Part of being a foreigner somewhere is putting up with unwanted attention because you’re different. People stare, children shout things as you walk by in what they think is your native language (in Morocco, they all shout in French) and sometimes, you don’t get the same treatment that a native would receive because you’re different. It can also work the other way, and expats get away with all sorts of cultural faux pas because they’re foreign and people assume they don’t know any better. Either way, it can feel like people only react to the fact that you’re different and not to you as an individual, and it can be difficult to remind myself that sometimes it’s my actions that are causing the commotion, not my nationality, ethnicity or inability to speak the language.
Case in point: Last night, one of the innumerable cousins (I assume, I never did get a straight answer to who this guy was) came over. He spent the evening on the computer, which is in the living room and has a direct line of sight to my bedroom, where I was sitting on my bed, trying (unsuccessfully) to memorize adjectives. Every time I looked up, the cousin was staring at me, and after a bit, I started to get hostile. Why’s he looking at me? I fumed mentally. Hasn’t he seen a foreigner before?! I’m dressed appropriately, I’m minding my own business and I’m in the safety of my home. I’m not Moroccan, woop-di-freaking-do. I have to put up with enough attention all day. I shouldn’t have to deal with this at home too! What a creep! I spent the better part of the evening annoyed at the guy and sending him a covert stink-eye whenever I caught his glance.
And then, hours later when I got up for dinner, I realized that hanging right above me head, in plain view to the entire house, were a row of underwear that had still been damp when I took them off the line this afternoon.
Dude wasn’t looking at me. He was trying to figure out why I was displaying my undergarments so wantonly, especially when there was a male guest present. This had nothing to do with me being foreign and everything to do with me being kinda dumb. If I hadn’t immediately jumped to the conclusion that his attention was because I’m American and not because of something I had done, I would have looked around and noticed my laundry and could have saved myself some embarrassment when I had to sit down, red-faced, next to him for dinner.