We are all ambassadors

“Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away.” – Philip K. Dick

Whether we like it. Whether we agree. Whether we care. It is true. Each and every moment of our lives is spent projecting an image. Sociologists call it our mask. It’s what the outside sees.

My sociology classes taught me about masks. Before, I referred to it as being fake. Then I realized that my humanities classes referred to it as discourse community, ie. what you tell your grandmother what you did last weekend is quite different from what you tell your best friend. Click! It made sense. Essentially, we act a certain way with certain people. If you will bear with the terminology, each discourse community requires a unique mask. Interdisciplinary indeed.

He stands out a bit.

But what does it really mean? Lately, it has prompted me to think about my role as a foreigner. My existence here in Japan is easy to see, especially since I live in an area that boasts foreigners at fewer than 1% of the population. I realized quickly that my actions would be noticed. Not only that, but traveling abroad carries a certain responsibility with it. The traveler represents more than themselves, they represent the nation, the language, the culture, family, and so on. It’s not so different than normal albeit a bit more acute. After all, employers expect their employees to represent their company well. Right?

A long time ago my mother had a saying about me. It was catchy and made sense, as most of her sayings did. “You can’t conform a nonconformist,” she would say to me. Looking back, it appeared as though I was bucking the system every step of the way. The funny thing was that I never thought I was like that. So often we are blinded by our own shining light. I think about that person now. I don’t feel any different. My basic ideals are still the same.

But I am not the same person.

Then, I was rude and uncouth. Looking back, I didn’t know who I was. I had no identity. But time has taught me a few things about myself and my place in this strange but wonderful world.

This dog rocks!

The masks we wear are an important aspect of our lives. At the beginning, our masks are distinct, separate entities. But as we live and learn, they begin to overlap. Our inside mask absorbs a piece of our outside mask absorbs a piece of our work mask absorbs, absorbs, absorbs, in an ongoing process that defines our identity. Ten to fifteen years ago I would have thought this was being fake, and I guess in a way it is. But accepting these masks and their relationships to each other brings about a certain authenticity that people appreciate.

Who I was, who I am, what I was, and what I am each add a small piece to the elaborate puzzle that is my identity. I will try my best to project my best mask under all conditions by trying to be a good, authentic person.

Because we are all ambassadors.

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About Matthew J. Durocher

Matthew Durocher is a graduate of Michigan Tech University. He acquired his BA in English along with a minor in Music Composition and a certificate in Writing in Spring 2012. His style is one of passion and musicality. One foot is firmly rooted in tradition while the other slides dangerously close to the clouds.
This entry was posted in Culture Shock, Narrative and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

58 Responses to We are all ambassadors

  1. Just stumbled upon your website on a sleepless night. It’s a breath of fresh air. Love it. Keep blogging and I’ll keep reading 😉

  2. Permeable evolving masks.
    Acute ambassadorship.
    Becoming with our masks
    Becoming authentic…
    Authentic masks

    To add one nasty thing to your wow perspective: We are all assholes. It works the same way. : )
    Thank you so much for this terrific metaphor insight epic myth reality story.
    *Accepts*

  3. Pingback: We are all ambassadors | JDnGerz..

  4. I agree that as travelers we represent the nation/country we belong to. Currently, I am traveling in Vietnam and I was in a small tour group of European tourists and I the sole American. As the tour guide explained the war tactics and destruction done by Americans, I received a lot of side glances from the other tourists.

  5. Indeed, whatever masks we put on as we interact with the world, we need to retain respect for others and remain genuine to ourselves.
    Congratulations on being Freshly Pressed, well-deserved!

  6. Segmation’s comment refers to stereotyping – in this case stereotyping of Americans. My wife and I have been living abroad for a couple of years with plans to live in a new country every six months. We are not proud of the arrogance often associated with Americans. Traveling abroad teaches us patience, tolerance, and appreciation of other cultures. We have found the best way to overcome stereotypes is one person at a time. Our role as ambassadors is to demonstrate that all Americans are not alike. Learning as much of the language and the customs as we can is our approach.
    Great, thought-provoking post. Congratulations on being Freshly Pressed.

    • The ugly face of stereotyping is strong. I agree with you that overcoming stereotypes is best done one person at a time by getting to know them. It can be extremely difficult due to language and cultural hurdles but completely worth it. Thanks for stopping by!

  7. L. Palmer says:

    This made me realize how carefully constructed my ‘masks’ are depending on situations. I try to have the same foundation for each mask, but there is the ‘professional’ face, the ‘fun, playful’ face, and so on for all groups and occasions. As an ambassador for myself and my society, I try to make the best, most appropriate impression.

    • Having the same foundation is important, as you say. I think that is what makes us come across as authentic. But maybe there are times when being appropriate is more important. Thanks for dropping by and commenting!

  8. L. Palmer says:

    I try to live so my ‘masks’ can be as consistent as possible, so I can be honest about who I am. However, there are things that still remain separate – the calm ‘customer service’ voice at work when working with the public versus the venting when returning home, the loud, goofy antics while talking with friends and family versus the more professional and quiet demeanor while at work. We are not just the ambassadors of our society, but also of ourselves.

