Social Collateral Damage

At one point in Oxford I was known as the person who knew everybody. Oxford is a small city, and if you live there a while you will get to know pretty much everyone within your income and education level, even if those are two separate things. I had lived there a for well over ten years while many of my friends – the same people who were amazed I knew “everyone” – were expats or post doctorates who hadn’t yet worked out how tiny the non-migratory population in Oxford was.

Everyone I met, I introduced to everyone I knew. I would spend time after meeting new people running through my mental rollerdex thinking of who they might get along with at the next party- and if they were single, who they might especially like to meet. I didn’t care if they became my friend or not as long as they made friends: I’m an acquired taste, while loneliness is universal.

It never occurred to me this behaviour was unusual until I got here and realised no one was doing the same for me. The Mr’s friends would make sympathetic noises about me being alone while he traveled a lot for the first two months (he still travels as often as he is home. Some months, more often that he is home.), but for the most part, I’m not on their mental radar. Maybe it’s the language barrier. Maybe it’s cultural. I feel like people here just aren’t as nice as they are in the UK. Warmer at first meeting, sure…but nice is what happens when you’re not in front of someone. The Mr would say that people in the UK are only acting nice while not feeling inwardly in accord with that behaviour (my Caribbean ex-housemate would just call it ‘hypocritical behaviour’. Her favourite example was our housemate having a long, polite conversation on the landing with another housemate we all knew he loathed the sight of). Still, sincere or not, it serves a purpose and makes people feel like they are getting along and part of society.

By contrast, it almost feels like feudal times here: the Facebook pages for expats in spain and the english speakers in spain are filled with spammy ads, not community messages; many groups on meet up.com are adverts for paid for classes, the spanish equivalent of craigslist don’t have ads for rehoming poorly cared for pets, just ads for selling them for almost market price.

Maybe people have a very different relationship the internet here. My posts might be the equivalent of a spammy add in their eyes, asking people what they are up to this weekend. I think it’s vulgar that they post ads on a community page: maybe they think it’s vulgar I use the internet to make friends.

I don’t know if I’m cut out to live here. I miss living with people who believe in doing as you would be done by, in passing it on, in dharma.

My mom migrated for my dad. My grandma migrated my grandpa. My great grandma migrated with her husband. I have a picture of my family in my kitchen. I can’t look at it today.

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One thought on “Social Collateral Damage

  1. Wow — that last paragraph was powerful. And sad 😦
    This sentence especially struck home: “Warmer at first meeting, sure…but nice is what happens when you’re not in front of someone.”
    I’ve always wondered which was better — or which was truer “kindness” or “niceness”…the person who is OUTWARDLY nice, or the person who isn’t effervescent (sp?), but is truly “inwardly” warm? But that can be hard to detect, can’t it? :-/ Either way, people could be a *bit* more helpful to you! Good gravy, I wish I lived nearby! xoxo

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