Friday, May 15, 2009

The Perks of Being a Foreigner

Living in a foreign country for eight months has kind of turned me into a shit-talker. Not necessarily on purpose, and not necessarily a mean or vicious one. But I do talk openly about the people that are surrounding me--whether it's to compliment their style or to complain that they're not walking fast enough.

No one here speaks English.

And even the people who do don't speak it well enough to understand when we are speaking together--we speak far too fast, and use far too much slang for that. Even the English teachers that I worked with at school would have difficulties understanding me if I didn't slow up my speech (I asked a question once and to clarify I asked it again a few minutes later. I got totally different answers each time). The students--who have been learning English for almost 7 years, are still currently in English classes, and who listen to American music constantly--can pick out swear words and the occasional 'he' or 'breakfast'. The English assistants and I have just gradually become used to the fact that we can talk about people right in front of them, and they'll never know.

I guess I shouldn't say never. There is the odd American expatriate, the English tourist, or the Frenchie who's lived in Bristol for 10 years. Case(s) in point: The young English girl whose jeans I was complimenting while standing in line at the train station. It wasn't awkward until we started to notice that she was reacting, and then someone suggested that she perhaps wasn't French. "I'm actually English" she says. Good thing I was being nice. Another time, we were riding the bus, discussing some piece of assistant-related drama, when a Frenchman decided to pipe in and give his opinion. Who does that? Even if you do understand...

The result of 8 months of not having to talk behind people's backs (and instead being able to talk right in front of them) is that I am even less of a public person than I was before. I've spent the last 8 months having inappropriate conversations in public (most Americans would consider ovulation a no-no for a lunchtime convo), and not biting my tongue when something pops up to talk about. If I occasionally made an inappropriate comment before when I was in America, just wait 'til I get back.

I guarantee that within the first day I will say--in English, about English-speaking people--something along the lines of, "I wish this stupid woman would walk a little faster or get out of my effing way" or "Who writes checks at the grocery store anymore, anyway?". Get ready, Ian.

4 comments:

Ian said...

Oh, I'm ready. You did this all the time before you left, you know. :)

Heather said...

Bwahahaha, I'm so glad you said that Ian, I was thinking the same thing!

Heather said...

Oh yeah, and it's awesome when people talk about me in Spanish thinking I don't understand. It just makes it So much better when they really do understand you...

Chelsea said...

We'll just tell everyone you're drunk.