Don’t hate the F.O.Bs

Isn’t migration a funny thing. You find yourself torn between two cultures. Sometimes you support the cause of the original FOB. You even find yourself defending it, and explaining it, theorising about it and explaining it to your totally gora (no culture) colleagues who’ve had like zero struggles in their lives. Seriously though, migration leaves you richer with knowledge. Sometimes.

The election’s coming near and Howard’s most offensive quality is his perpetuation of “aussie values”, the coining of a term that automatically sets Australians apart from the rest of the world. I object to such classifications because unless you’re a devil worshipper, your values and mine are basically the same. I resent the creation and subsequent perpetuation of a seemingly harmless rehtoric that has widened the gap between mainstream Australia and its migrant folk.

That said, have you ever had a “those bloody FOBs” moment?

Have you had an experience that’s made you spit out the same rhetoric? My closest friend from school is Indian Brahmin, born and raised in Australia, who now works as a lawyer in a reputable firm near me. She was on Friday approached by an Indian man, of similar cast (one can only imagine) dressed in traditional Indian attire. He also had on the traditional kunkumun (red powder) that signifies your <>.

As this man stopped at the traffic lights waiting to cross the road with my friend, he turned to her, greeted by saying Namaste, and proceeded to ask her why she is wearing a skirt.

Yes, that’s right. He asked her why she was wearing a skirt, because traditionally women wouldn’t show leg and ideally be wearing saris. She, being indian, was not.

These experiences remind us of the ways in which many people still think in this world. They shake us up, piss us off and remind us that ours is not the only way of being. As ethnic as I may be, I’m still very very far removed from the reality of the women growing up in Pakistan. Just today, we had visitors over. I was out but I came in shortly after they did.

After a little while, I was asked by one of my guests where I’d gone to and whether or not I had to work on Sunday.

I found this question very odd. But it suddenly reminded me that girls in Pakistan, don’t really go out on their own. Girls like her, would have never just gone to the corner shop to get some ice cream with a mate on a lazy Sunday afternoon.

Her question bothered me. As I was retelling the story to my sister she informed me that the guests had been made aware of my whereabouts so she didn’t understand why I was being quizzed again.

This bothered me some more. I resorted to saying “well, this is what we DO in Australia lady! We have lives!”

Can you believe it!

*this is a quick and dirty entry – possible edits may follow*


7 thoughts on “Don’t hate the F.O.Bs

  1. Aunts are not gentlemen. Some of my aunts always ask me, at first I did not understand and then slowly it dawned upon me that it could be:
    a) Just trying to make a conversation.
    b) Wanting to be friends with me.
    c) Gathering gossip for emotional blackmailing to make you follow their bidding.

    My strategy? Aunt what’s your favourite food? How is the cutie pie xyz doing at school? It’s not easy to distract “Aunts” but when you do, my nothing can beat that feeling 🙂 !

  2. Migration certainly does give us new perspectives.

    I used to get really annoyed with people too…okay, honestly I still do. I’m *trying* to give them more benefit of the doubt but it is hard.

    Sometimes I recognize my Mum in those aunties who ask offensive or weird questions. She is hard of hearing, set in her ways, sheltered, and sometimes asks questions just to make conversation even when she already knows the answer.

    It’s hard to give people the benefit of the doubt though and sometimes someone is clearly just asking a question to make a religious or political point instead of truly seeking to understand.


  3. jalal: eager to hear your thoughts, please share.

    baraka: ah… you seem to have stumbled across the very same struggle… its so hard when you’ve lived most of your life overseas and are adept at switching back and forth between cultures. You even end up forming a hyphenated identity for yourself where, its OK to go out with girls, not boys so i’m not doing anything wrong, and YET they trouble you. Fine line between upholding values and being downright nosey. Further, I would like to remind these nosey people, they did make the move to a whole different country where everything is pretty much the opposite to what they know… perhaps they ask with wonder because the differences shock them into incohesion?

    Astarte: oh dear… no way would I employ that strategy, my mother would kill me.

    Luckily though, a fellow Paki is starting work here in the next few weeks. Hurrah. (not)

  4. People are different. It’s hard not to react to idiots like Howard who seem to want to enforce some bland homogeneity but I try to feel pity for his type. So scared of “the other” they can’t enjoy differences.

    Yes, as you point out, not all differences are “good”. I’m happy with people making personal choices but I frequently arc up at someone who wants to inflict their own cultural bias on me or anyone else who doesn’t want it.

    Life is a balancing act!

  5. Hey you. I forgot (sinfully) about the blogging world. I found a random blog and then remembered that I had one too…Then using the link on my blog I went to yours, wondering if you were still blogging. Good to see that you are here with your refreshing and true observations!

    The first paragraph just about summarises my life. One of the reasons I left to Thailand where I thought I would be able to escape constant explanation because I would snugly and simply fit into the “Foreigner” category. It worked at first.. THEN..I found myself defending, explaining theorising to my “gora” colleagues. 😉 …and defending, theorising and explaining to my Thai ones. *sigh* I guess this is my Unsaid Mission.

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