I’m a nobody in a country of somebodies..

..and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Island life is charming..sure. Everybody knows everybody and there are always familiar faces around.

Great.

But that all of this comes at a steep cost. A very steep cost as a matter of fact: everybody knowing your business – and all of it.

Mention someone’s name to someone else, and 9 times out of 10 they can tell you their ENTIRE life story: where they come from, where they live, where they vacation, what they do, what their hobbies are, how much money they make, where they hang out, who they hang out with, who they’ve slept with..and all of this before you even ask!

Rossco's Ariaptia Avenue Trinidad

Oh..the beauty of small island life.

This is definitely going to take some getting used to.

You see, I don’t really want to know everyone’s life history. Really..I’m not at all interested. I like to judge people based on my personal experiences with them..,not what they have done in their past, what their parents have done, or what people think about them.. And seriously, doesn’t that take out the excitement of getting to know somebody? I think so.

BUT, at the same time..this extends further than just how easy it is to find out information about people. As someone “new in town” I’m very conscious of the fact that the people you associate with has a lot to say about the person you are – especially in a small island like Trinidad – where people can’t stand to see someone they don’t know without passing some sort of judgement on them. (I once heard that people thought I was a divorcee with two children after seeing me and my brother and sister hanging out on a friend’s boat. Incredible.)

I am ashamed to admit that I’ve thought twice, and sometimes even completely avoided going somewhere or hanging out with people for fear of what others would think..or how it would be perceived. And that SUCKS..like really sucks! I mean, I shouldn’t care about what people think.. Or should I? I mean this is Trinidad after all – reputation is everything. My co-worker summed it up best when he said, “Trinidadian society isn’t about who you know Danielle, it’s about who knows you..and WHAT they know about you!

Talk about social anxiety.

I’m soooo not used to this.

Coming from the States – where you hardly ever see people you know unless you personally invite them to meet you somewhere – to living in Trinidad.. where you are forever running into people you know – is a huge adjustment. HUGE!  I remember the days I used to drive around Miami,, going in and out of different social circles without anyone really caring or judging me for it. I really don’t feel like I can do the same thing here.

Ahhh.. I’m conflustered!!

Do I obey the “unwritten rules of Trinidadian society” or do I break them? I’m still trying to figure it out. I kinda just want to walk the fine line between both and see what happens.

But for now,

Very few people outside of my family know who I am, where I come from, where I lived, what I’ve done, and who I’ve dated. And I cannot even begin to explain how empowering that feels. Especially when you go out and realize that you are probably one of the few people that other people don’t know anything about.

I wonder how long I can keep this novelty alive.

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13 Comments

Filed under Life in Trinidad

13 responses to “I’m a nobody in a country of somebodies..

  1. My opinion don’t care about what people think if this doesn’t affect your family.and doesn’t affect your way of life (how you want to live it)
    otherwise it have no sense living there, living in a way no one would talk about you or make rumors or something,
    i don’t think i can live in a place where i am not feeling comfortable or i am not having my minimum sense of freedom

    have a great evening mom LOL 😀

  2. Rob

    It’s just like this in Lebanon, just not in Beirut. its good and bad at the same time. its good because people are living in such environmental very sociable. its bad because there is nothing private and people are very judgmental. my advice to you, if you want to minimize gossip about you, find the social circle that you like the most and stick with it. this way you limit the sources of information to one. 🙂 i would not worry too much about adapting to this new environment. once you get used to the social norms, life becomes much easier.

    • But sticking to one social circle is so limiting! I can’t think of anything worse actually..lol. But I get what you mean. Even so, just because you tell one person your business doesn’t stop them from telling someone else..and so on and so on.. You know? 🙂 Yeah, I experienced something similar in Lebanon, but to a much lesser extent. I mean we’re talking about a country of 1.3 million (TNT) versus a country of 4 million (Lebanon) not counting the diaspora!

      BTW, how are YOU doing in YOUR new environment?

  3. Trinigirl

    There’s a typo at the end … think you forgot ‘know’. I can tell you, as a Trini who has recently met you and who has no time for other’s comments, I very much like all that I’ve come to know about you. This article sums up island life perfectly, with everyone minding other people’s business and none of their own. I was born here & lived here all my life and it still fascinates me how small-minded people can be. Hang in there because the flip side of this coin is how quickly you become yesterday’s news!

    • I appreciate your comment (and your typo correction). It’s funny..I’ve been coming to Trinidad all of my life..but yet I feel like such a stranger now that I’m living here. There is so much to get used to – especially the social dynamics. Looking forward to everything else that comes my way. Life here definitely makes for an interesting blog! So I’m thankful for that! 🙂

  4. Viejo!

    Thanks for the opportunity to know the island a little bit. I had the pleasure of visiting and playing golf a while ago.. but did not stay long enough to understand much of the culture. It is also awesome to hear comments from your friends in Lebanon. Cultures could be so similar in certain ways.. I guess we always relied on gossip to get the news around from the start of time.. now look at us.. Facebooking.. hahaha… and getting dialog from such distinct areas of the world.. Please keep us posted..

  5. Sounds a lot like Beirut… And that’s what I miss the most. After living abroad for more than 20 years, you miss walking down the street and knowing everybody and everyone knowing you. It takes two hours to walk down one corner of Hamra because you have to stop and talk to everyone, people who know who you are, who your mother, father, grandmother, uncle, cousin etc… are. it gives you history, geography, geology… it’s great. Being anonymous can get very lonely. Enjoy it and miss you 🙂

  6. As much as I would like to tell you to act freely and not care, I know it can be much harder than going with the flow. I say be friends with EVERYBODY yet close to a FEW, and take into consideration the social etiquette Trinidad has, it will make your life much easier. You are there for the experience and not to defy a culture. Just be careful not to be sucked in any gossip and you will be fine 😉 Hope you will pass this feeling soon, all the best of luck 🙂

  7. Ceola

    Or you can just not buy in to it. Trinidad still isn’t as horrible as smaller islands I’ve been to (like Barbados) where your business REALLY is in everybody’s mouth, even if you don’t live there.
    Trinis love to talk people business but we have short memories and we forgive easily.
    Consider whether it’s just the circles you’re moving within in Trinidad. In my experience certain social groups tend to move the way you decribe more than others.
    I for example really don’t care about people’s lives unless it somehow directly impacts my own.
    I used to absolutely hate going out and facing the prospect of having to see a boatload of people and make small talk. I’m not a small talk person. I don’t want to know about other people. I don’t care. Half the time people have the world of negative things to say about people that you may actually end up having a very good relationship with.
    Don’t care what people have to say about you either. Anyone worth knowing is not going to believe the B.S. And will wait until they meet you to form their own opinion.
    Enjoy the anonymity while you have it. Lol. Soon you’ll settle in here and learn how to survive the whims and fancies of Trini macomere society.

  8. Sandra Farah

    I have to add that lthough this type of small society dynamic can be claustrophobic and annoying at times, there are situations when it may actually be a positive thing. For example, if you should ever have car trouble (not you, because you don’t have one … it’s just an example) you can be almost certain that someone you know will pass by and stop to help you (in the days before the proliferation of cell phones, this was an even bigger deal). And for those who have an accident or fall ill, have no doubt that the phone calls and well wishers will be plentiful, which is heartwarming and needed at a time like that. So, as with everything in life, there are avantages and disadvantages …

  9. Pingback: My top 10 favorite Trini phrases.. | This is Trinidad

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