Sunday 4 February 2018

Overcoming Xenophobia?

"deep-rooted fear towards foreigners" (Oxford English Dictionary; OED)

"fear of the unfamiliar" (Webster's) 

I own a few properties. My agent contacted me about one recently. "I've found a really good tenant, but he won't pass a credit check." 


"He's foreign."

"Oh, well … ." 

"He's every right to live and work here at the moment. He's EU."

"Okay. So what's the problem?" 

"He only has a reference from a foreign landlord. Our credit-checking agency won't accept that.  But I've looked at his bank accounts and this reference is immaculate."  

This makes me wonder whether we've actually ever really been in the EU. Haven't we always rather only taken on board what suits us? Trusting another EU landlord obviously doesn't. 

Why not? And is xenophobia the answer? 

To say someone is xenophobic seems to be accusing them of being nasty. But any phobia is an involuntary response to something. I'm personally not at all xenophobic about anything or anyone European – I know them so well. But I find myself wary of other cultures, even though I try to talk myself out of it, so can to some extent understand this credit agency. 

We have to make an effort, though, don't we? If we can't cope with other Europeans, who in the end are more like us than many others, how are we going to secure all these wonderful new deals all over the world?     
Language may well be a factor but the Chinese don't all speak English, do they? I always feel slightly uneasy in the US – less so in Canada – because the culture is more different from our own than we'd believe. This isn't entirely mitigated by the fact that we use a very similar language.  
So what should we do about this xenophobia? Admit we have it, work to overcome it, think of strangers as friends we've not met yet and gradually exchange experience. I have vague memories of being that way with my friends on the mainland a while ago and certainly I taught my students this process.        

It can't hurt, can it, to work on it a bit that way?

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