreigners

This week an American woman here in Auckland called me up to see how I was settling in. I'd met her through Dan's mum, but she certainly didn't have to check in with me. The fact that she did, and her invite to coffee, made me kind of emotional. As an expat herself (both in New Zealand and previously in Singapore), she knows what it's like to be new in a foreign culture, and how important it is to reach out.

That's one of the things I'll take back to America too: knowing how hard it is to be foreign and knowing how much it means to reach out to foreigners.

This phone call made me think of all the people who'd gone out of their way to make me feel welcome during my past 8 years as a foreigner.

Here's a best of list:

  • Most every person I met in Japan.
  • Specifically the Japanese family who lived in my neighbourhood and invited me to a nabe party over the Christmas holidays. The shy dad came to my door with his daughter (who'd randomly attended high school in Oregon!) and asked me over for the next evening. I'd never even met them, but when you're the only white girl in town, people know who you are. 
  • Our dear friends Andy and Emma who welcomed us to Birmingham so lavishly, took us out to lunch the first time we met at church, invited us to every social event, and brought round a Christmas goodie bag to see us through the holidays.
  • Dave and Jill, the Californian couple living in West London, who opened up their home every Sunday night specifically to foreigners. That was their thing. So every Sunday night their house was filled with Koreans, Thais, Italians, Americans, Japanese, and a few Brits...and amazing food from every nationality. There was such a sweet atmosphere there that the first time Dan and I went we thought that this is what heaven must be like.

There are many other people who went out of their way for us and I am so appreciative. I hope to pay it back when I finally get back on my own turf, to zero in on people who are new or foreign or just feel a bit out of place and extend some generous hospitality.

In the meantime, I just want to say a big

thank you 

again to everyone who's gone out of their way to make us feel at home wherever we are.


TheLadyWhoLunches said...

It's so great to have people in your life who make the experience that much more enjoyable. It's too easy to take those kind of things for granted, and its nice to read when people do remember those who have helped out (even if those people don't realize how much they actually did!) I'm a new reader to your blog now!

Nadine said...

We were overwhelmed by the generosity and kindness we experienced in Japan. From a man in the park pointing out the sakura and then giving us sticks of chocolate, to the kind couple who pulled over in Hakone and offered us a ride as we were walking with our backpacks in the snow.

It definitely made me want to reach out more to people. A little kindness goes a long way.

alisha said...

Hi Lady who Lunches, welcome to my blog. :) It's also fun to remember all the people who've made life abroad a more enjoyable experience - once I start the list goes on and on.

Nadine, I'm so glad you got to experience some Japanese generosity. I think the nation of Japan sets the bar pretty high in terms of hospitality!

Jess Fouche said...

happy 100th post! looking forward to chatting this week- send me your # as I have the phone cards to use! Anytime after 12:30 our time in the afternoon should work well for me!

We just started working with Global Neighborhood- an organization that works with refugee families from all over the globe, and it's hit me so hard how lost they feel here, how hard to overcome the language barrier and the often non-friendly, isolated American ways. I love hearing about people who have reached out to you while abroad and how you plan to remember that when coming home!

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