In some countries, if a foreigner goes to live there, even if for several decades, they are always treated in part as an "outsider", regardless of their actions and attempts to integrate into the society, or citizenship status. There may be many aspects of the culture they are not allowed part of. They might not be allowed to take part in certain sacred rituals. They might be treated be not allowed to marry simply because of their being from another culture. They may make friends, but the friends might still regard them differently from "local" friends.

I hesitate to use the words "racism" or "xenophobia" to define this, because often these are just old rules in society, and fear or hatred are not a component, at least in modern times. For instance, I live on tribal lands. Though I feel quite welcome in the day-to-day situations, I am excluded from certain activities simply because I am not a member of the tribe. I cannot, for instance, go to certain sacred areas or attend certain secret ancient rituals. I also would be treated badly if I fashioned my hair in the tribal way, dressed in their traditional or even modern fashion style, or mimicked the tribe's unique accent. Yet, the reason is some ancient taboos that nobody today understands...no hatred or fear is involved...that has just been the rules since the beginning of time, so it seems unfair to people experiencing real racism to also call this racism.

So, what is a good term for this different treatment of people because they are a foreigner?

  • Provincial, parochial, ethnocentric, tribal ... these words seem close but none fits your specification well enough to be an answer. I give up.
    – Anton
    Commented Oct 24, 2020 at 6:54
  • 1
    @Anton I know what you mean, I thought of "cliquish" and "sectarian" but they both carry connotations of unfriendliness or hostility which the OP specifically says are not part of the character of the tribespeople. I suspect that there is no word for this because it used to be an element of most people's lives before modern communication changed the emotional environment.
    – BoldBen
    Commented Oct 24, 2020 at 9:14
  • 3
    Xenophobia, perhaps? Commented Oct 24, 2020 at 14:06
  • 1
    * ,,,"racism" or "xenophobia" ... these are just old rules in society, and fear or hatred are not a component* I disagree; both racism and xenophobia may have components of fear or hatred.
    – rajah9
    Commented Oct 29, 2020 at 12:50
  • 2
    Just discrimination.
    – pepo
    Commented Oct 29, 2020 at 19:50

9 Answers 9



One good technical term is 'out-group discrimination'.


According to MW:

out-group noun
\ ˈau̇t-ˌgrüp
a group that is distinct from one's own and so usually an object of hostility or dislike — compare in-group sense 1

From sociology and evolutionary biology, we have the notion of in-group/out-group behavior, in which certain cognitive biases are inherent in human relations. Related to that are the notions of in-group favoritism and xenophobia which shows people may exhibit preference for those they are familiar with and fear of those they are not.


This phrase has some advantages. Because it is a technical term, it doesn't carry the same judgy connotation when characterizing someone, and unlike the term 'otherism' offered alongside by Lambie (which is a perfectly reasonable response), 'out-group discrimination' is widely in currency, which means that many people use and understand it. While a word by definition can mean anything, using language idiosyncratically often leads to confusion. It's helpful to use words that other people are already using. Note that google: "otherism" garners 26,600 hits at the time of this post, google: "out-group discrimination" registers more than 189 million results.

Additional References

  • judgey or judgemental? I think this term is too marked as sociology.
    – Lambie
    Commented Oct 30, 2020 at 19:54
  • @Lambie Hmmmmmmmm. They appeart to be strong synonyms according to MW: judgy, but I'm always open to pushback. You have a rationale for the preference of the latter? MW: marked as has no entry, so I'll read your predicate as "sociology-ish", and I'll ask, where did the OP confine the request to non-"sociology-ish"? :D
    – J D
    Commented Oct 31, 2020 at 1:31
  • In fact, I'd argue that the general intention of the request is to have a term suitable for describing groups of people. In what possible world is that not "sociology-ish"? ; )
    – J D
    Commented Oct 31, 2020 at 1:32

other and otherism, often other is capitalized: Other

And it can apply to foreigners, also.

treating a person as the other

Here is one description of it:

Otherism, in its tendency to dehumanize the “others”, has pervaded our culture, and perhaps has never been so discussed as in recent days. Mentions of racism, white supremacy, sexism, and classism wallpaper our national and local news.



This investigation has led me to explore the commonalities and differences in the visual representation of racially constructed Others more broadly, and I keep reaching the same conclusion: no visual representation of people of color is ever innocent or powerful enough to challenge the socially defined images that frame them—depending on the given illusion—as marginal, as threats, as foreigners, as Others, as having too much culture or too little culture. On their own, artistic representations can do little to challenge racism. It takes structural change to create a visual revolution that can fully change and destroy our illusions.

Others and art

In FILM: City Archives (1977) 28 mins| Short

Foreman produced City Archives, a labyrinthine collage of image and language, at the invitation of the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis. The tape centers on the perspective of an outsider — the foreigner as Other — towards a city and its artifacts. Foreman’s signature visual and verbal puns and carefully composed compositions result in an often humorous dialogue on the role of documents as evidence, and the relationship of text and image. While questioning the positions from which one views information, Foreman constructs and then deconstructs the central metaphor of an archive as a receptacle of information and knowledge. Richard Foreman, filmmaker

One of the first to theorize about this was Julia Kristeva in her many works such as the book Black Sun. Ultimately, we project otherness onto others because we cannot handle those parts of ourselves that are other to us.

