13

I'll be honest here, I've had a weird childhood. I was born to a German mother and an Indian father. I have a German citizenship, but as I moved to India when I was 2, I know the Indian culture much better than any other. I basically grew up learning to fit in with Indians. Recently my mom and I moved to the USA. From what I'd heard about from my Indian and German cousins and extended family, the culture of the US was very accepting towards other cultures, and was a global culture, unlike any other.

However, after living here in the US for a few months, I didn't find it to be anything like what my family had described it. Everything I'd learned up until now from my Indian and German culture is completely different from what I've experienced so far.

My classmates do the same things that I love doing; like playing EDM, skating at the rink, chatting on Instagram, etc. Yet, they don't talk to me in class, even when I try approaching them, or they sarcastically make fun of me and seclude me from the conversation.

I think it's because I'm from a different cultural background.

One example from yesterday went like this: ('Wendy' is a random name for one of my classmates who seems to hate me the most.)

Wendy: Hey did you guys hear that new song by Martin Garrix? (She said this to people in general.)

Me: Oh yeah! It's called 'So Far Away', right?

Wendy: That was, like, so last year! OMG LOL, we didn't know you're a time traveller... Probably some weird Indian magic - oh wait, she's Germo-Indian right?

Then everyone around laughs at me and they all move away. She clearly doesn't trust me for where I come from, and she's making it spread to all my other classmates.

What should I do to get along, and gain their trust that I'm just trying to be friends?

BTW, I'm a girl, and 13 years old, from Atlanta, GA.

closed as too broad by Ælis, ElizB, Negotiate, breversa, avazula Nov 16 '18 at 13:55

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15

It's not that American culture is unwelcoming. It's not even that you're doing something "wrong". It's quite simply that teenagers will be teenagers.

Kids seek the approval of their parents. But as we reach our teen years, we start seeking a group to identify with, and wish to gain their approval instead. Very often in high-school you'll see the "cool kids" group, the "nerds" group, the "football jock" group, etc. It's stereotypical, but that's exactly how it happens.

Within those groups a hierarchy will form. And kids desperate for group approval will be mean to someone they're trying to rise above (or wish to keep below themselves) in the group hierarchy without a second (or even a conscious) though.

So now let's analyze your situation. You're new to the country, the school, and the culture. Some of these kids have known each other for years, and have belonged to these groups from day one of high-school. You're the outsider.

Someone making fun of you can be their way of establishing dominance within their own group. It happens quite often, as kids will be more driven to belong within the group than to be polite to a relative newcomer, or even other - lesser - group members. Which is why you generally see people become more aware of other's feelings, and more polite as they mature.

It will take time for you to figure out which group you most naturally fit in with, and that's fine. Keep being friendly to people. As a newcomer to Canada it took me well over a year to form friendships with my now best friends going on 20 years.

However, you do need to establish your own position within the school hierarchy. Some of that will happen over time, by means of you joining a group.

However, another way that we all do this - even as adults - is through the way we respond to snarky comments such as the ones made by Wendy. If you snap back aggressively, you'll be labelled a bully. If you let them walk all over you, and keep quiet, they will never respect you. You'll need to strike just the right tone depending on the relationship you're looking to build with that person. It's called establishing boundaries, and it will serve you well your whole life.

For example:

Wendy: That was, like, so last year! OMG LOL, we didn't know you're a time traveller... Probably some weird Indian magic.
You: Hey, at least I'm magical, you're just annoying.


Consider the interaction you had with Wendy through the prism of group dynamics. Wendy was making small talk with her "group" (people in general, yes, but with the understanding that only those in her group actually engage with her):

Wendy: Hey did you guys hear that new song by Martin Garrix?

You inserted yourself into the situation:

You: Oh yeah! It's called 'So Far Away', right?

Now you've come to her attention, and she can use the situation to improve her standing in the group:

Wendy: That was, like, so last year! OMG LOL, we didn't know you're a time traveller... Probably some weird Indian magic - oh wait, she's Germo-Indian right?

