What does Farid mean when he tells Amir in Chapter 19 of The Kite Runner, "You've always been a tourist here, you just didn't know it"?
Farid, Amir's driver during his stay in Pakistan and Afghanistan, makes this comment before he realizes Amir's true reason for returning to his native land. Farid believes that Amir has returned merely to
"Sell this land, sell that house, collect the money and run away like a mouse. Go back to America, spend the money on a family vacation to Mexico." (Chapter 19)
Farid changes his mind about Amir when he discovers the true reason for his return--to find and bring his Hazara nephew to safety--and both Farid and his brother, Wahid, consider it an "honorable" quest. But Farid is not completely wrong about how Amir had
"... always been a tourist here, you just didn't know it." (Chapter 19)
Unlike most of Afghanistan's poverty-stricken people, Amir had enjoyed a life of wealth and privilege during his boyhood days in Kabul. Amir had never worn a pakol or ragged clothes; instead, he had lived in Baba's mansion, one of the finest homes in the city. Amir grew up with servants waiting on him, and his father threw elaborate parties and "drove an American car"--a Mustang. Amir was not like the average Afghan, like the man Farid pointed out
... in ragged clothes trudging down a dirt path, a large burlap pack filled with scrub grass tied to his back. "That's the real Afghanistan, Agha sahib. That's the Afghanistan I know." (Chapter 19)
Farid serves as Amir’s driver and guides him when he goes on a trip to rescue Sohrab from the war-torn country. Farid tells Amir that he has always been a tourist because he was not properly exposed to the Afghani traditional lifestyle. To some extent, Farid’s assertions are true.
"Let me imagine, Agha sahib. You probably lived in a big two-‐or three-‐story house with a nice backyard that your gardener filled with flowers and fruit trees. All gated, of course. Your father drove an American car. You had servants, probably Hazaras. Your parents hired workers to decorate the house for the fancy mehmanis they threw, so their friends would come over to drink and boast about their travels to Europe or America."
Amir spends his childhood in a wealthy part of the country. His father is a renowned and respected man in the society. In addition, his father refuses to conform to traditional Afghani lifestyles and instead lives a modern western lifestyle. Amir grows up in the same lifestyle and does not get to encounter or experience the real struggles of a majority of the Afghani people.
According to Farid, Amir does not qualify to be a real Afghani because apart from having a westernized upbringing, he also leaves for America when the war rages on in his homeland.
Farid snickered. Tossed his cigarette. "You still think of this place as your country?"