Sitting, eating alone surrounded by Thai people, I begin racking my brain at what the opposite of a racist is, when naturally the answer is… Just normal. Not sure why it comes to mind but I just feel more comfortable here than I would eating alone at home (which doesn’t really phase me either). But the thoughts continue, it’s more than that I realise – I am a xenophile.
I love different things, different cultures, and it’s not out of some educational respect for those new cultures (although I appreciate that too), but rather an inability to comprehend this alien culture’s bullshit.
At home, I’d eavesdrop or people watch and just focus on the worst in people. Dirty conversations, dirtier people. These guys are probably just complaining about their countries, politics, immigration or the farang guy in the corner creeping them out with his inability to smile properly. Don’t get me wrong, I’d probably be the first to be pissed if I lived in a one party communist state or a monarchical/military coup led state, but I don’t, so I’m not.
In this restaurant, I watch couples eat together and share true moments of happiness, which puts a smile on my face. At home, I understand their mannerisms better and realise that the smiles bely mortgage worries or the fact they resent having a child, this being their ‘date night’ and essentially only time alone. Lost youth and spontaneity. I read western people well, I see their underlying issues, like a shit Derren Brown, and it saddens me.
Here, I watch groups of guys talk, laugh and drink in what is essentially a universal way, but the simple fact that I can’t understand what the conversation is about, whether it’s dissin’ someone’s fly girl or dick jokes means I appreciate their humour and happiness at face value, literally, because I have no idea what’s being said. It is what it is – unbridled laughter. I am happy seeing someone smile at a joke that I wouldn’t find funny back home – some base Michael McIntyre joke* or whatever – simply because I don’t speak the language.
It is because I don’t understand something that I appreciate it, which isn’t necessarily a good thing and certainly says more about me than anything else, but it does put me in better stead than those fearing what they don’t understand.
I know that we’re all the same and the couple’s conversation is as asinine as the westerners’ whose language I can understand. I know the lads are getting pissed and it’s still macho one upmanship between them, but I can’t prove it so it makes me happy to see them smile.
Rather than fear difference, I embrace it. It’s one of the few bastions of optimism I have left, and probably dictates how judgemental of the West I am. That the prejudices I hold lie far closer to home than at those with darker skin than I.
In a way, that’s why I love Liverpool, my home. Sure, we have our pick of pricks about, and I understand them there, but we’re a port city that generally embraces difference, change and newness. I enjoy the large Chinese community the city has. I enjoy the wave of Spanish people who came over in 00s – even if I understand a fair bit and they’re loud about it. I’ve enjoyed the influx of tourists that the city has noticeably seen in the past ten years or so. It’s that ability to hear languages I don’t understand, without forking out the plane ticket to do so myself, coupled with a pride that they wanted to do the same in my city. It’s the linguistic equivalent of putting your headphones in on the train to avoid talking to the nutter sat next to you.
Liverpool is not as important as it was in the day but – for a fair part – that mentality has stuck around. We like welcoming new people to the city because we’re proud of it and we’ll let those guys get on with whatever they want to do in our city, take what we like and ignore what we don’t. Liverpool has its own faults and as natives we see them more than others, but there are positives to behold aside from whatever the latest Bold St eatery is.
I’d wanted to shoehorn a pro-EU message*** in this, but frankly it doesn’t matter to me, I have an EU passport and a UK passport (if I so choose) so ease of travel isn’t an issue for me. But, if you identify like me, someone who is at ease with the strange or alien – an out vote could be a pain in the arse.
Sure, it won’t be a life changer or the end of the world, but we just don’t know how it will pan out. If both sides play hard ball, you may have to obtain and pay for visas? Even worse, you’re likely to not have the support of the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), which has undoubtedly saved people thousands of pounds.
It’s probably going to cost you more in order to have your extended weekend in an Eastern capital or your week exploring rural Slovenia. Albeit I concede that it’ll probably remain pretty straight forward but everything is unknown territory if we leave. Alien, if you will, and it’s ironic because under my own rules that should excite me but not this time. I want travel to be easy.
I know the out vote isn’t a vote for xenophobia. I do not think that 99% of out voters considering it are xenophobic (at least not in the standard – synonymous with racism – sense) but the rhetoric used by a lot of the out campaign leans heavily on fear of the unknown (In all honesty both campaigns do but that’s another article). Not knowing who is coming into the country. Not knowing who is making the rules. Not knowing the countries place on the world stage and within this federal state.
I love difference for difference’s sake and if i can maintain this with easy border crossings and cheap health insurance, I know what I’d pick. I am a xenophile and proud.
*easy target, sorry.
**The photograph contains Vietnamese folk, not Thai.
*** I guess I did shoehorn it in anyway