Saturday, February 6, 2010

"There Is a Russian Lady Living on My Block!"

Every single time I meet a new person, the following deeply uncomfortable dialogue ensues:

New Person: So where are you from?
Me: Ukraine.
New Person: Oh, really? There is a Russian (Ukrainian, Bielorussian, Uzbek, Lithuanian, etc.)  lady (gentleman, family, etc.) living on my block (working in my office, attending my gym, visiting my coffee-shop, etc.)
Me (having no idea how to respond): Huh...
New Person (brightly): Would you like to meet her (him, them)?

Sometimes, this conversation gets even weirder with people saying, "Oh, you are from Ukraine! I know somebody from Bosnia (Serbia, Slovenia, etc.)." Then, things get even more embarrassing because I start explaining that Ukraine and Serbia are very different countries. I think. Because I don't really know much about Serbia, to my shame. And, of course, at the end of the conversation I feel like a total fool.

These conversations occur with a frightening regularity and have begun to bug me beyond what I can express. I wonder why people consider it necessary to say these things. It must be obvious that if I were so desperate for the company of any Russian-speaker just because s/he is a Russian-speaker, I would have never emigrated in the first place. It is also kind of offensive that people would think everybody who is born in some part of the humongous former Soviet Union would necessarily have something in common. We are all different and often in no particular hurry to meet each other.


KT said...

LOL. I understand your frustration :)

V said...

The logic is more or less like that: "he/she seems to be European, but from the country I never heard of. Thus, it must be either former SU or former Yugoslavia...
Oh, what the heck, there isn't much difference... They all speak East European anyway" :) :)

I do not remember anybody's attempts to introduce me to as many FSU people as possible.
I do remember, though, multiple attempts, including by total strangers in the street, to invite us to this or that church. Quite persistent attempts. Just telling we were not interested did not always help. The antidote we finally found was quite funny. We actually started to respond that we are "Russian Orthodox". That was apparently scary enough to be respected. :) :)

Clarissa said...

I have only been approached by religious weirdos a couple of times. But I have my Star of David to scare them off, so I'm prepared for them. :-) :-)

Anonymous said...

My all-time favourite is: "You're from Montreal? I worked with a Québecois guy a couple of years ago in... Maybe you know him?" And then that persons show you a picture of the Québécois guy.