Living in Nazareth: the Good, the Bad and the Ugly!
Living in a different country, or as I have, in Nazareth, is such a varied experience. Here are some of the more unexpected things I’ve experienced or learned in my time, under the titles the good, the bad and the ugly.
- Living in Nazareth, gives you an understanding of what it means to be a minority. Living in an underfunded minority town, opens your eyes to communities who live almost under the radar and whose issues aren’t generally seen or acknowledged.
- Language mistakes make great stories! From mixing up “resali” (message) and “ghasaali” (washing machine), who even knows how many people I confused! Other great language messes include someone trying to say that their fish had died and instead saying “I am a dead fish”, or trying to mix English and Arabic and ending up telling someone “I have your urine!!! *
- There is great opportunity for spiritual growth. Encountering different traditions provides the chance to learn from the rich Christian history. Moving to any new country gives you the chance to see where you are spiritually and to get a fresh vision and perspective from those around you.
- If you have kids here, you are giving them a gift – a gift of awareness of other cultures. You might even be giving them the gift of freedom, through dual citizenship and the possibility to live in either country (or perhaps even more!).
- There will be opportunities that surprise you. I am constantly surprised that I can lead a Christian ministry, as a woman, here in the traditionally patriarchal Middle East! And yet it works…
* You may ask how this could possibly have happened?! The situation arose from returning a bowl to someone. As the person returning it didn’t know the Arabic word for “bowl” she used that word in English, saying “Indi bowlek” – literally, “I have your urine!”
These are things you may not have thought about when you made that momentous decision to live somewhere which was not your home country. But take heart…
- You are a foreigner! What you might have thought of as foreign in your home country, is now how people think of you. That mixture of suspicion, fear and misunderstanding is now all directed at you to respond to. However, as uncomfortable as you might find it, we can use it to learn more understanding for those in the same position in our countries.
- Your kids’ first words might not be in your language. Yes, it’s a strange thing to imagine, but don’t stress about it – although this is likely, first words tend to be Mum or Dad and both are usually recognisable and delightful!!
- You will always be a foreigner, even after 20 years or 50 years. Don’t expect to lose that label, it’s irreversibly tattooed across you. However, you can use this status in your favour, just be creative and when needed waive the “I’m just a foreigner, what do I know?” card!!
- There will come a time when the home country that you came from simply doesn’t exist anymore. After a number of years abroad, “home” will have changed just as much as you have. You will live in limbo, more at home in the new country than the old, but still considered foreign. Embrace it, and also use it. We are temporary citizens in this world, so that feeling of not fully being part of the place you are in, can be a great spiritual tool and reminder that we belong to another kingdom.
The ugly mainly comes from the weirdly inappropriate things people will think it is ok to say to you!
Here are some examples:
- Flirtatious approaches – “Come visit me, and don’t bring your husband”
- Criticism - “I don’t like your sofa/ windows/ tiles/ house design”, “Why did you make it like that?”, “Have you gained weight?”, “That dress isn’t nice on you”
- My personal favourite series: “Are you pregnant?”, “Are you sure?”, “Really?” and “Why not?”
- Closely followed by: “God willing you are not using contraception!”
Overall there is so much to be gained by living here. I have learned to embrace my foreign- ness and have learned so much from the people I live here with. So if you get the opportunity – be aware of the good, the bad and the ugly, but embrace them. After all, it’s what others experience in our countries!
- Northern lite