Let's take a look at what she's accomplished with her comments:

  • She created a "us vs them" situation, where she's clearly labelled you as the outsider
  • She has made fun of you, and invited the group to laugh it up at your expense, which serves to increase her standing, as it's a demonstration as to how mean she could be to any of them, and some of them will be a little more afraid to challenge her as a result.

What do her group members experience in this situation?

  • This is an opportunity for some of them to feel superior to the "outsider".
  • Some of them, who might be Wendy's typical targets are happy that it's not them being picked on, and jump on the band-wagon, eager to assert membership to the group.

It would take a lot of fortitude for someone to act against the group and stand by your side in this situation. However, by standing up to Wendy you'd establish that:

  • You're not afraid to stand up for yourself (aka you're not an easy victim, and picking on you won't be fun for the bully).
  • You're not someone who belongs at the bottom of the hierarchy.

At that point you're probably not making friends with Wendy, but others who have had run ins with her will likely see you as a good alternate person to form a group with.

  • 5
    I'd add to this: Keep your eyes open. You most likely aren't her only victim. Yes, fire back when she's a witch to you. But see who she also is a bully with and get to know them. You'll have something in common. Sure, you'll be hanging out with people she calls 'losers' or whatever. But your group, as long as you stay positive, will grow and hers will shrink. It's playing the long game. – baldPrussian Feb 14 '18 at 22:34
  • You're not afraid to stand up for yourself (aka you're not an easy victim, and picking on you won't be fun for the bully). How do I do that? Do I fight fire with fire, or do I do it passively? Thanks for the advice btw – user12724 Feb 15 '18 at 4:54
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    @Rocky_CherryBlast "How do I do that?" that might be another good question to ask (but don't take my word for it, ask other members of this community). From personal experience, you have to learn how to answer (see the example here on the "magical"). It ain't easy at first, but you will learn quickly what upsets Wendy, and you can use it at your advantage. – Federico Feb 15 '18 at 9:03
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    Your reply does not have to be an attack on Wendy. Anything witty/funny will do just fine. instead of Hey, at least I'm magical, you're just annoying. (which clearly is an attack) you could say something like Yeah watch out or I'll send you back to kindergarten again. Wittiness was my tool to shake off my outsider tag. – Kaspar Scherrer Feb 15 '18 at 10:37
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    @Rocky_CherryBlast - unfortunately there's no guide on how to do that (that I know of). You have to be determined to defend yourself, and witty. That's it, really. Here's a comeback a friend of mine once used to utterly ruin his bully: Bully: There goes the fatty! MyFriend: I'm fat, but you're ugly, and I can diet. (and yes, I'm aware that my friend did not invent that comeback) The bully literally broke down in tears. Harsh? Perhaps. Effective? Most definitely. My friend was never bothered again. You have to find your own path. How harsh do you want to be? How friendly? – AndreiROM Feb 15 '18 at 14:18
4

Please don't expend any more mental effort trying to figure out why you are on the receiving end of this type of exclusion and negative treatment. It's very much their problem, not yours, and the choice of victim is actually fairly random.

Please make an appointment with the school social worker. When you request the appointment with a school secretary, say something like this:

I moved here recently and am having trouble getting connected socially here in my new school.

Once you are meeting one on one with the social worker, you can describe the specific incidents you've experienced.

The social worker will have structures for helping with this, for example, s/he can incorporate you into a Lunch Bunch or an after-school group where the adults are making sure that everyone feels included.

Edit: I am basing this answer on my acquaintance with the resources that secondary schools have in place currently in the U.S. I currently have a child in 9th grade. We moved recently and can relate to what you are going through.

