How to avoid annoying the citizens of your host country - Tactical Ninja
Feb. 22nd, 2012
10:38 am - How to avoid annoying the citizens of your host country
Yesterday I read a blog post about the Stephen Fry internet thing that really rubbed me up the wrong way. The writer, it appears, is an expat from New York who told me later that she's been here 18 months. She was basically agreeing with Fry (and the rest of us) and spelling out how crap NZ's internet is for the benefit of her readership, which appears to be international. So far so good, international attention for this is good.
What is that thing? You know, that thing that some expats do (and most don't) where they bag on your culture as if they're telling you something you don't know.
"What shocked me though were the tweets following Fry’s rant. New Zealanders are a defensive bunch and even if everyone here hates the limits, there was no way in hell they would allow an outsider to insult their country.
One guy tweeted that, well, “maybe internet is slow here but at least it stops people from tweeting too much” (!). Another called Fry an asshole. And, of course, many brought out The Earthquake Card, saying Kiwis who have internet “should be thankful for what they have.”
"Dear NZ, You’re 10 Years Behind. Again."
"So what's the problem with that then?" I hear you ask.
Well, it's not an easy thing to put a finger on. She's right, New Zealanders are defensive when outsiders insult our country. We also tend not to like it when people come here and tell us what we're like - you know, like telling us we're defensive. It didn't help that she tarred us all with the same brush and ignored the thousands of people who were backing what Fry said in favour of quoting the ones who reinforced her point.
"But Tats, you just said kiwis are defensive!" Yes, we are. And we're allowed to say that about ourselves. But if you're an outsider talking to the rest of the world about us, you don't get to say it without pissing us off. Think of it as like a family. I can say a whole bunch of negative and insulting stuff about my family if I want, but if you have a go at my brother I'll defend him to you. Because he's family. And if you badmouth my brother on your international blog, I'll be pissed off, even if you're right. Because you are not family and you don't have that privilege.
It's a thing I've run into a couple of times lately. The other night I was at a cafe and the subject of paganism in NZ came up. There were four of us, two kiwis, my friend rivet* who is a NZ citizen originally from the US, and another expat USian who's been here four months. All of us identify as pagan to some degree. The new addition started to talk about her experience of paganism in New Zealand, what she had and hadn't felt, and her opinion of it overall. So far so good. A lot of what she said was true. But then she started talking about 'the kiwis' as a culture as if she'd got inside it and has sufficient understanding to extrapolate as to how and why kiwi culture might be influencing paganism here. That's not so bad, but the way she did it was annoying as fuck.
Essentially, she directed all of her observations to rivet - I'm guessing because she felt that as another expat, rivet was the one capable of understanding. She referred to kiwis as 'they' - even though there were two kiwis present, we were somehow 'other'. And she said such condescending things as "I find if I draw them out, they have so much to offer!" and "I think X happens because they have no experience of Y." And she made it sound as if she thought kiwi pagans as a group have no idea of how and why things happen here the way they do, as if we are not self-aware and somehow need to be told.
Now I may be reading more into this than was intended, but there are expats who can make observations on kiwi culture without pissing me off and there are those who can't. And the ones who can't have a couple of things in common - they talk about kiwis as 'them' (they other us), and they assume a lack of self-awareness which goes hand in hand with an assumption that they know better and we (and others) should listen to them. In the case of the pagan woman, she asked for opinions on her observations and I gave her mine, and she argued with me.
Is anyone thinking of a certain other wannabe-English pagan we all know who managed to piss off the entire community and couldn't understand why, then ended up blaming the community's 'immaturity' for his ostracism? He waltzed in from somewhere else and started slinging negative observations around, essentially labelling New Zealanders a bunch of ignorant provincials.
And that's exactly what the blogger up there did, and what the pagan lady in the cafe did.
We may well be a bunch of ignorant provincials, but if you're not from here and you say so, you'll piss people off. If you go into someone else's house, don't pass comment on their taste in furniture and especially don't act like you think they don't realise it doesn't match and need you to tell them. And don't write about it on your blog as if you're the authority. It's just plain rude and people tend to respond to rudeness with prickliness. It's not rocket science.
I don't think this is specifically a kiwi thing tbh, but because I live here, here is where I observe it. So I guess the bottom line is, if you make a comment about *group* and the group gets pissed off with you, maybe it's you not them. And maybe the rules of politeness work on a national scale as well as individually.
Huh. I'm glad I got that off my chest.
* rivet is one of those expats who handles this sort of thing with aplomb and afaik has never managed to piss any kiwis off in this way. Her diplomacy in that particular conversation was palpable. Unlike mine. ;-)