It is a strange thing!
Edited by ernalala - 3/2/14 at 6:24am
On the one hand I am often being recognized by others in my 'host country' as a 'foreigner', on the other hand I have the kind of looks that also seems to blend in for other locals, who do not (initially) seem to recognise me as a foreigner.
When recognised as such you feel the looks, and you often literally hear them say when you pass/behind your back: 'foreigner' (how lovely ), they aften assume sice you are 'foreign' you do not have a clue what is been said, so sometimes I might hear more of their comments (often based on curiosity, but at times very offending, very rude, have had some really bad experiences, luckily isolated incidents). It also happened many times that people have been staring at me and my kids, you really get the feeling like you're 'screened' head to toe. Not very pleasant. Sometimes downright funny, I mean it is so over the top that I cannot but laugh about it.
Really, I do have the kind of looks (light brown hair, pale but not ivory skin, with freckles, small posture) that is also found among locals, in this country there's really a blend of all kinds of looks, from fair-skinned to dark skinned, hair from blonde over red to brown and black (and grey :-), there really is no stereotype that can apply to these people, nor as one could generally apply to all inhabitants of other countries. E.g. My ILs initially expected a blonde, blue-eyed bride, and my hair and eyes were almost black :-)!
I must say I do not really like to be addressed just because of my 'foreignness' which makes me a curiosity, or being named a 'foreigner/stranger', the last thing also because it is an impolite/rude or oven racist attitude in my country of origin to call or address someone as such. Sometimes it feels really unpleasant or weird. I'd just like to blend in an be addressed because of who I am or because I'm a customer or so. Luckily that also happens enough :-).
My husband is really dark skinned, and has pitch black hair.
Kids are a blend, they got their dark eyes from. In one country he 'jumps out' because of his darker/different looks, in the other he is often noticed as well because there too he looks 'different'. For the youngest it's usually the other way round :-).
It is often fun when people 'like' our kids, people here are generally really really warm towards children and it happens so often that a shopkeeper or waiter or passer-by wants to hold your child and show it off to others. I wouldn't let them when they were just a baby and/or in a difficult mood, but now they're older I enjoy these encounters most of the time. And it happens even more when your kids look a bit different, so it happened quite a lot to us. Few minutes of hands-free shopping, or a pleasant opportunity to finally finish your own meal at a restaurant :-). My kids aregenerally extraverted, anmd are not too shy, so they mostly like such attention. (Edited, few years later: the youngest is actually quite shy the past few years and loathes adults trying to speak to himıor touch him of get his attention and even though he's always been quite 'sensory', I think at least part of this behaviour has to do with lots of unwanted attention he's been getting :-(...) But it also depends on HOW people respond to them, there is a big difference in their reaction when they really get positive attention, or when the understand someone is a really good friend of ours, or when it is about strangers 'just wanting to touch them' or 'wanting to kiss them', stroke the hair and saying 'you're cute' and/or pinch their cheeks (so more for the pleasure of that stranger than for pleasing your child which I find NOT ok!), and then they are not so happy at all. They are too young to notice people staring at them, but people more often stare at me then them, so that's ok. Their reaction may be more annoyed when they get a little older though (Edited: they got more shy or annoyed but they also learn to speak their mind when needed). As a teenager they may either hate to look different to some, or love it. (Edited: I just tell them, look, you're mixed, NOT 'other', you're being both from two worlds, and so being mixed is a richness to treasure, not at all a loss or something to be annoyed about, try to positively communicate that to people when you feel annoyed they look at you or treat you differently.)
If it really happens TOO often on one and the same day, it DOES get annoying (especially for little ones).
I also mostly just try to explain things to my kids as they are, in words they understand, about all kinds of topics and also this one. They deserve to get the thruth, in a way they can understand/deal with it.
My father was having his grandchild as a baby in a stroller and he encountered two girls who looked at the baby, then at my father, then again at the baby, again at my father, and then he saw them say something, giggle and shake their heads. We thought that as quite funny.
Both me and my husband, when together people often couldn't or can't 'figure us out'. WelL, welcome to the world of today where blending will more and more be common but in some regions more than in other.
I really wonder if ever someone will ask if my kids are adopted, but I do think they look enough like me. But even then, I'll just explain they're mixed, why being offended while I think adoption is honourable?And it is often better to look at the fun or better sides of things.
Maybe I would say differently if I would live in a society where blending in is hardly impossible at all with my and my kids because that must be even more challenging.