I guess that I don’t look all that American to Americans. On my second day here in Abu Dhabi I was waiting in the lobby of my residence building with a couple dozen teachers who are in my program. I wasn’t feeling particularly social, so I sat alone on the side of the lobby. Regardless, the lobby was densely packed and one couldn’t avoid being more than a couple feet away from another person. I think anyone who entered and observed the language and demeanor of the people would assume that all in the lobby were part of the same group: Americans.
At this point, I’ve previously spoken to a few of my new colleagues, but I hadn’t met everyone. As I sat there, a group of four women in the program stepped out of the elevator and began making their rounds greeting all the teachers in the lobby. Interestingly, I was excluded from these kind formalities.
I did not take offense. Seriously, I had no problem with it. I was simply amused and curious as to why I was omitted from all the greetings.
I didn’t have my “don’t talk to me” face on, so I have to assume that they probably thought I was some other resident in the building chilling in the lobby. Abu Dhabi is quite a diverse place with people from all over Asia, East Africa and Europe, so I could have just been another African dude or dark-skinned Arab.
When alone, I’ve noticed that other Americans won’t engage me in conversation; yet, when I’m with my White wife, they’ll engage us both. It’s probably that they think she’s the teacher and I’m the husband tagging along.
Don’t get me wrong, the other teachers are very friendly! Once they realize I’m in the program, they engage me in cordial conversations. In fact, they’re probably more open-minded than most Americans, but obviously they brought their stereotypes with them.