Brits, like myself, have a reputation – possibly deserved – for being a little inadequate when it comes to dealing with foreigners. Whether we are really that bad is hard to say, but the traditional view is that the Brit at home or abroad is likely to demand and expect Johnny Foreigner to conform to our way of doing things, including speaking our language, serving our food and catering to the most unreasonable demands, (“What do you mean, you don’t serve PG tips… what sort of a country are you running here?”). The often-parodied belief that all a Brit has to do to make themselves understood, anywhere in the world, is speak slowly with exaggerated facial expressions, as loudly as possible, punctuating sentences with mock foreignisms… “I SAID, WHICH WAY TO LA BEACHIO? GRASSY ASS!”, must surely have some basis in truth?
Personally, i’d hate to think i could ever be tarred with the same brush and that i’m a little more philanthropic when it comes to such things, but now and again i have to question myself. On the train this morning, for example, i found myself rather irritated by the loud, intrusive and – to me – utterly incomprehensible twaddle coming from the group sat across the aisle from me. It’s not to my credit that they were actually conversing in Welsh – supposedly my mother tongue, but one that i’m afraid i’ve never come anywhere near close to mastering. Now, i’m no bigot… it’s just that i hate to feel that i’m missing out on something, particularly when it’s intruding into my personal space – just one of my little foibles, i’m afraid.
However, it’s not a behaviour that’s replicated inworld, if anything, the eclectic, international and multi-cultural mix of people that have been thrown together through the medium of sl is something that i consider to be one of its greatest pleasures. So, even when surrounded by ‘foreigners’, without as much as sharing a common language as a starting point to create a connection, it’s rarely – if ever – that i’ve ever felt excluded or particularly distanced from my fellow residents. We may not share a commonality of nationality in the worldly sense, but there’s something about being a citizen of the virtual world that connects us at a fundamental level.
In all honesty, i don’t really need to speak your language, live in the same country, community or timezone, or share a cultural identity in order to relate to you, or to feel part of any group you happen to be a member of. The mere fact that we are all related by virtue of being virtual citizens seems to bring us together in a way that mere nationality or political boundaries cannot.
That familiarity isn’t restricted to crossing geographical borders either – sl makes it incredibly easy to link up to other cultural groupings, without facing the difficulties that we might face if trying to interact in rl. Sometimes this can be facilitated by the ease with which we can alter our appearance and disguise our identities, but often it’s because sl tends to put us at ease in situations where – in the real world – we’d be painfully aware of not fitting in. Inworld i have no difficulty, for example, mixing with bikers, roleplayers of all sorts of persuasions, geeks, enthusiasts and a vast array of aficionados and adherents to musical genres of all persuasions… punk, Northern soul, industrial, dance, indy – the list goes on. Strangers seem to have little difficulty in being accepted into groups and situations that in rl might take years to cultivate.
SL is very much a melting pot, crammed with a whole host of wildly varying and divergent, yet strangely complementary, ingredients. Mixed up, thrown together and left to our own devices, it’s a recipe that should never work, and yet it does, remarkably well.
Perhaps it’s the knowledge that sl is a safe environment, free from serious risk, but nevertheless wildly unpredictable, different and challenging that helps us to mingle so well. Or, perhaps, it’s the knowledge that we’re all in the same boat together, so we may as well put up with each other and try to get on during the voyage?
Whatever it is, i like it… and i don’t have to SHOUT either! Mercy boocoo.
Andre has a red flag, Chiang Ching’s is blue
They all have hills to fly them on except for Lin Tai Yu
Dressing up in costumes, playing silly games
Hiding out in tree-tops shouting out rude names
Peter Gabriel – Games Without Frontiers