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Growing up in Germany, I used to believe that all Americans were black. That is probably because I assumed every white person I saw was German. Only when I saw a black person did it occurr to me it might be a foreigner, and those were mostly Americans in that region.
With the help of American movies and TV series, I later adjusted this belief. About half of the Americans must be black and the other half white. That seemed only fair to me. I was very surprised when I found out the real percentage in school.
When I was too young to understand the concept of a nationality, people still asked me, "Where are you from?" I didn't understand what they meant, so I just answered the most logical way I could--the most recent place I had left. "I'm from my house/the school/the market/etc..." Sometimes the timing was bad and I would have to answer, "The loo."
My family has always gotten wall calenders that contain both American and Canadian holidays. For years I remember seeing December 26th as "Boxing Day (Canada)" and thinking that meant instead of celebrating Christmas on the 25th, all Canadians went to a big boxing match on the 26th. I felt sorry for all the Canadian kids because I thought boxing was really boring. I'm still not sure what Boxing Day is, but I know it's not THAT.
I thought that when a black and white person had a baby it would be Peurto Rican
When I was a kid, I'd never heard of Wales, so I thought that Princess Diana was Princess of Whales. I always pictured her riding on an orca.
When my mom was little--six or seven--she had a friend of the same age. My family is Armenian, and my mom's friend is a Wonderbread American girl.
So, at dinner one night, my mom's friend asked her parents,
"Mom, Dad, if Vicky is OUR-menian, are we HER-menian?"
Forty five years later, she still loves that story.
I used to believe that there was one of me in each country around the world, and if I was patient enough, I would eventually meet up with them. I couldn't wait to meet the French version of me, the Chinese me, the Mexican me...
When you are little the world fills up bit by bit with foreign countries. At the time I'm thinking of I at least knew there was America, Germany, Poland and Eskimoland, with just that minimum image of each to be going on with (never mind how crazy with hindsight). But there was also Switzerland which maybe wasn't a proper country, you never saw it in newsreels or heard it mentioned in news bulletins or newsreels for instance, but on the other hand every day I saw our 'Made in Switzerland' clock so it had to be a half-real country at least. But frustratingly I knew two and only two things associated with the Swiss to construct an image with, Swiss mountains which were big hills and Swiss rolls. Putting this scanty material together I guessed a good way of moving around in mountains would be to roll down them. I formed this image which has never quite abandoned me, of lots of Swiss people rolling bumpily down these vast slopes. That raised an obvious problem - not even knowing of ski-lifts I just lived with the idea they never went uphill, they started life at the top and never went back.
I disagreed with the philistine way adults ate Swiss rolls, cutting a slice and just eating it like an ordinary piece of cake; I insisted on eating them as they were meant to be, from the outside in. I vaguely remember this being tolerated while a parental line was drawn at my eating them from the inside out. One day with my parents on a shopping expedition I discovered carpet rolls in which they were taking an great interest. These obviously suggested Swiss rolls, and I also realised it would be a more comfortable ride to roll down a mountain inside one. I imagined Swiss people, more often than wrapping them around, climbing into the middle of one of these rolls when they had to go somewhere.
At some point though I knew more words of Swiss than I did of any other foreign language. I remember the words were yodeledi yodeledi yedi ledidee. Not an encouraging start for language learning: not only I didn't know what any of those words meant, but I thought I couldn't hope to master the difficult pronunciation of this language. Still, the rhythm of those words was just right for Swiss to sing them in their outlandish tongue in synch with the rotations as they rolled down the mountains in their carpets.
When I was in first grade there was a poster in my classroom of children of the world in cultural dress. For some reason, the children from Thailand had very long fingers. For years I believed that they were born that way.
When I was a kid, I used to think that all animals reflected their owner's nationality. For instance, I am Portuguese so I thought my dog was Portuguese and my cat and my parakeet were all Portuguese. I believed the butcher's dog was Greek; the Pizza Parlor guy's dog was Italian and my best friend's dog was Polish. My father used to curse the parakeet in Portuguese every time it got out of its cage and "pooped" on the curtain so that only confirmed to me that the bird was Portuguese. Just a dumb Portigee Kid.
i used to think that the japanese were so cool with their fans all the time til a friend told me that they(the women) only did that becos back in those days they didnt have toothpaste so they had gross breath and the fans were there to cover their mouths and the smell and hide their yellow (unbrushed) teeth ;)
I used to believe that every person in the United States was left handed.
i used to believe that the reason why the chinese put their baby girls up for adoption because her parents didn't want to pay for her wedding.
I believed that Spanish people were cats.
Oh yes, it made perfect sense at the time.
One day, my dad invited one of his work friends (who was spanish) round to our house. The man had brought his cat. When the man came into the room where I was, his cat was standing next to him, so when my father said, "Look, this is my friend Manuel, he's spanish!" and pointed towards the man and his cat, I thought dad was gesturing towards the cat.
A year later, I started to learn spanish. Each day I would find a cat and try to speak to them in their own language: Spanish
I still have had no success communicating with the spaniards.
Chinese, French, German, English, Clownisian.
When I was 4, these were some of the world's nationalities. Chinese people in China, French people in France and Clowns in Clownisia. This was obviously the truth at the time.
When I was younger I use to think the term "Caucasian" was a term used to refer to Mexicans with a lighter/whiter complexion. It wasn't until I was around 8 years old I understood what it meant. Mind you I grew up in a community of mainly whites and hispanics. Talk about some really confusing conversations.
When I was young, I believed that because my mother was born in New Mexico, that I was part Mexican.
I was 7 or 8 years old when my parents told me we were moving to England and I was convinced that London would be a small village with fluffy, warm dry snow all over it. I was very disappointed when I saw my first London snow storm (a whole 3 mm of cold wet grubby ice. Yuck!)
I also learnt about other kids' beliefs. I went to a school in Slough, where a pretty decent number of nationalities were represented and yet when I told them I was from South Africa, the response was: "but you can't be African! You're not black!"
Other favourites were:
"Did you have TVs?"
"Did you live in a mud hut?"
"Do lions wander all round the streets?"
I used to believe that there were only two countries in the world, England and France. Everything in France was the opposite to how it was in England, so a frown meant they were smiling, and when they cried it meant they were laughing!
I used to beleive that there was someone just like me, in some far off place like CHINA or somewhere, and they looked the same, and had the same name, and did exactly the same stuff as me, at the same time. I thought that one day I would go to far off China and meet myself.