  • 1
    This seems suspiciously to me like offloading the building of social skills on to the school administration. It used to be that kids had to learn to talk to each other without the help of a social worker, and humanity managed just fine. – AndreiROM Feb 14 '18 at 19:26
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    @AndreiROM - Unfortunately not all members of humanity managed just fine even back in the good old days. Furthermore, society has changed significantly since then. At any rate, I see no reason why OP should not avail herself of the resources her school has to offer to assist with social problems. – aparente001 Feb 14 '18 at 19:30
  • +1 One great thing about this answer is it can be used in conjunction with the others. The pure "social skills" DIY answers might offer life skills value, but for meeting new people there's nothing like joining a formally-organized group. – Deolater Feb 15 '18 at 14:52
2

When I was a teen, my teachers made me a prefect, which is basically like a class monitor. There were a few students in my class who wanted that role, and were possibly jealous of me and the other prefects. The thing was, some of those students had actually worked harder than me to get that spot, and maybe even deserved it more than I did.

Disappointed as they were, they decided to do what Wendy did to you. I was made the outsider, the fish out of water. In a class where everyone else seemed united in their pranks and homework excuses against the teachers, I really missed out, having no one I could rely on.

I tried fighting fire with fire, I tried making my own snide comments whenever I was commented on. (Just like you, it was me who interfered in their conversation in the first place, inviting myself to their remarks.) That didn't work.

Does it help to be sarcastic back at them, or is it better to remain a wuss, and be all giggly and laugh it off? I've seen people doing the second one too, but to me, it makes them look weak and powerless against the insults.

As you have noted in your comment, the first alternative seems more likely to work than the second one. However, the 2nd might actually work better, as you can always catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.

What may work even better for you is if you are able to laugh at yourself with them, and then turn the joke on you into a victory for yourself, and get yourself a promotion in the same hierarchical structure that @AndreiROM spoke about in such detail.

Example:

Wendy: That was, like, so last year! OMG LOL, we didn't know you're a time traveller... Probably some weird Indian magic - oh wait, she's Germo-Indian right?

(Laugh along with everyone else)

You: I may be Germo-Indian, but I'm not "So Far Away" as you think!!

(This is just an example, be humorous and funny while doing this.)

EDIT:

As @Cashbee said, it's highly critical to be able to accept your own flaws. If you're unable to figure out your flaws, ask your parents, cousins, and basically people who'll be realistic and honest to you. Knowing your flaws is super important, because you can work to reduce their influence on you. This would drastically minimize the chances of your classmates being able to make snide comments on you, while at the same time, you'll be much better at making friends.

  • 1
    +1, I used exactly this approach back in the days. Being humorous, witty and able to laugh myself about their remarks really helped me to shake off my outsider tag. My addition to this answer: Accept who you are and what your 'flaws' are, it helps being able to laugh at yourself. – Kaspar Scherrer Feb 15 '18 at 10:50
  • @Rocky_CherryBlast - I think that AbhigyanC's answer and my own complement each other. There will be times when you have to deal with people who are simply cruel, and you need to put them in their place. There will also be times, however, when someone is simply ignorant and mean, and you wish to temper your response, and open the door for potential friendship. That's what I meant when I mentioned that you have to find your own style when responding to these comments. Being aggressive all the time will have you labelled as a bully instead, as I mentioned. Find the middle path. – AndreiROM Feb 15 '18 at 14:25
1

In addition to the other great answers here, I think another thing worth noting is that Wendy is also trying to fit in.

As @AndreiROM pointed out in his answer, there is a social hierarchy and Wendy is trying to be at the top of her group. She enjoys bullying others because her group laughs when she does it and she gets positive reinforcement. She is seeing that whenever she bullies someone else, it is a good thing (in her eyes). If you want this to change, the best way is to call her out on her actions and show that this is not ok. As an example:

Wendy: That was, like, so last year! OMG LOL, we didn't know you're a time traveller... Probably some weird Indian magic - oh wait, she's Germo-Indian right?

You: I'd rather be magical than someone who has to bully others to feel good about themselves.

It is best that you say this in a calm voice, not out of hurt or anger. Wendy, just like you, is trying to fit in. If you clearly call out her bullying, it will make it harder for others to laugh at you (as they will then have to identify with the bully) and it may even make Wendy rethink about her actions. If you arn't the only one being bullied, you could also step in to say something when others are being bullied. This will help them to befriend you and will show Wendy that her actions are wrong whether its directed at you or anyone else.

