Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Those Confusing Foreign Guys

We are nearing the end of the Seraphapalooza questions, and have come to the question about dealing  with confusing foreign guys. What a treat! So exciting and so much to say! Where do I even begin?

I shall begin by saying that although everyone is unique, everyone belongs to a culture and all men are men. Therefore, although everyone is unique, everyone, consciously or unconsciously, acts according to what is normal for their culture and all men are going to be extremely influenced by their masculinity. Migrants can become bi-cultural, and how successful we are at this has something to do with our age. As a mid-life migrant to Scotland, I will always sound Canadian, but I no longer worry I am now surrounded by alcoholics.  

Social life is all about encountering people who are different from you and trying to get along with them anyway. This is particularly challenging, however, when they are so different because A) they are men and B) they are foreigners--real foreigners, born in a country different from your country.  Perhaps they are visiting your country. Perhaps you are visiting their country. Perhaps they are recent  immigrants. Perhaps you are the recent immigrant. At any rate, you and they may have different social expectations. You may have have radically different senses of humour and radically different senses of what is appropriate. My very first boyfriend of the "would you consider marrying me" variety was from the Middle East. He once shocked the stuffing out of me by glaring at an oblivious stranger on the Toronto subway and hissing, "Jewishhhhh....!


Poor old Aziz worked in a hotel and got hit on a lot by women guests, apparently, and so had a very one-sided view of what Canadian women were like. He was greatly surprised that eighteen year old Canadian Seraphic was a lot more like young women in his country than like the women he had met in my country. In retrospect that must have been nice for him although personally I got tired of having to give him The Talk over and over again. Also in retrospect, he might have found The Talk reminiscent of home, too. It probably led to the marriage proposal, to which I replied "We'll see," but even at eighteen I was not so confident Muslim-Catholic marriages are a recipe for happiness. 

But I digress, and the point of that anecdote is to illustrate that foreign guys have ideas about the women of your country that may have been caused by actual sexual encounters with women of your country (or po*n produced there). And this is why I heartily recommend dressing like women in whatever country you may be visiting, so as not to stand out too much from local women. (I don't mean national costumes: I mean the actual reality of what women of your age and education wear.) In your own country or in conversations abroad,  I recommend firmly arguing against whichever misconceptions foreign men may have about you based on what they have heard about or experienced in your country. Just because foreigners have heard Swedish schools have sex education programs that would make our heads explode does not mean Swedish girls are easy.  

[Update: Other men will just proceed according to how women are like in their country. I remember being chatted up after Mass by a Latin American, who took me out on a very job-interview like date at a doughnut shop. I never saw him again until we accidentally met on one of his subsequent trips to the doughnut shop. This time he was with a young woman who looked rather like me. Of course, I have no evidence, but I think he was simply doing what we wish all Catholic boys would do, and simply picking girls out from girls who go to Mass and taking them to doughnut shops for a coffee to see if we were marriageable. Ah ha ha ha! Okay, it is also funny, but good for him. ]

This reminds me that most of us know very little about foreign cultures and mindsets, and I have discovered that one of the best ways of figuring them out--because we don't usually know enough to know which questions to ask the foreign guy before us--is to read travel guides, particularly the travel guides for business people. I hasten to add that these guides are about REAL foreigners, and not the fifth generation Japanese-American you have a crush on. A fifth generation Japanese-American is not Japanese but American.  Same goes for the second generation Polish-Canadian--not 2013 Polish, just Canadian with perhaps some 1980s conceptions of Polishness. The guides may be helpful in the case of young men who have just migrated, and I believe they most definitely are when it comes to foreign students and tourists. 

Another source of information, and quite hilarious information, too, can be found on our dear friend the internet, as adventurous English-speaking girls cut a swath through the men of the world and publish their findings online. If you are lucky, you will find a long comment stream of the reflections of outraged English-speaking foreign men underneath. Here is a very funny Der Spiegel article I read years ago on the subject of German men. It is not exhaustive, believe me. 

(Seraphic's Number One Tip about German men, gleaned from experience and conversations with Foreign Girlfriends of Germans after German class: never say anything bad about Germany. No matter how much a German man complains about Germany--and they do--never agree. Tell him all the things you love about Germany and don't budge. Germany=perfection. Then you'll get along with German men.)

People often behave very oddly on holiday, which they often see as a suspension from reality. And this is why you must be careful about men on holiday you meet in your own cities, and about men you meet when you are on holiday. My best friend in high school was seized by an elevator boy  when she was on the school trip to Turkey. She was only 16 or so, and since the elevator boy was cute and she didn't know what else to do, she made out with him in the elevator. She also got at least one marriage proposal from a waiter. Men who work in service jobs in Egypt, Turkey and other such places are often absolutely desperate to get out and they see female tourists as tickets to earthly paradise, so watch it. 

