Mistaken for a native

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Japanese school children waving at a visitor to their classroom

I recall the odd happiness I felt when being asked for directions in Helsinki ("Do you speak English?"), but I also recall the disgusted look on the faces of two young women in Copenhagen when they realized that I didn't speak Danish, and that they they had failed to discern a tourist. I treasure the memory of the lady with bad eyesight at a festival in Japan who asked me in Japanese what event was happening next.

Why should I be pleased to be taken for a native, even if the mistake revolts the people who made it, or requires someone who is almost blind? What kind of affirmation do we want from the natives? Do we want to be in their place, to really inhabit it? Not quite: we want to be there, in that world, but we want a multiple inhabitation. To be there understanding, accepted, but also to be from away. Multiplied vision, not a new home.