You don't need to be the school hero that gets involved in every argument or bully but by showing others that you care about them enough to stand up to Wendy, you will start to fit in just fine.

The important thing to remember is that Wendy is trying to fit in just like you. She is doing it in the best way she knows how, which is putting others down to build herself up. She does this because others laugh when it happens and she thinks what she is doing works. By calling her out on her actions, you put her in a position where she either has to admit that what she did is wrong or continue bullying and prove your point.

You could also go up to her at some point and say something along the lines of

Hey Wendy, I've been trying to be friends with you but you always seem to make fun of me, is there a reason for this?

While you could say this one on one, it might be better to say this in an open area where others can hear you. This will show others that you are trying to be friendly, even to the class bully. Everyone knows that Wendy is a bully, whether they say it or not. By seeing you make an effort to be her friend despite her being mean to you, it makes you a lot more welcoming to the rest of the group. Even if Wendy doesn't want to be your friend, your efforts won't be wasted, because you are showing everyone that you are doing your best to be friendly. That won't go unnoticed.

At the age of 13, I don't know that this will give you the results you are hoping for, at least not immediately. It's very possible that the more you put yourself out there, the more Wendy will target you when looking to make fun of someone. If you keep calling her out on her actions while still being friendly to everyone though, people will start to care for you and they won't keep laughing at Wendy's bullying when they see it hurts you.

1

Being somewhat of an awkward kid and outsider myself (i was born in america and raised there till about 7 after which my parents moved back to Asia). So the way i spoke and behaved was different.

How i coped with this was that i approached people who didn't seem to fit in much either. I know this sounds a bit strange, but i went out of my way to communicate and socialize with people who were mostly alone or were also somewhat "outcasted". I ended up with a motley crew of foreigners and mixed-raced friends.

Thing is, although you might share interests with some of the kids, they don't have an interest in YOU as a person, which i think is way more important than having common hobbies. I often used some stories and interesting facts about my background in america (which people make fun of, like me having a poor grasp of my mother tongue) to make conversation and find those people who are willing to give me an ear and some of their time. As for the quotes of Wendy, people at a young age are mostly immature and try to gain favor by being cool or dissing others; as you age up and keep your good close friends around you, that kind of behavior won't be as bad.

Long story short, no matter where you are there will be people who are mean or just live off making other's feel bad (or some status thing is was stated by AndreiROM). For adjusting into a new environment, this is kind of what i did. I wish you all the best in fitting in more. Good Luck!

  • Does it help to be sarcastic back at them, or is it better to remain a wuss, and be all giggly and laugh it off? I've seen people doing the second one too, but to me, it makes them look weak and powerless against the insults. – user12724 Feb 15 '18 at 5:05
  • @Rocky_CherryBlast: I am Indian and I can tell you that the 'Wendy' type of nonsense is dealt out to Indian kids by Indian kids in Indian schools as well! A confusing aspect is the unfamiliarity (and rarity) of having a classmate with a Indo-German background, which causes some students to 'cover up' their inner confusion with rudeness. You can learn to feel very confident with your unique cultural identity and also try not to feel insulted by their behavior: soon these people will accept you as a routine member of the students group and in the meantime you don't need their approval OK! – English Student Feb 15 '18 at 12:21
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    @Rocky_CherryBlast - I like this answer very much; to answer your question, I think the best thing to do with the Wendys is to steer clear of them (discreetly). Example: my son loves catsup (ketchup). I let him eat it, I don't make fun of it, I don't make faces, I don't make a scene. But I hate catsup and the smell of catsup, so I discreetly sit on the other side of the table when he's eating it. I can't answer for SomeoneElse but that would be my answer to your question. – aparente001 Feb 15 '18 at 17:42
  • Similar to what i said, those people who don't want to make an effort to be friendly and civil with you have no place in your life. Using the term wuss makes it sound terrible, but usually to bullies, giving them a response is what they want, if you shug it off and they don't get the satisfaction of some angry or sad response from you then they lose some incentive to bully. – SomeoneElse Feb 20 '18 at 0:57