In Europe these days there is a lot of discussion about foreigners and integration. The French just banned full burquas and in Germany a (used to be) respected banker wrote a very stupid book that sounded a bit like Pat Buchanan circa 1992.
I am a foreigner. However, I have been told that I am a "good one." I have no idea what that means, but I think it has something to do with the fact that I am "integrated:" I speak very good German and can complain about the Deutsche Bahn with the best of 'em. Actually this kind of offends me and I sometimes really want to be one of the "bad ones."
But that does not mean that people, including close friends, do not sometimes stick their foot in their mouths and say really offensive things.
A few weeks back I was relaxing with some of my mommy friends. The kids were playing in the corner and we were drinking coffee and complaining about something. I do not think it was Deutsche Bahn; it might have been about our husbands. (You do not have to be an expat blogger to be whiny.) One of the little ones was playing at the toy kitchen. He attempted to beckon me over.
Cute Kid: "Come play with me!"
I thought it was terribly cute and was about to get up, when one of the moms commented on the situation.
Eager Mom: "What? Claire's cooking? I guess that means just muffins and pancakes."
The room got very still as everyone turned to me to see how I would react. Dude, I was offended, but I tend to let these things go. Besides the women who said it is someone I like. But then I sat up a bit straighter. Wait a minute!
Defensive Claire: "Hey! The only person who makes pancakes in my house is the German . . . and he's German!"
I think this made her realize that sometimes you cannot generalize about people based on some of the things that their idiotic fellow countrymen do. For example, not all Germans wear Lederhosen and eat Sauerkraut. Unfortunately, as she attempted to walk it back, she stepped into it again.
Eager Mom: "I saw a documentary on fast food in the U.S. I know what Americans eat."
Mind you, I do not think that the person who said this has actually been to the U.S. However, I just smiled and attempted to let it go. Upon returning home, I did vent a bit to the German. Yes, Americans do eat crappy food, but the other day I was standing at the S-Bahn station in Bremen and watched a women walk by eating a McDonald's cheeseburger . . . at 10am!
But that is the thing about integration. Even though you feel like you fit in, there will be moments when you might as well be wearing a pink burqua that says "foreigner." I am still friends with Eager Mom and our kids still play together. However, when she comes over next week, I am thinking of making muffins.