Friday, October 22, 2010

The "F" Word

I have a confession to make. This may put some people off, but I think it's about time. I am a fob.

The word fob, which stands for "fresh off the boat," is a common expression used among immigrant communities in the West to refer to people who have not quite assimilated to Western norms, whether it be in terms of language, dress, or general demeanor.

In truth, we all know that being called a fob is not exactly a compliment. There is a certain stigma that comes with being cultural, a sense of not being fully evolved. To complicate things even further, there are many different kinds of fobs. Not only does it depend on the person being labeled, it depends on who is giving the label. To a very Americanized Arab (perhaps third or fourth generation), any Arab-American who knows a few Nancy Agram songs and can say more than "hello" and "goodbye" in Arabic is a fob. (In actuality, these "fobs" probably make up the majority of Arab-Americans.) But what I'm more concerned with is what these so-called fobs, the average Arabs living in the West, consider a fob. Naturally, Arabs who have very recently arrived in the West are "honored" with this title. But what I find odd is that Arab-Americans even go so far as to apply this term to Arabs who have never left their countries in the first place. How can a person be fresh off the boat if he's never even been on the boat?

In my opinion, it all comes down to racism. Yes, racism can and does exist among people belonging to the same ethnic group. Arabs who have grown up in the West tend to think of themselves as new and improved, almost superhuman. Having the best of both worlds, many are arrogant, pitying those left behind. Did it ever occur to them that an Egyptian living in Egypt may be just as educated, just as well-traveled, and just as enlightened as they are? Or even worse, did it ever cross their minds that this intelligent, forward-thinking Egyptian may have no desire to leave his country and may it?

And thus, we deceive ourselves again, assuming that our way of life is the way, which brings me back to my point: how can we refer to a person as a fob in his own country? Well, we can't, or at least shouldn't. Therefore, as much as I dislike the term, if we're going to use it, let's at least use it correctly. So, if a fob is someone who has recently arrived in a country and has still not fully assimilated, then I am a fob. I'll understand if you unfriend me.


  1. To be honest.. I don't like most Arab Americans or Canadians (although I'm one of them!)
    Like you said, most of them are arrogant, and may I add ignorant? They think they're intelligent compared to Arab-Arabs, but quite honestly they're not.. so if a fob means I'm not one of "these" then please! Do call me fob! lol!

    I don't mean to offend anyone.. and of course I'm not generalizing :)

  2. I agree with what you are saying. However, I believe the reason "Arab Americans" refer to people as fobs in their homeland, is because it's a third world country.

    As a third world country there are those who fall into three categories; those who try to hard to be western and fail,those who are "uneducated" in terms of many things, and lastly those who are educated understand the world around them but choose to maintain their culture and identity. The last group is rare!!!

    We as Arab Americans when we visit our homelands are in many ways honored and admired because we are American. Which yes, can make some of us arrogant. However because of this admiration we in essence are given the power to call people fobs.

    At the end of the day FOB doesn't necessarily need to be taken as an insult. It can easily mean that you just have not been conditioned by the western media to think or act in a certain way. Which I guess was your point. However it's really up to these so called fobs to turn the table and call us fobs when we have trouble ordering from a restaurant or have trouble crossing the street. We are in essence the fobs in the very same place we came from.

    CAUTION: I don't like writing too much on this because you are an english teacher and i feel like i'm being graded, so leave your red marker thoughts when reading. thank you

  3. How odd! They clearly have a superiority complex and should be forced into group therapy.