Expat Life – Immersing Yourself
I’ve had occasion to write about being an expat before. One crucial point that I always keep in mind is the fact that I am the odd one out in a foreign country. Actually, this is a good rule of thumb even if you’re merely travelling but when you live in another country, you are the one who has to adapt, not the other way round.
It sounds like obvious advice, doesn’t it?
Every expat has had to encounter issues stemming from language – communication being the one tool that we use on an almost-continuous basis in our daily life. If we do not speak the language well enough, if our pronunciation is not clear or if our knowledge of the language is rudimentary, then we run the risk of looking like complete fools if we’re not careful.
On the one hand, there is the fact that you may try to find the right words but fail miserably. If you’re lucky, the locals know what you mean and help you out (This happened to us in a restaurant). In some cases, the locals may even resort to sign language (like my plumber did)
The really strange episodes are the ones where you were quite sure you knew what something meant and then you find yourself confronted with evidence to the contrary – like my local bank’s ATM sign.
However, given that I am the one with the ‘problem’, I would absolutely double-check everything I do, to be sure not to offend anyone or look downright silly. If I wanted to, say, open a shop here in Belgium, I’d make sure that my witty and memorable name is not something that sounds like a profane word or has a double-entendre. At best, it may even make people snigger and be memorable for all the wrong reasons.
This is why I was rather surprised to see these signs while walking through New York the other day:
I was walking through Chinatown, but still …
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