Stranger in a Strange Land: Disabilities, the context of Culture, and questions from others


Most respected readers,

Ask a historian the question, “Which postmark of life does history say we should be the proud of the most?” The answer you will get quite often is “your country.”

Ask a scientist or even ancient philosopher, “Which sense is the most used by humans?” and they will reply clearly with the word sight. In 1760, Immanuel Kant also stated the same. Yet when you look into the last sense which goes after you die, its hearing.

I am nearly conveying this information to set the groundwork for what is to come in this piece. For we truly can debate historical facts and statements, but we cannot undermine the clarity of the truth: I am a blind man.

More blind than your computer chair, as well as more of a foreigner than your refrigerator, I am truly an oddity and have tried my best to defy as many social standards as I can. I sincerely hope that many of you have also done the same throughout the life you have lived. I can’t be alone, right? Although I was not raised by Martians, I am certainly an alien to the country I came to. Lacking the ability of eyesight, I did not learn my queues of speech from others or captions on screen. I lived with a family which spoke Hungarian, but even the youngest of my cousins at the time preferred speaking English amongst themselves.

Learning English

This was not at all painful. To this day, I ponder how I learned English so fast (in the half a year during which I lived here, I picked up enough to speak it on a semi-fluent level), as well as why I tend to write so clearly and with junction, preferring longer vocabulary words. It’s both a blessing and a curse, as proper English, I feel, can make one come off as more creepy especially when communicating electronically. Yet I enjoy the myriad of words I can utilize whilst composing my sentences. Not even the 12-year-old me would approve of such a change of heart. I used to hate language, finding Hungarian the biggest curse to understand and study. Somehow ESL and the awesome English teacher I had made me fall in love not just with English, but also my own native language.

Understanding the concept of body language

I am also quite a foreigner to so called body language and expressions. I have written extensively about this prior, so I will only rehash my statements. I was born blind, therefore I do not know what expressions are. Yet humans are born with specific innate qualities which automatically ensure that when a person is scared, worried, happy, sad, your body will create reactions. On a slight level of amusement, I have been asked multiple times how I know subtle details, such as when a girl wishes to be kissed or when someone wants me to stop doing something. I hypothesise that a lot of it comes from intuition and other queues which they might give out. There has never been a relationship (friendship or otherwise) where body language was a major problem or discontentment.

At work and elsewhere, I get asked questions about my so called strangeness all the time. I truly wish I could answer even the deepest ones, and I’d rather have someone ask me than pretend to treat me different from who they are. I make blind jokes all the time, what’s the problem?

Recently, a co-worker told me that sometimes I will follow people with my eyes, even though I do not know how to actually control them. Yes — my blindness comes with it as a side-effect, I have no idea where my eye is moving to. At the same time, it never bothers me or seems weird – they just are always moving. He proposed the idea that naturally you also react visually to sounds around you, and I suppose it is incidents like these which show me how much of our human qualities are instilled in us not by nurture, but by nature.


I am not writing this to be crass, only to spark conversation among my readers. I truly believe that both the blind and sighted need to be more open about answering the most unanswered yet commonly thought of questions. As an immigrant, stepping out of comfort zones is not new to me, so I view this as a simple natural step out of that. Yes, I face challenges. One of the most recent ones is finding people in large crowds and gatherings. (Bars, weddings, you name it –) I still enjoy going to all of these venues, however, simply because there are always willing people who will tak to you as long as you are open for conversation. Similarly, I tend to enjoy just paying attention to my environment. I also am not the type to walk around a person’s house to simply explore what’s around me. All of these do come as a limitation of blindness if I see it as such.
Because my speech came not from heavy interactions with others, I learned my writing through books and reading many internet posts. One area which I never excelled in has always been writing, at least not until 2007 or so. I can go back through numerous forum posts where I made horrendous spelling errors as proof,. I suppose the internet does truly contain all of our life stages, does it not? Do I see the inspiration coming for another future post there? This lack of person-based learning means that I have the diction of speech which became more sophisticated over time. I have spoken to about three different people about this matter.
This is getting quite lengthy, however I hoped to spark philosophical curiosity within those who took their time to read all I have written. Does language and our culture define so many aspects to our beings as to disable us from ever truly adapting if we tried? We know that those who older usually have to spend more time learning, as rewiring the brain becomes ever more difficult. What impact does a lack of sight have on those who are studying a language in a country where only a close group speak it? I have a clear memory of an English teacher (in 3rd grade) trying to teach me what an apple is by feeling, as well as other objects. She gave up soon after, simply because I had a hard time memorizing each, and it would not have benefited me in the long run to learn without the beauty of prepositions and grammar. Does blindness make new languages easier or harder to pick up? What can I do to not only help the sighted world around me feel more comfortable and have a greater sense of not being a stranger? How does blindness and my culture play a role in the way I treat others and my need to be polite to everyone I meet, regardless of their questions or motives? I could of course write another piece on how European men are different than those in America, but I couldn’t even begin comparing such aspects to myself when not everyone is the same. These are thoughts which not only make me ponder, but I hope can place more of a philosophical spin to aspects of life which not many think of.