Meanwhile, some vacation hotspots in the Mediterranean, like the Greek islands, have contests regarding which man has managed to bed the most foreign women that season. Now, if hordes of middle-aged German and British women throw themselves at local men when they are on holiday, imagine young Frenchmen, young Germans, young Irishmen, et alia, when they come to your town. So don't get snookered by a cute accent.  

Of course you will occasionally fall in love on holiday. Come to think of it, that is why I am married now. However, most of the time holiday romances are very short and trying to spin them out past one's departure date just an exercise in frustration. It's much better just to honour the happy memory of a holiday romance and possibly to write a book about it. That reminds me, I just got a postcard from Volker. 

Finally, foreign students. Ah, foreign students.  I once was a foreign student, and most of the time I hated it, although that was because I was a Canadian in the USA, which is completely unlike any other kind of foreignness, unless it is like being Austrian or Swiss in Germany. (I loved being a foreign student in Germany.)  To understand men who are foreign students, it is wise to consult, not only businessmen's guide to social etiquette abroad, but the university literature for foreign students telling them how they may be feeling. Foreign students go through a long and painful psychological thing. 

It is a bad idea to ask foreign students who have been in your country for only six months if they are planning to settle in your country. At six months, the foreign student may be in the grip of homesickness and culture shock and get angrier than he might later at the  very idea that he would give up his own beloved nation for your slum of hamburger-munchers. There really is no reason to ask such a question until you are actually dating and, frankly, I have a lot more hope for European Union relationships working out than transatlantic ones. Europe is a small place and European travel relatively inexpensive. The same goes for Canadian-American relationships, since Canadians and Americans have border-hopping in the blood and most Canadians live within 200 km of the American border. 

I could go on forever, but I don't think the nerves of all my foreign guy eavesdroppers can take much more, so I shall stop now. The one thing I will add, since I married a Foreign Guy, is that B.A, who is Scottish, and I, who have a third-generation Scottish-Canadian mother, have distinct cultural ISSUES that we are still working out. It turns out that anglophone Canadians really do still have a distinct culture after all.  Now, to the combox! 


c'est la vie said...

Ahahahaha. Best Der Spiegel article ever.

Sarah said...

Hm... I have lived in Germany for over a year (and am thinking about emigrating) and have met a lot of German guys of various ages, and none of them bear the slightest resemblance to any of the descriptions in that article.

And two of my closest friends-- a couple-- are together because the guy, after knowing her for six days while she was here on a senior trip, confessed that he was in love with her. A married couple I know is together because, though the girl was not into him AT ALL in the beginning, she grew to be after he wiggled his way into an England trip she was going on with some mutual friends and kept calling her afterward. Both stories tend to fly in the face of the stereotype that German men are particularly shy or aloof when it comes to women. Of course, I would still say this stereotype is mostly accurate, or at least, German men are more reserved than American men... but it's not quite as oppressive as foreign women say.

Now that I think of it though, what you say about Germans' attitude about Germany is pretty spot on. They say they're over nationalism, but... nah. ;)

c'est la vie said...

Ok, so I was only there for a few months... and admittedly I worked in a physics research facility, so many of the people I met were probably eccentric even by German standards. But I definitely met some men with at least superficial similarities to the stereotypes described. The Organic, the Intellectual, and the Aristo stand out. To be fair,though, many of the people I met were absolutely charming. I still find the caricature funny, though!

Seraphic said...

Sarah, you simply cannot think sedevacantist-Catholic Germans are at all representative of the German population! For Germans to go to church at all is now considered a bit weird by the vast majority of Germans.

Sarah said...

Well, for one thing, not all the German men I have met have been sedevacantist, though I admit my closest friends are. But my parish is made up of about 30 people, and there are exactly four people between 20 and 30, including myself.

And for another thing, I don't see what sedevacantism has to do with their over-all culture. They are still German men, who act like other German men, (minus, they [I] hope, the secular ideas of sexuality in general, which I assume is the standard for conciliar Catholic men as well) whether they believe the See of Peter is vacated or full.

Believe it or not, though we may seem like freaks to most of the world, the fact that we believe the seat is currently empty does not-- usually-- interfere with our general way of interacting with the rest of the species. ;)

Seraphic said...

Because Germans are conformists. Not to be a conformist is not to be a typical German. (That's almost a tautology.) And to be a sedevacantist is most definitely to be nonconformist. And the Catholic Church in Germany is mostly screamingly liberal.

I'm dancing uneasily on the head of a pin here, for going to church at all is now very old-fashioned for Germany, but I would say that most German guys I have met--mostly church-going Catholic guys--are at least reminiscent of the Der Spiegel article (and total lefties). But, as I said, the Der Spiegel article isn't exhaustive.

Sarah said...

I guess I just feel that, having had a relatively long, close up look at one culture, and having been part of the other for most of my remembered life, I can speak from a place of authority when I say that I disagree that our sedevacantism affects our national culture to the degree you think it does.

Seraphic said...

Fair enough!