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Much like perfectionism, but even more so, xenophobia is truly the enemy of a life less ordinary.

Commonly interpreted as a fear of the unknown or of anything foreign, xenophobia is often blamed for the irrational hatred of a race, gender, culture, or sexual orientation that is not our own.

While having a touch of xenophobia is a common human trait, giving into it severely limits the person and the experiences he or she will have. It may stop a person from traveling to other countries or make them extremely miserable while they are there.

The old cliche of the tourist who’s upset that life in a foreign country is not exactly like home is a classic example of xenophobia, but it’s certainly not the worst.

If we take the word xenophobia to mean “fear of the unknown” rather than “hatred of the foreign or foreigner,” I experience xenophobia quite often, especially when I travel.

I just booked a trip to China. The itinerary is quite extensive, and after the initial excitement of booking this trip wore off, I began to experience mild panic. Mostly about the sleeper trains, on which I will spend four nights. People seem to get packed in like sardines…how will a claustrophobe like me survive?

Answer: I will see a psychologist and a physician, if need be–anything to finally combat this silly claustrophobia once and for all. There’s no way I’m letting it ruin this dream trip! (However, I’m not sure if anyone can cure my fear of the stinky, messy squat toilets on those trains…yikes.)

Here is my cure for xenophobia:

Confront: Ask yourself what’s really bothering you, what you’re really afraid of. You may be able to resolve the fear just by thinking yourself through it.

Immerse: The best way to get over xenophobia is to immerse yourself in whatever you’re afraid of. If you’re right in the middle of it, it won’t be the unknown anymore, will it? I have a certain older relative, who shall remain nameless, that occasionally protests that the entire world now seems to be gay. I am guessing that if she made a few more gay friends, she really wouldn’t care as much. A simple example, but it works–if you love someone, you’re not afraid of them. And you certainly don’t feel hatred for them.

Just do it: Afraid of finding your way around a congested city where no one speaks English? Put yourself in a situation where you have no choice, like I just did by booking this trip.

The more you face your fears, the stronger you will be. And the better person you’ll become for it. Of course, if you’re experiencing a true phobia like my claustrophobia, with the lovely resulting panic attacks, you may need professional help. Which is nothing to be ashamed or afraid of.

Have you ever experienced xenophobia? How did you overcome it?

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16 Comments

  1. Rhonda Parrish

    Dude, I am so envious of your trip. I am sure it will be filled with plenty of challenges but I have faith in you that you’ll triumph over them and come home stronger and inspired.

    Reply
    • Holli Moncrieff

      Thanks so much, Rhonda! And you’re welcome to come with…there’s room on the tour.

      Reply
  2. Chrys Fey

    I adore the picture of all the pandas!

    I find it funny that someone can go to a foreign country and be mad that it’s . . . foreign. That’s precisely why I would love to travel; to experience other cultures.

    Fear of the unknown is very common though as the future is unknown. I’m afraid of what might happen in June because if it doesn’t go my way my future will feel more unknown than ever. (Trying not to sound like a Debbie-Downer with that statement though. haha)

    By the way, I think you came up with a great post for X. And your advice at the end is perfect.

    Reply
    • Holli Moncrieff

      Hmm…now I’m curious about what’s happening in June! I’ll keep my fingers crossed for you.

      If it makes you feel better, the future is always unknown. Some of us are just better at convincing ourselves otherwise.

      Thanks for the kind words! And yes, that kind of tourist is everywhere, but thankfully I haven’t ran into many.

      Reply
    • Holli Moncrieff

      Thanks, Jamie! As I said to Rhonda, there’s still room on the tour if you’d like to join. 🙂

      Reply
  3. melaniegobledvm

    This is great! I will be heading to Mongolia in 3 months and although I am so excited, I have tried to learn the language and it is not working! Yes, I am nervous, but luckily I am not scared (yet!)

    Reply
    • Holli Moncrieff

      Mongolia! Wow, that is exciting! Are you going as a tourist, a vet, or both?

      I know you will be just fine.

      Reply
  4. Stephanie Faris

    It really did scare me when I was in Paris and didn’t know the language. People weren’t willing to work with you, either. They were very rude. I remember thinking that I really didn’t want to go somewhere without knowing the language ever again…although now there are apps that can help!

    Reply
    • Holli Moncrieff

      I’ve heard that about Paris, but I was hoping it wasn’t true. I think people should appreciate those who at least try to speak the local language…but I wonder how nice we are in Canada and the US to non-English speaking tourists.

      Reply
    • Stephanie Faris

      A shopkeeper walked up to me and jerked a T-shirt out of my hands, saying, “That won’t fit you.” I don’t think she knew I didn’t speak the language–I think people in Paris are just rude for rudeness’s sake! The men, of course, weren’t rude to women… They were all flirtatious and such. I doubt I’ll go back… I loved England, though. I don’t even expect people to be nice to me–just not abusive!

      Reply
    • Holli Moncrieff

      Wow, that’s awful. I wouldn’t like that, either. It’s such a shame, when there’s so much to see in that city. You should have hit her over the head with a baguette. 🙂 Then you would have had a story!

      Reply
  5. D Biswas

    My X is post is about Xenophobia, too. I haven’t experienced it, but I’ve definitely experienced claustrophobia– my answer? Surround myself with smell I like. I carry a jar of a perfumed cream I like and smear it under my nose, and try to read… all the best for your journey!

    Damyanti, Co-host A to Z Challenge April 2014, My Latest post

    Twitter: @AprilA2Z
    #atozchallenge

    Reply
    • Holli Moncrieff

      That’s an interesting idea. Does it really work? I have an appointment with a therapist on Monday who’s going to try to help me get over this phobia, once and for all.

      Thanks for the suggestion!

      Reply

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