Foreigner. Outsider, alien, different, unnatural.
I felt compelled to write this post after a friend warned me about overusing the word foreigner. He said that people don’t always appreciate that word and that it doesn’t sound like a nice thing. I fully understand and appreciate that point of view. Before moving to Korea, I’d rarely heard the word foreigner used. If someone was talking about “foreigners” they were talking about the group of weird, different people, people unlike themselves–that or a beloved 70’s rock band. However, after only a couple of weeks in Korea, I’d continuously heard the words being used. And it wasn’t only Koreans referring to the foreigners, but it was also the people inside the foreigner community using it to refer to themselves.
For me, it was very easy to change the way I heard the word foreigner. When I would first hear it roll off the tongue, I’d have a strange gut reaction; a little bug in my conscience saying, “Well that’s new…and weird.I’m not sure if I like that.” But, sure enough within no time at all I was using the word in all sorts of conversations with both Koreans and other Westerners.
My enthusiasm to use the word so easily happened for two reasons. First, when you live in another country you learn their diction rather quickly. You learn that instead of “college” they say “university,” instead of “laptop” they say “notebook,” and instead of “expat” they say “foreigner.” You become forced to use specific wording that is different from your own if you want to be understood. The other reason I embraced the new meaning of foreigner is simple. When you hear a word begin used so easily without any negative connotation, you can’t help but to change the way you interact with the word. It reminds me of this lesson I had as a child. Any word can be bad if you use it badly. Pig is not a bad word unless you call someone a pig in mean spirit. I think this is likened to my experience with the word foreigner.
So now that I’ve changed the way I feel about the word foreigner, I’ve come to use it all time! And since I learned to love the word in Korea, the name Foreigners Media is a little nod to my life here. Foreigners Media exists to embrace the full experience of being a foreigner. The experience of being an outsider, an alien, different, and unnatural. Being a foreigner is fascinating. We are adored, misunderstood, hated, and appreciated; we embarrass ourselves, we suffer heartache, we learn, and we thrive! My hope is that this blog shares all aspects–the good and bad–of being a foreigner!