Is Foreign Weird? Commentary on Acceptance in America

Last Saturday night, I decided to follow my gregarious instincts, hang out with my hallmates, and go wherever they would go. I ended up upstairs in a party atmosphere. Yes, one of my hallmates was celebrating her birthday, but I was not planning to stay with everyone else for the night. I had homework to do. It follows that I wasn’t particularly disposed to drinking that night. Not that I don’t like drinking, I simply don’t always feel like it. So I said the exact same thing to the people who were suggesting that I drink during our casual group conversation. “If you don’t want to drink, don’t drink; if you want to drink, drink,” I was told: that it was perfectly fine and they would not exclude me because I refused to drink that night. I replied that this sounded like a dream to me. I grew up in the United Kingdom as a Frenchman. It is synonymous with saying I grew up in a binge drinking culture as a non-binger. At the University of Exeter, last year especially, if it happened that at any social gathering I did not have a glass in my hand, I was not approached. A long time ago, my grandfather told me a parable. I recall it as follows: in a wealthy and peaceful country, a group of people discover a fountain and drink from it. This fountain is soon found to make anyone who drinks from it “mad” (those are his words). In no time, every single person in the country had drunk this water, except the prince and his prime minister. Acting as an advisor, the prime minister tells the prince to drink from the fountain as well, for if everyone is “transformed” and he is not, they will all think he is the “

A long time ago, my grandfather told me a parable. I recall it as follows: in a wealthy and peaceful country, a group of people discover a fountain and drink from it. This fountain is soon found to make anyone who drinks from it “mad” (those are his words). In no time, every single person in the country had drunk this water, except the prince and his prime minister. Acting as an advisor, the prime minister tells the prince to drink from the fountain as well, for if everyone is “transformed” and he is not, they will all think he is the “mad” one, and how powerful is one against a whole nation?

My situation was the same last year: if I didn’t get drunk, I would be considered untouchable by the students I was accustomed to hang out with. Yet the truth is that whether French or British, I am not like everyone else, and when I was told that American culture is based on individual self-expression, implying that I should just be myself and not worry about what some other people could choose as a social behavior, it was like another world to me. I could not believe Americans were taught to be so tolerant of strangers. Is it because it is generally accepted that America is a land of immigration, a blend of cultures, a continent with a constant free movement of people as opposed to an island where historically few foreigners have been passing by? I shall like to investigate the matter; but what I am certain of is that everyone — and I truly mean everyone — in this college has received me better than I have ever been received before outside my family.

– Noe Amellal

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