My Gringa-ness makes people feel uncomfortable. I couldn't think of a good way to begin this post so there you have it.
When we go to fiestas here there's always family or friends that we know and then about 30 OTHER people that we don't know. And I, singlehandedly with my pale English speaking self have a magical ability to make those 30 other people feel really uncomfortable. Plus the host, because none of their friends will speak or have a good time until I vacate the premesis.
I'm a nice person, friendly, smile-y and everything but there's something about my Gringa-ness that just .....FREAKS strangers out here. Is it a cultural thing I don't know about?
Yesterday we were invited to a birthday party at our friends house. When we showed up there were about 12 people outside eating and having a good time but when we came and I sat down the party went silent. *chirp chirp* *crickets* People sitting on either side of me stared straight ahead and all conversation stopped. Some people have the grace to go to another area of the party but the others just stay and try and not stare at me.
This ALWAYS happens!
After a while, another car load of about 10 people showed up and they didn't even want to come in the gate of the house, they stayed outside and STARED in my direction and then away, like "OMFG, the devil is in there!" The host had to drag them in and make them sit down. Nobody shook my hand but there were at least a few polite "Buenas Noches." People ate in silence.
I usually try to start conversation with someone and normaly get one word responses or strained grunts.
If the host is really great they'll talk to me and maybe tell a joke about me to the crowd and help me to say something to kind of break the glass a bit and then people will at least find a way to party among one another and do their best to pretend that I'm not there. A lot of sideways stares.
Sometimes, to my relief, a person will get brave and ask me what in the world I'm doing in Mexico or where I'm from. Those questions usually lead to a big group Q & A where they ask me all sorts of crazy stuff about the U.S. or my past life, but at least then they TALK to me. After one of those they'll even include me in the party and I'm always thankful for the curious person.
I've noticed that strangers in general aren't too talky-talky here like they are in the U.S. so I know it's not JUST because I'm a Gringa, but I know it makes it worse. Back home you can strike up a conversation with a lady in line in the store by saying "OMG, I LOVE your shoes!" and 20 minutes later you're in the parking lot still taling and soon to be best friends. HERE if you say you like something another person has or is wearing they look at you like you have two heads and may bite them at any moment. With both heads.
I don't know WHY strangers aren't friendly with one another here and I don't know why Gringa-strangers are even more freaky. Back home if a foreign person came to a party we would MAUL them with questions and attention.
I often wonder if there's a key, a magical IN that I don't know about in these situations that would help. Like, a phrase I could say or handshake. I thought my babies would get me in the in-crowd but turns out it's a no-go.
Someday maybe we'll just know enough people that I won't BE a stranger anymore or maybe I'll just get used to being an Elephant with Leprosy hanging around in the room. But for now, I'm gonna REALLY appreciate the new friends I'm making at work and the family of my husband.
*** Years later update*** Yeas have gone by and I'm still smelly, but not nearly as much. I've found that there is no magical "in" and folks still don't like me to compliment them on their earrings or shoes - BUT - but it get's better. The more Spanish I learn the friendlier people become because they're not nervous about the language barrier. I'm able to say Mexican jokes and little phrases these days that help set people at ease. And I've found that a smile continues to go a long way. It get's better. <3 nbsp="" p="">3>