OK, first of all I am Indian. As in, I’m from South India, born and raised, on the playground is where i spent most of my days…
but then i moved to the U.S
And i noticed a phenomenon that i’ve now come to understand takes place everywhere in the world.
See, in the states, it was very common for random Indian people to come up to me and start a conversation and the first question would always be “You Indian?” . I was always annoyed by this because i wonder how that can be the first thing you ask somebody. So, initially i would very dryly say “Yes, I am Indian. ” I would get a response such as “Oh! OKAY, GOOD. Here is my number. My name is _____. Feel free to call me”
That began to piss me off. Soon after, i would respond to this question with “No, I’m not from India, I’m from Trinidad & Tobago” However, this did not dissuade these buggers. After all, we are a persistent bunch of fellows. They would continue “Oh yes yes, MANY INDIANS in Trinidad. ” And than they would give me their schpeel and song and dance as if i had just narrowly passed the INDIAN test despite being Trinidadian or a Tobaggoner. So, I then changed my answer to “No, I’m from BRA-ZEEL” . Figuring that there is no significant Indo-Brazilian community, i assumed i was in the clear. However, my Brazilian accent didnt cut the mustard with my Indian brethren and they always asked me pointedly “BRAZILIAN?? What is your name?” ..Somehow this repeatedly caught me off guard and instead of saying “Wanderlei De Silva” or “Kaka”, i always said “Huh, oh uh, Michael”
And that seemed highly dubious to my inquisitors. Still, i was free for another day! Thank God I looked like a man of indeterminate ethnic origin!! Imagine if I was the spitting image of Mahatma Gandhi or Amitabh Bachchan. It would never stop. So, i successfully ducked out on scores of conversations with Indian men (Indian women hardly ever do this, I’m assuming because they’ve already been accosted by about a 100 indian guys that day) and quietly seethed at the manner in which a person could come talk to you and expect to be friends simply based on nothing but a shared subcontinent and a bond between 1.2 billion people…
but then I moved to Korea
And proceeded to do exactly the same thing. Irony of ironies, i caught myself walking down the street and if i saw a non-Korean, i immediately wanted to go talk to them and see if they lived by me and if they wanted to hang out and if they knew any girls who wanted to hang out and if so were they as desperate as i was? Okay that never happened but the truth is i caught myself looking at every white guy/girl, black guy/girl and even just people wearing a baseball jersey or NBA hat and wondering if i should talk to them. In a handful of instances, I did . And with disastrous results. See, the people who travel to faraway places can be broken down into these categories
1) the adventurer – cool, down for whatever, fun and frolic, these people are the ones that make things fun for all, hakuna matata on steroids, they left home cos the world is their oyster
2)the traveler– chill, down , reads a lot, learning about life and himself/herself, left home cos they wanted to learn about the world and themselves, good people
3)the type a personality– annoying, this was the latest thing on his/her agenda to be a complete person. Between their internship and grad school, thought it would be a good thing to put on their resume while they travel (not cos they enjoy travel, but so that they could compare notes with the other grad school kids) surprisingly common and unsurprisingly already focused on next year and the twenty after that.
4) the complainer– wack, popping up all over the place. My personal nightmare scenario, i have a way of attracting these people. My face appears to be screaming “DO YOU HAVE ANY COMPLAINTS?!?? NONE?? COME ON!! THERE MUST BE SOMETHING??” because the complainers seek me out and in the rare event of me talking to a stranger (eventho my mom told me not to) , they have been just DYING to complain. Why? Cos nobody else wants to listen to that shit! And then i walk in and they proceed to whine endlessly. Debbie Downer on Zoloft…
5) the herb – a conundrum, there are a lot of socially awkward people around here. Now, I’m not Ferris Bueller but i can at least understand how to NOT piss people off. Still, that seems like a tall order for some of the herbs around here. I assume they left home cos they were either friendless or surrounded by other herbs…good call leaving either way. It’s just not something i expected to encounter here and it doesn’t make me homesick or nostalgic. It just grinds at me. They keep talking and cracking joke after bad joke and i wonder “wow, he must really like the sound of awkward forced laughter followed by pin drop silence”
Obviously there are exceptions but still, this a broad overview. Now, the adventurers are not as common as you imagine. They are around but in limited supply. The travelers there are plenty of and these are the people you are keen to run into. When you approach someone or are approached by someone, you hope they are the traveler. However, it might be a TYPE A in disguise. In which case, get ready for a boring conversation that seems like an interview. The TYPE A frequently turns into The Complainer as well and at that point your best alternative is to run for the hills and never look back cos it is PAINFUL. Complaints around here turn into sessions where you can just get drained. It’s best to walk away before they start. I usually just say things like “Oh yeah, that sucks” and then zone out in my patented “sleepwalking while awake” state. Feigning ADD gets me out of a tough jam yet again! So, the point is , most cool people already have friends. It is the norm. Therefore, having learned the hard way, I know that the people who are waiting to talk to you on the street are usually herbs or are waiting to complain. There are exceptions, like me. But then again, I’m the exception to every rule. And you know this! ( I know I know, I’m a herb)
The moral of the story is when i was in America, I knew that being Indian alone was not enough to be friends with someone. Now, being a foreigner, it is even more obvious to me that this is true everywhere. Simply being English-speakers in Korea does not mean we will automatically be friends. Most probably, I don’t wanna know what you’re saying.
I’ll still take that chance though cos that’s what it’s all about.