If today I heard a question “When did you meet a foreigner?”, it would be easy to answer. I had a foreigner staying at my home last week, I talked to a foreigner over the internet yesterday, I heard foreigner speak in a street today…
In our countries there are many many foreigners these days (maybe over 1/5 in Lithuania are not of Lithuanian ethnicity), tourists fly in and out every day with cheap Ryanair or ride in simply with “Simple Express” buses. However, even though we often meet foreigners and are used to it, there are many questions to answer – where does it start? How one can meet a foreigner for a first time? What effect does it have? Is “first” foreigner any more significant than any other?
I can tell where it started for me (the first meetings I remember).
The very first must have been when I went to my village (I don’t remember what age I was, probably kindergarten times:)). Instead of meeting only my grandparents there, I noticed more people – and this is the lone clear impression I got. But it was not really foreigners that were “more”. Only Lithuanian emigrants coming to visit from USA.
Second meeting, this time of real foreigners, happened when I was already in school – maybe maybe fourth grade, maybe third. My grandmother (not the same one) has connections/friends in Switzerland (one proof of that was me and my sister often getting Swiss chocolate when we met our grandmother.. ). Two ladies from Switzerland visited my grandmother for a day or two, and also came to my home for tea/meal. For me, this was a first real meeting of a foreigner. Before, I haven’t really tried to use my English language skills, which I am happily using now. I spoke a bit, but it was difficult. Happily, there was our grandmother who could speak German and so interpret for us, so we could get to know a bit of Switzerland…
I believe that, at least for me, the first foreigners were significant. It was like something unknown, a door that I opened for a first time. It made me “aware” of the world’s people, while every person I meet now only reminds me about this “awareness” that I have.
I hope you can remember what, who and when did you first meet, or maybe you are the foreigner yourself?