Grasp a cup of tea and take your time to listen to this powerful TEDx: it worth, it is tremendously true in our society.
When people ask me where I come from, I cannot just say I come from Italy: it’s just not true anymore, I also come from Saudi Arabia, from Nigeria, from Australia, from France, … from each of the countries I have lived in and visited – because almost 20 years of life abroad changed me as a person, no doubt.
So, I start to introduce myself by telling my personal story.
And I realize that when I start to tell my story, people become intrigued by my life.
Well, let’s say they don’t see the hardness and the price we pay for it as expats, they see only the beauty and the sense of adventure. But most of the time, they ask for more details.
Try sharing your own story, and you will likely see that in the moment you start a conversation, you will have an audience.
The way we use that audience is the space of our responsibility: we could just tell interesting or funny anecdotes – or we can choose to tell stories that give new insights into another country and another culture.
When I say that I lived in Saudi Arabia, I notice people have strange reactions: most of them tend to think that Saudi Arabia is similar to Dubai, so they reply with comments that seem to imply “you practically were on a constant holiday, weren’t you?” (Is that all people think about Dubai? Shopping and holidays, that’s it?).
Two or three people are a bit more informed and know something about the country. Their reaction is something along the lines of: “Wow! How did you cope there? It must be horrible for you as a woman.” And this is the moment I enjoy the most: I smile and say that for me it was a wonderful time, a great exploration of a new culture and an amazing experience, not easy, but great.
On the ground of their surprise, I start to tell a different story, the story of how I had been welcomed by Saudi families, how I met and discussed cultural topics with Saudi women and how I broke down so many stereotypes in my mind during my Saudi stay. And I did it just by sharing my daily life in that country.
Do we tell our expat stories? Or do we think they are not interesting enough?
Do we know how powerful our stories can be for society? Are we aware of our potential to help people understand those coming from other countries? We can add new stories to the overall narrative that can help reduce the “danger” of a single story.
We, as expats, can be witnesses of our time by telling stories that come from the places we have lived and build bridges across cultures and societies. Little bridges, not pretentious ones, but always bridges.
We can be powerful tools for society just by telling a different story: our own one.
October 2018 – photo credit ©cristinabaldan
“The consequence of the single story is this: it robs people of dignity, it makes our recognition of equal humanity difficult, it empathizes how we are different rather than how we are similar (…) Stories matter, many stories matter. Stories have been used to dispossess and to malign. But stories can also be used to empower and to humanize, stories can break the dignity of the people, but stories can also repair the broken dignity. (…) When we reject the single story, when we realize there is never a single story about any place, we regain a kind of paradise”.
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie TEDx Oct.7, 2009