  9. What a great message! I concur! As a Canadians with an Asian backgrounds currently having just moved to England (and no, not the cosmopolitan city of London), we fully understand that we are representing both North Americans and Asians by our interactions with the locals here. Also true where ever we travel. But on the flip side, the locals also need to be aware that they represent their country as well! Everyone has a part in showing either the positive or showing the negative.

  10. emekatalks says:

    This is awesome! well said. i live in Nigeria west Africa. I studied socilogy too. thanks for sharing this!:)

  11. meromusings says:

    I live in bangkok and there’s a certain mask that I’ve to put on while conversing with locals here. They are generally soft spoken and speak slowly but when I’m back home in Nepal, I go back to being loud and talk fast :). I guess in order to adapt to different cultures, we do sometimes need “masks”!

  12. Ritu KT says:

    I enjoyed reading your post. I used to wonder about the automatic change in my replies depending on the other person. I talked and laughed a certain way in front of my relatives which was quite different amongst my friends. I guess I wanted to represent my family (as an ambassador) in front of my relatives while I wanted to impress my friends differently. It happened spontaneously and so I always wondered why was I ‘inconsistent’. I guess I learned the real reason today.
    Look like you don’t know yet so I might me breaking the news to you – “You have been Freshly Pressed”. Congratulations!

  13. #CoolBlogPost @DrAnthony

  14. jackgoldberg says:

    Love this – growing up as an orthodox Jew, wearing my kippah (head covering) one of the many different purposes for it was to show that we are ambassadors for the Jewish people. While you did not want to disgrace yourself with foolish activity (fireworks at midnight), you REALLY did not want to disgrace your religion and people. Great post!

    • Thanks so much! You make a great point. Many uniforms or traditional clothes also communicate a mask or group identity. It seems like it really gets at something bigger than ourselves. Thanks for dropping by!

  15. Cas Michelis says:

    Interesting and sensitively, thoughtfully written, thanks for posting. Masks serves many purposes, some more useful than others, but I still prefer those moments when we connect with another person beyond all masquerades, when identities touch and dissolve to reveal our common, fragile humanity.

  16. So true! Great blog! I tell my kids this everyday.

  17. very nice post and quite worthy of being freshly pressed! congratulations! z

  18. Jessica says:

    So true. I lived in Taiwan for two years and Hong Kong for a year. In Taiwan, I lived in a small town with no foreigners. I stood out like a sore thumb everywhere I went. When I saw other Americans on the MRT, I was sometimes embarrassed. They were loud and rude, and cocky. I thought, “Don’t you know they’re looking at you? Don’t they know they’re judging your country by the way you’re acting right now?” We are all ambassadors in every part of our lives, though. How we treat people every day is critical. Thank you for this wonderful reminder. Great post.

    • I understand. Sometimes I see other foreigners and I’m shocked for a bit. Not only from their appearance but how they act. It really makes me think about how I’m viewed as well. Thanks for sharing a great example. Have a great day!

  19. Spot on! As I read through your post I realized I think about this topic often, with reflection about myself but more so through watching my children grow and their journeys. Great topic, thanks for putting it out there.

  20. Toksicity says:

    That is very insightful, thank you for sharing. Your opening quote is excellent.

  21. SandySays1 says:

    Getting to know who we are is the first step in understanding others.

  22. Interesting post. I don’t think it’s being fake at all; rather I agree with the commenter who said we can’t show all of ourselves at one time because we are simply too complex. I agree with you, too, that our inner self affects our masks and our masks also affect our inner self — which can be a good thing or a bad thing. For instance, I think many of us have felt stuck in a situation (say, a terrible job or relationship) where we come to display a mask that is really inauthentic to ourselves, and that can begin to affect how we perceive ourselves on the inside as well. Interesting to think about. I think social media is a whole different thing, though, as for many people that involves creating a mask in a very calculating way, unlike the ones we move between unconsciously in everyday life.

    • Great point. I can remember plenty of jobs where I was dissatisfied and just rolled with the punches. It can certainly weigh a person down. As far as social media. Wow. I have no idea but your observation is keen. We certainly have a lot more time to calculate and adjust our mask with social media. I’ll have to think a lot more about it. Thanks for dropping by!

  23. lainiwrites says:

    We are all puzzles. All the little pieces make us. The polite piece to your grandmother or the fun piece to your best friend. As you say it’s not being fake – it’s knowing what is acceptable at all times. We can’t show all of us at the one time, we are too complex of creature for that.

  24. Where ever we go we represent our family, community to other communities…not only the responsability, this is also great opprtunity to say and show the best from our lives and culture.

  25. segmation says:

    One thing I had a problem with on my recent trip to Spain is it seemed to me that people when they found out I was an American assumed I had some kind of American mask on me. How does one show others that all American’s do not have the same mask when traveling abroad and that there are many masks such as the American traveling abroad in Spain? Got any good suggestions for American ambassadors? Not all masks are the same, right?

    • Great question! And I’m sure I don’t know the answer. But, I think that there are those masks that we project, and those that are projected onto us. Sometimes the one that is projected isn’t fair. I would like to think that our actions could define our authentic mask and that all would be right with the world. But it seems that the world isn’t so perfect. Did you enjoy your trip to Spain?

  26. beingserbian says:

    I agree that we always project an image/mask to the outside world. That’s what social media is all about.

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