Experiences of difference #1
As a (white female) Austrian citizen, I am part of what is perceived as "Us" in many ways. This position of priviledge also puts me in a position of responsibility in this society, it is important to subvert the current culture of exclusion and closure from this point. And the Austrian society is a very traditional and closed one, at least in the countryside. The "big cities", especially Vienna, can be seen as cases apart, since they are more diversified and multi-cultural. But that doesn't exclude these spaces from being spaces where differences are drawn out along lines of exclusion, of differentiation between the "us" and "them". Especially in the media, the use of stereotypes is appallingly obvious.
Despite being a white female Austrian, I have experienced various forms of alienation and exclusion within the Austrian community starting with not speaking the dialect of the small city I grew up in, where I never ceased to be perceived as an outsider, despite being Austrian.
Living in various countries with either French or English as official language has given me the opportunity of experiencing being an immigrant. At the moment, I am based in Tunis, Tunisia.
Being a (white) European here always associates you with previous foreign presences in North Africa, and its history. Europeans who came here have more often than not profited from the country and its people wihtout giving much back. So, as a European now, what people think of when they first meet you is that you probably work either wth international organizations, as a journalist, or that you study. You are here to put your experience on your CV, without necessarily appreciating the culture, or really caring about what's going on in the country. As a European girl, you are also perceived as easy to get, which is actually upheld by how a lot of expats act, especially those who are only here for a short time stay.
It usually takes a while into the conversation (when held in Tunisian Arabic, not so much) for my conversation partner to realize that s/he has to find a new box to put me in. It's immportant to subvert existent categories, may they be where I live now, or in Austria.
However, it is also important to address what many call "positive racism" towards (white, European) foreigners in post-colonial times. Westerners still profit a lot from the history of their countries, and their socio-political and economic position of power. In such a position, you are considered as more "worthy" - of a job position (because you are immediately perceived as more educated, which might not be true), or whatever else - and in case of a problem with the police you will not be bothered legally (at least, in most of the cases). This is something a lot of so-called expats here actually use to their profit, instead of subverting and challenging this type of priviledge.
In Austria, I constantly get into arguments with people about Tunisia, Norht Africa, and living in an Arab Islamic country - although it is debatable if Tunisia actually counts as such.
In Austria, nationalism, islamo- and xenophobia are very well and kicking. Especially now, in what is widely called the refugee "crisis", right-wing populism has greatly profited from thhis angst of losing what is one's own. I believe, it hasn't considered itself a country of immigration until recently.