The Freedom of being a foreigner

“Any strange action can be justified if you are a foreigner”

Have you ever felt an urge of touching the nose of someone riding on the bus with you? Or screaming in the street or skipping all the way to work?

Any strange action can be justified if you are a foreigner, you just ‘come from a different culture’ and that’s ok.

I live in Thailand and people here are often surprised that I walk too much in such heat or that I bring my own plastic cup for a smoothie refill, or that I like suntanning, but, oh well, I am a ‘farang’ (a foreigner), so they smile and don’t judge. No one cares what I do as long as this does not hurt anyone else. There are, of course, common rules here that I respectfully follow – do not point your feet at anyone, especially the buddha statues, do not touch a person’s head, no public display of affection. But even if I did anything like that, it would be frowned upon and forgiven.

In our own cultures when we are brought up in the ‘normal society’. It is not considered normal to do something different from walking, talking, eating or other things ‘normal’ people do. But where is the line between ‘normal’ and the shell that we crystalize our habits into, to only be a snail that doesn’t see anything behind its back, or a blind mole crawling forward without any sense of direction? Even ‘thinking outside the box’ has become a cliche inside the box.

While traveling I often see people giving away free hugs in the streets, wearing Aladdin pants and going for new experiences. But tell me, wouldn’t that be weird if one day in your hometown you decided to go to work with two big backpacks swaying around the subway like a clumsy teddy bear? Or would you come up to anyone in your country and ask them about the meaning of life? Or would you, on a normal Monday evening after a long day of work, start baking bread in your kitchen all of a sudden?

When I first went to China, I was a surrounded by international students many of whom had been in a relationship when they arrived and by the end of the year started dating other people and exploring their sexuality. I am not claiming it acceptable, but it was definitely liberating because of the environment they were in. Or the absence of the environment they were used to. This March in Georgia, when we were asking people in the streets about their dreams, I somehow felt more confident about approaching others as a foreigner, and I might have been much more shy if we did the same thing in my country. Why is that? When you are away from home, from cultural pressure and prejudice, you will inevitably open up to new experiences. They may be scary and uncomfortable, like asking a stranger to sleep on their couch, or simply buying a ticket if you don’t speak the language. But all of the steps you take are liberating and they naturally put you in the process of learning. And if you direct yourself on the right path, in the end of the journey you will be able to connect the dots into a beautiful pattern.

So tell me, how would you spend your time if you didn’t have to eat three meals per day? Or if you were not constantly watched by your family, teachers or old grandmas sitting around on the benches (Ukrainian grandma police)? If you were not afraid of falling down or that someone would dislike your words?

For one day, try to be a foreigner in your own country. Walk the streets you never go to, talk to the people you don’t know, eat something new, smile to an angry stranger, learn a new skill. Traveling to faraway places is not necessary to satisfy your wanderlust, you can do it here and now.

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