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aibu to be slightly upset at being referred to as a foreigner in the country my Mum came from

(82 Posts)
donotfeelsecure Fri 14-Aug-15 06:56:25

My Dad is English and my Mum was from another European country. Growing up we lived in a 3rd European country for many years but as expats really - the person who was most integrated there was my mother, while still obviously being the nationality she was.

My sister and I were educated in English and we spoke English at home. We speak my Mum's language though not as well as English. We sound English but do not sound like native speakers when we speak the other language. Just for context!

Growing up I found the split identities difficult. I was born in England. We moved to my Mum's country when I was 6 months old and stayed there till I was 4 or 5. My sister was born there. When I was 4 or 5 we moved to the 3rd country which is where we both basically grew up. We were definitely foreigners there. We often visited our grandparents in England and in my Mum's country - we would also be outsiders there (though less in England as our mother tongue is English). I used to obsess about this quite a bit (as a child) and wonder where I was actually from confused.

As an adult the issue has kind of resolved itself. Except for one year in my Mum's country teaching English and a couple of years working in the country I grew up in, I have lived in England. I have now lived here for 19 years in a row and identify as English but will always tell people where my Mum was from if they ask me where I am from. Or will say I am half English half the other nationality. It does not often come up anyway because of the way I sound (though my first name is the other nationality version of an uncommon English name). I am very happy to finally belong somewhere in the same way that no one would say that Helen Mirren was not English just because her mother was Russian. Also we live in London where a lot of people have come from somewhere else so there are no issues around not fitting in.

So to get to to the point finally. Dh, the dc and I are on holiday in my Mum's country visiting my Dad (who moved here when my Mum died, he did not go back to England). We went for out for dinner last night and in the course of the evening we were referred to as foreigners several times by both my Dad's partner (who knew my Mum well - they were at secondary school together from the age of about 15 / 16 and remained friends until my Mum died 8 years ago), and by her son. I suppose the dc, despite being one quarter this nationality cannot speak one word of the language. But I feel oddly upset about this on my own account. At home (in England) I am proud to be able to speak my Mum's language (though it gets rusty and I do not understand slang) and always allude to my dual heritage in honour of her really. So it annoys me a bit that I am so viewed as an outsider when we are here angry.

This is not a big issue really (and apologies for the long back story blush) or even very interesting (blush), but I do wonder why I get upset when I have definitely chosen to be "English" confused. I suppose I would like some sense of belonging here as well because after all half my entire family tree is from here.

Just wondering if anyone can relate to this really grin.

donotfeelsecure Fri 14-Aug-15 06:58:40

Apologies for typos

whatsinthename Fri 14-Aug-15 07:11:16

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

maxxytoe Fri 14-Aug-15 07:14:04

Well you ARE a foreigner.
You weren't born there and don't live there...

mintpoppet Fri 14-Aug-15 07:15:16

I don't know why you are dwelling on it. It makes no difference where you're from.

ColdCottage Fri 14-Aug-15 07:15:33

I can understand. I would correct people and reinforce how important your heritage is to you.

annandale Fri 14-Aug-15 07:16:10

I think this is interesting smile I wonder, if a relative or friend said that you were English and insisted that in fact you were completely English whatever you said, you would feel equally put out?

However, it may be quite simple. To call someone a 'foreigner' in conversation is plain rude in my opinion even if factually true. For you it has all sorts of extra resonances but tbh you may be upset simply because that person was trying to upset you. Probably not a coincidence that they picked an epithet that you felt vulnerable about. Does your Dad's partner actually like you?

maxxytoe Fri 14-Aug-15 07:16:23

Though I do think it's rude of them to be referring to you as foreign

YeOldeTrout Fri 14-Aug-15 07:22:59

mmmmm, I don't relate but it's maybe not fair to tell you how you should feel.

I come from many generations born & raised outside the UK.
DC are only kids, but I'm pretty sure they seem themselves as English. Also half X (my side), but they are really English. They know they have another heritage & visited there but really I am X and they are English.

I don't find it remotely rude if someone calls me foreign. I am. Heck people in my X country call me foreign now (my accent has changed so they don't realise). I think it's funny.

chrome100 Fri 14-Aug-15 07:25:02

It's a bit like all these Americans that turn up in Dublin and say they're "Irish American" and are following their roots, just because someone once upon a time in their family tree came from there. They're not Irish clearly, but they're seeking an identity.

In your case, the link is much more recent and you have a valid claim to it, but it comes down to the same thing: searching for a sense of place and self.

mijas99 Fri 14-Aug-15 07:30:54

If your language is rusty and you can't understand slang then you are foreign culturally and linguistically

If you felt this nationality was an important part of your identity then you would have brought up your children to be bilingual, but you didn't

msrisotto Fri 14-Aug-15 07:31:39

I get you. It's not up to her, or anyone else, to assign your heritage.
I spent some formative years as an ex pat in a country that no one in my family has ties to and I struggled moving back to the UK aged 7 and still feel a weird disconnectedness that is not entirely comfortable, despite being English and living here over 20 years.

Mehitabel6 Fri 14-Aug-15 07:35:56

You get the same in UK if you have moved around and don't come from anywhere in particular. It just means that you are a bit of an outsider wherever you live.

TheNewStatesman Fri 14-Aug-15 07:56:20

"If you felt this nationality was an important part of your identity then you would have brought up your children to be bilingual, but you didn't"

That's a bit harsh--raising a child to be bilingual is not as easy as it sounds.

