Wednesday, June 17, 2009

What started it all

I spend a lot of time thinking on and talking about and lamenting over all the 'us and them' issues in life. Sometimes I'm an us and sometimes a them, depending on my mood, the situation, or someone else's definition. I spend much of my professional life trying to convince people that the space between U&T is not that great. I spend much of my personal life realizing that sometimes, it is.

Many dichotomies exist for me. That of teacher/student, friend/foe, foreign/native. I realized when I was giving a lecture a few weeks ago that sometimes I don't know or can't remember where I fall on a certain U&T scale. Addressing a group of Norwegians (and one lone Chinese man, bless!), I was explaining what local Norwegian businesses could do in order to help foreigners feel more integrated in the workplace. I said, "We have to help them understand that living in Norway can be a great opportunity!" This was worrisome on several levels: first, because it was a bit of a tall order; second, because it is not necessarily true; and third, because I had somehow subconsciously stopped being a them (a foreigner) and had suddenly become an us.

Thing is, I am foreign. I relish my non-Norwegian-ness, in fact. Not in a 'Norwegians bite' kind of way, but in a 'don't forget where you come from, Tex' sort of way. As soon as the words came out of my mouth, I began having a conversation with myself (while still managing to continue my conversation with the class... mostly).

Here's what I wondered: Does a person's concept of U&T change over time? Is it okay to not be sure which one you are? How do you deal with feeling like an us when the rest of the us's see you as a them?

I don't have any real answers for those questions, but I have a lot more questions where those came from, so I plan to put them all down right here in this little blog.


  1. Love the blog, and I totally understand the situation. I find myself going back to Texas and feeling like a foreigner and then coming back to Norway only to, again, feel like a foreigner. I guess I am neither an US nor a THEM... just something in between.

    And to make it worse, I have not only lost my accent, but was accused of speaking "Euro-English" on my past visit.... what?!?

    Maybe we should set up a course on how to speak Texan... 'cuz I don't speak no Euro-English...


  2. Nicole, I am not even sure I could teach a Texan class anymore! I get that I sound Canadian a lot. And while Canadians have a lovely accent, it's just not one I ever connected with my Texas drawl!