With our move to Portugal, my husband came back 'home' and I became a 'foreigner'. And as a 'good foreigner' I'm busy integrating, adapting and understanding the written and unwritten rules of my new homecountry. Although this sounds a logical thing to do 'as foreigner', it's a hell of a job. Because apart from nothing being naturally anymore, I have a great family in law who often seems to drown me in a tub of Portugese traditions.
I'm wondering what exactly means integration. I'm learning the language and although I'm far from speaking fluent, I can make myself pretty clear. That means, in short phrases, or better some words sticked together. Not really filled with thoughtful vocabulary, decorated with some politeness and decently sugared. Emotional and tactical expression turns out to be a special tool, not only to protect our esteem, but also to be accepted as 'normal thinking person'. For the moment I will need to accept that people talk to me as if I'm a child, either very loud, or repeating the same word over and over again.
Addapting and staying close to 'me'
And what more integration is about, I wonder? To adapt! As it is! Because that's exactly what 'we' Dutch like to see from 'our foreigners' in Holland. But that's really not as easy as it sounds. I do make a million of attempts, though. For instance, I suppress the wish to say 'hi' to my neighbours. We might live in the same street, that doesn't mean you can be trusted. I wait without complaining. Waiting two weeks before the central heating gets fixed. Waiting four hours to get a new ID-card. Waiting endlessly for an answer from the internet supplier, meanwhile of course without having internet. I adapt by trying to feel comfortable in a restaurant with too many white tl-lights, not to get annoyed with the always and ever green television screen which makes any kind of conversation more and less 'mission impossible'. And I succesfully adapted by talking permanently with a raised voice. People happen to talk quite loud here.
With all this adapting, integrating and talking Portugese all at the same time, I often loose myself a bit out of sight. It's all about being flexible, but standards in life don't change that easily and the question is wether you wish to change them. That will take me time to find out. To be continued.