TheNewStatesman Fri 14-Aug-15 07:57:30

OP--google "third culture kids." The feelings you describe are quite common among people who had an expat-like existence growing up.

HexBramble Fri 14-Aug-15 08:07:03

I understand what you mean OP. I have these feelings on a smaller scale - Welsh parents who worked in England, I was prem and was born in a London hospital but am fiercely Welsh and patriotic. Welsh first language, same for my children etc.

I get irked when someone teases me about my nationality - less so now I'm older and more assured.

It's about identity and a feeling of belonging and having roots somewhere that you can call 'home'. You may feel doubly sensitive because your Mum has passed away and someone mentioning the word 'foreigner' (which IMO was rude and goading BTW) somehow makes your connection more fragile. In what context was this said, may I ask?

I hate adages usually but in this instance, your home is where your heart is OP and don't let anyone tell you different.

Nolim Fri 14-Aug-15 08:29:17

I am an expat. Well it would be more accurate than i am an immigrant but given the negative connotation of that word in the uk these days i try to avoid it. Anyway i was born and raised in country x, and have been living in The uk for a few years. This is the place that i consider my home, where my dc were born and were i expect to live for decades to come, but i do not consider myself british (and techically i am not either since i dont have citizenship), i am not from here not there. Hence i am an expat.

Are my dc british? Once again, techically not, even though they were born in the uk from parents who have a valid immigration status, speak english etc they are not allowed uk citizenship, they are citizens of a country they have never visited. I expect this to change and they will probably become uk citizens legally and culturaly. Country x will be part of their heritage, they are bilingual etc, but not the most important cultural influence. I know many expats at work and typically they identify by the culture they grew up in. For example a german born in malaysia would be someone born in malasia who moved to germany as a child, while a malasian with german passport would be someone who emmigrated to germany as an adult.

So back to the point op i am not surprised that that they consider you a forreigner of a country where you lived a few years as a child. But as others have said it is rude to dismiss your heritage.

Bullshitbingo Fri 14-Aug-15 08:31:53

Was just about to mention 'third culture kids'. It's an interesting read.

I was born 'abroad', grew up in lots of different places, my mum had a different nationality to me, my sister and my dad. It didn't bother me growing up, and as an adult I am definitely British, but trying to explain to people where I'm from is a bit of a mish mash. I find other people much more intent on trying to label me. My accent has evolved to sound more like the local one where I live now (se England) so I don't get as many questions, but I can understand how you feel about being called a foreigner. It doesn't feel great, when you feel like you for in.

Bullshitbingo Fri 14-Aug-15 08:34:31

* fit in

Rockdoctor Fri 14-Aug-15 08:41:23

This happens to my DH all the time when he visits his mum in her home country (where she now lives). Very, very similar circumstances to yours.

The fact is that in my mil's country the "emigrantes" are not particularly well regarded. The stereotype seems to be that they abandoned their country, made lots of money, and now come back and look down on the locals. My DH is convinced that we are treated much better if we behave like a normal family of English tourists when we're there.

Of course, with family it is different, but I think there is still that underlying resentment (jealousy?), compounded by the fact that his relationship with his mum is more typically British ie. he doesn't phone her every night and she chose to return "home" rather than live with us, so I suspect her family think we're all a bit odd.

So yes, I can totally relate to what you are saying. I wonder if we are talking about the same country.

Birgitz Fri 14-Aug-15 08:44:22

I understand where you're coming from OP. My Dad is also from Europe and my Mum English, and as an only child, our annual 3 week holidays as a child to my Dad's home country were hugely important to me, as I felt a real sense of belonging and was very close to my cousins, who felt like the siblings I didn't have. I remember being very proud of my German sounding surname as I felt like I was German and I used to get annoyed when family refered to our little family of 3 as "die Engländer". Even now Germany holds a very special place in my heart and I try to visit every year to give my children some connection with it. And when there, I find myself telling people that I have family there - I don't want to be seen as just another tourist. Silly really, as I'm sure nobody cares!

hackmum Fri 14-Aug-15 08:56:23

I quite understand, OP. You are half-English and half the country your mum came from. Both are part of who you are. I do think it was rude and rather unkind of them to describe you as foreign.

crumpet Fri 14-Aug-15 09:00:09

Hi OP, I think you answered the question yourself when you mentioned Helen Mirren. I doubt that many people in Russia would think of her as anything but a foreigner.

I am most definitely a foreigner in the country I was born in. But I don't have an issue with it, as I did most of my growing up in the UK and identify as British, even though I still have family out there, who as definitely not British!

crumpet Fri 14-Aug-15 09:03:54

I do understand the sense of dislocation. Although I did most growing up in the UK, it was definitely not all, and I lived in 4 countries and had been to 7 schools by the time I was 18. PITA always being the new girl.

museumum Fri 14-Aug-15 09:04:32

I think it's just something you need to come to terms with. You've ended up by circumstances and by choice a lot more than "half" English. It sounds to me like you are English with a mum from x-country.
But actually who cares? Why does it matter? I'm Scottish and lived in England a long time, English people saw and heard me as Scottish but when I went "home" Scottish people thought I now sounded English and I'd stopped using scots words. This friend of your mums probably hears your accent and you speaking English to your family and sees the differences that to her make you "foreign" but here in the UK we would see you differently especially if you have good language skills in your mums language.

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