By VIRGINIA GUNEYLI
While living in Mexico City, visiting family and friends in Istanbul, and navigating my bi-cultural niche in St. Louis, sometimes I’ve felt duplicitous. A sell-out for socializing with people I normally would not.
In different circumstances, our interests, political views, and lifestyle choices would be polarizing. At best, incompatible.
However, expat life can not only be lonely — it’s often disempowering. Simple tasks like driving can be life threatening in Mexico City and Istanbul. I had to take help where I could get it.
As an outsider desirous of becoming an insider I said yes to every invitation.
All these people were using me, too. One was intent on husband-hunting; another needed my car; and one just wanted to have sex with me (didn’t happen). Coffee, dinner, shopping trips, and movies, all of us knowing we were pursuing a specific purpose: social and literal mobility.
One expat neighbor of mine on Pachuca in La Colonia Condesa taught me about Mexican art. Because of him, I knew about the Fridos when I met them at an Anita Brenner exhibit. I’ve been to all the best places for dirty martinis because of the husband-hunter, and learned my way around Mexico City because of my friend without transportation.
Yet my Mexican and Turkish friends revolutionized my life because my eyes were opened to new opportunities, ways of thinking, and experiences.
Is it duplicitous or open-minded to befriend someone with whom you would otherwise not associate?
Virginia Guneyli teaches post-colonial literature at a community college in St. Charles, Missouri, where she lives with her husband and son. She’s working on a novel based on her experiences as an expatriate in Mexico City.