Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Call me broccoli

By: Britt

Foreign is what I felt for the first 19 years of my life. 

I was condemned by birth to a country that totally creeps me out. Nobody ever thought I was funny there. I got out of there like a bat out of hell first chance I got, and have been engaging the universe in uproarious encounters of the foreign kind ever since. 

The Economist wrote an article on being foreign a couple of years ago, from which I remember this nugget for the purposes of scintillating dinner party conversation: “For the first time in history, across much of the world, to be foreign is a perfectly normal condition.”

Valkyrie Vegetables. (Jessica Mullan)
Being Caucasian, I slide into western European, North American and Antipodean locations very nicely.

There are two caveats here. First, I have the shoulders of an incredible hulk. I am foreign-looking in the kind of feminine outfit that a large proportion of the female species of all countries seem to slide into. Don’t get me wrong: I am not fat - I'm Valkyrie.  

When I leave the bright lights of the city and enter central Manitoba, the mountains of Cyprus, sheep farm country in New Zealand, I slide into place much better. It's something about hard physical labour, the free fresh air, rising when the sun comes up, and jumping into bed when it goes down. Too bad I HATE the countryside.

I know you are all waiting breathlessly for caveat 2, and it's in my mouth: my command of various languages is perfect, but I don’t sound like I fit into the geographical locations where I find myself. And I can't find the strength to stay mute for a couple of days to try fitting in. 

If I picked a mid-size town - let’s say Chattanooga, Tennessee - I'd slide right in. It’s countryside-like enough that there'd be a fair influx of broad shouldered country gals. And if I didn’t speak at all, how could anybody in Chattanooga think anything of me but the purrfect Tennessee woman? Now if that sounds like a goal I want to achieve in my lifetime - sliding in and NOT being foreign - then dude, you got another thing coming.

Think of me as the crunchy, utterly out of place broccoli on a plate, mingled in between a hunk of bbq ribs, themselves slathered with a sauce that makes your arteries squeak like a ventilator that has just busted its last ball bearing, a mountain of mash the size of McKinley and some buttered corn on the cob that slips through your fingers like your 2 year old who doesn’t want to go to bed.  

As Mr. Melville would say:  Call me Broccoli!

~ Written for Strangers in Strange LandsBritt Permien is a graphic designer who left behind the foreign climes of Germany for the familiar comforts of Britain and British Colombia. 


  1. It's good being a Broccoli. I can only recommend it :)

  2. Broccoli is Queen among vegetables, I agree.