You know what annoys me? OK, yes, many things. One of such things is being constantly asked to teach Russian, organize a Russian Club, or start a Department of Russian at our university. I keep explaining to people that I’m a Hispanist but they remain stuck on this Russian obsession.
The only engagement with Russian that I speak it. If you think that this must qualify me to do any of the things I listed here, you must probably believe that every single English-speaker you have met is prepared to start English Departments at universities.
I read a lot less in Russian than I do in Spanish and English. I have very little interest in the Russian-speaking culture (or what’s left of it.) As for the language, I’m completely unfamiliar with the grammar, so teaching is out of the question. It just annoys me that while nobody would consider that the profession of an English-speaking mathematician or biologist is interchangeable with that of a teacher of English, it isn’t as easy to convince people that a Russian-speaking Hispanist is still a Hispanist.
Another thing that gets to me (I said there were many, didn’t I?) is the endless questioning about when I plan to travel to Ukraine. People seem to be convinced that all immigrants experience a profound need to visit on a regular basis the countries they emigrated from. I’m in no way being critical of immigrants who do go back regularly but I’m not one of them. I didn’t leave Ukraine because I couldn’t make a living there or experienced bad economic conditions. I wasn’t escaping from an oppressive political system. None of that was true for me.
I left because I disliked living in the place intensely. So why would I want to go back? I haven’t been back once since I left almost 14 years ago and I’m definitely not planning on going. I know what would happen if I went. People would be extremely mean to me, I’d be exposed to the level of aggression that I don’t know how to deal with any more, I’d rediscover how alien I am to the culture where I grew up and how obnoxious the reigning materialism and cynicism are. Yeah, that would be one lousy trip.
I guess it would help if people realized that some immigrants are not forced to leave their countries of origin but choose to do so because they dislike their cultures and really admire and love the culture of the country where they move. Seriously, what are the chances that you would accidentally be born into the culture that suits you best? I wasn’t lucky in that respect, so I made an effort to correct the situation.