Gossiping in Belize is a way of life, and to some, a full-time job. I tried my best to stay away from it but soon realized, the mere act of opening my mouth qualified as gossiping. It was a major source of frustration. In a large city you could say what you wanted and get away with it, but not here. I guess living with the same small crowd, gossip became a form of entertainment.
During our first expat luncheon at a local restaurant, I accidentally critiqued a village close to our hut, stating that it wasn’t safe there because an elderly American lady had recently been attacked at gunpoint by a Belizean thug. An expat rolled her eyes, and in a tone of voice that brought me back to Miss McNulty, my Irish, spinster math teacher at boarding school, she said, “It’s just as safe in the village and for your information, that woman didn’t get robbed in the village.” For the first time since elementary school, I realized relationships were based on first words. They either liked you, or they crossed you off their list. Since being liked was important to me, I tried to make peace by saying, “I’ve only been here a week, so what would I know?”
I’d never lived in a small town before. Lagos, Paris, Copenhagen, Glasgow, Brussels and Orange County, California didn’t qualify as rural. My husband, Duke, said that it’s the same all over the world. As a child, he lived in a small rural village in Pennsylvania, where gossip spread like a virus.
Two weeks after we moved to the island of Ambergris Caye, I discovered that most women seemed to be doing lunch. Flattered when two English expats invited me, I realized that drinks and gossip were the purpose of these get-togethers. I sat between them feeling like an insect under a microscope. Into which species and sub-species would I be categorized? It reminded me of high school where you have to be analyzed and categorized, into a specific group. The “cool group,” the “drinking group,” the “non-drinking group,” the “geeky group,” the “she’s got money group,” or the, “she’s not a threat to us,” group.
I learned to be careful before I spoke. Trust was a word that came up frequently among expats. “It takes several years before you know whom you can trust?”
Do you hear lots of gossip where you live?
Any comments on trust, what it’s like to meet new people, or anything else you want to say?