Posted by & filed under How to learn languages with songs and the media, Multilingual identity.

Trying to go local in Ukraine with my Dr. Zhivago wool coat with fur trimmings.

Usually, I don’t want to attract attention to my not being a local by asking for special treatment when I am in a Russian speaking country. Because as soon as I tell people I am from abroad, I then get a bunch of questions about how I know Russian, how I left the former USSR, etc. It’s fine to answer the litany of questions every once in a while, but not all the time. It gets annoying really fast. Some people argue with me and tell me it’s a great conversation starter. But when you’ve traveled as much as I have and have gone through the same “ice breaker” conversation so many times, you really don’t want to reveal your life story all the time and draw attention to yourself. Also, being pointed out as a foreigner makes one more prone to being robbed. So it’s best to be as incognito as possible.

Luckily in the former USSR, I normally don’t get bombarded with questions about where I am from. I appreciate the respect, distance, disinterest or whatever that keeps people in the former USSR from asking me all the time where I am from and how it is that I speak Russian. In comparison to when I lived in Argentina in 1999, where there were few foreigners, and I could barely go a few days without the typical “¿De donde sos?” (Where are you from?) question, being in my native territory and not getting the alien treatment was a good thing.