Julia Kristeva and otherism

The concept of the other in, among others,:

Philosophy, psychology, ethics, critical theory, etc. [NO psychiatry]

The Other, philosophy and psychoanalysis

  • The word other entails psychiatric baggage. The terms ego, id, and super-ego. We are each other's others. Questions about even its existence. The other is necessarily bad? lexico.com/definition/otherism NOUN rare Devotion to the interests of others; altruism. wordnik.com/words/otherism noun Regard for the rights, welfare, and point of view of others; altruism; in evolutionary philosophy, “the struggle for the life of others,” especially for the life of offspring. Commented Oct 29, 2020 at 20:02
  • @Rem Not psychiatric. Psychoanalytical. And in its latest uses, it is about the uncanny, difference and rejection of others based on what one considers to be weirdness...."unlike us".
    – Lambie
    Commented Oct 30, 2020 at 19:40
  • I think that something used in the treatment of mental illness is necessarily psychiatric. Eg, "In the opening preface, Harris hails the then-new approach of Transactional Analysis (TA, or as Harris often refers to it, P-A-C) as a major breakthrough addressing the slow process and limited outcomes that he and other psychiatric practitioners felt conventional psychiatry had delivered up until the late 1960s." Perhaps otherism, itself, is a weird concept. Commented Oct 30, 2020 at 21:46
  • Now I wonder that selfism, too, might be switched around, to be something good if otherism is something bad. Selfism noun concentration on one's own interests; self-centeredness or self-absorption. Anyway, this is a bit of fun, so, I up voted your answer. Commented Oct 30, 2020 at 22:41
  • @Rem Is it not such that psychiatric therapy is primarily marked by medication management and a heavy reliance on the medical model because of it's underlying concern with physiological etiology in contradistinction to the psychoanalytical which is widely regarded as pre-scientific; while borrowing from the medical model metaphorically, is much more in the spirit of psychological talk therapy which is more concerned with the phenomenological as opposed to the noumenon?
    – J D
    Commented Oct 31, 2020 at 1:37

Perhaps 'ostracism'? OED Lexico defines it as:

Exclusion from a society or group.

It can have meanings pertinent to the specific aspect of foreigner relations such as Linguistic ostracism while also having less targeted animosity present in words such as 'aversion'.


Perhaps you could use isolationism.

This is the definition:

i·so·la·tion·ism noun: isolationism a policy of remaining apart from the affairs or interests of other groups, especially the political affairs of other countries. "the country chose a policy of isolationism that made it a secondary player in world political events"

Isolationism is different from racism or xenophobia because it is saying the people tend to keep to themselves more, not having anything to do with hate.

Although it is often used in politics and international relations, it can also be used as you said in your question: that some specific cultures may be isolationist because they have been that way for hundreds of years.

  • isolationism is an term used in international relations....
    – Lambie
    Commented Oct 30, 2020 at 20:19

You could use prejudiced. - meaning - "having or showing a dislike or distrust that is derived from prejudice; bigoted"

Possibly bigotry- "obstinate or unreasonable attachment to a belief, opinion, or faction; in particular, prejudice against a person or people on the basis of their membership of a particular group."


Although, as @Rem stated, the literal definition of xenophobia is simply a fear and hatred of strangers or foreigners or of anything that is strange or foreign, it often carries with it a negative connotation which is why you probably wish to avoid it. It carries with it a similar weight to "racism" or "bigotry".

The closest that you can get to the idea which you are describing is probably simply going to be "treated like a foreigner", or "treated like a nonnative". That's the general phrase that is used when referring to such a situation. Although you can use words such as "ostracization" and "exclude" those are really only for certain cases and are not representative of the general situation that you are referring to, in addition to a general negative connotation brought forth. There isn't a specific term that describes this scenario.


Of xenophobia, "While it may represent a true fear, most xenophobic people do not have a true phobia. Instead, the term is most often used to describe people who discriminate against foreigners and immigrants."


Of second-class citizen, "A person, belonging to a social or political group, whose rights and opportunities are inferior to those of the dominant group in a society.



These foreigners are Gaijin. a Japanese word for foreigners or non-Japanese nationals. The use is often neutral, although it may also be seen as derogatory.

gaijin: a foreigner (in Japan) Examples of gaijin in a Sentence - Recent Examples on the Web

Some gaijin, like Kelly Luce and Pico Iyer, had been touched by Japanese culture deeply enough to write about it. — Aaron Gilbreath, Longreads, "Japan: A Longform Reading List of Longform Writing," 30 Apr. 2020

Through conversations with Japanese friends and other gaijin, Iyer illuminates the uniquely paradoxical culture that defines present-day Japan: a society alone, together; at once preposterous and repressed; equally ordered and chaotic. — Ashlea Halpern, Condé Nast Traveler, "Best Books to Read if You're Dreaming of Japan," 30 Mar. 2020

Merriam webster

I do not repeat here the relevant supporting material to be found in other dictionaries or in https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gaijin


If you are looking for a specific term for being an outsider because you are from a different country as defined by artificial borders, as opposed to a different culture, I can't think of a good one. I would stick with "outsider" as a general term for this in relation to cultural newcomers, and am particularly drawn to this part of the second definition - "A person...who feels different from those people who are accepted as members". It seems to encompass what you are describing - not from here - not familiar with our ways - not part of our shared experience. Even in the most welcoming cultures, newcomers retain these traits for a long time.

Many other terms are specific to a particular culture, and if you are looking for a particular one, you can peruse this list.

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