Saturday, December 3, 2011

Oi, foreigner, learn English before you talk to me

Okay, the title is a bit over the top, I know. I love teasing you :-)

I just came back from the Polish shop and not for the first time. I think for the past six months or so I've been in there fairly regularly. They often have products similar to Germans stuff, i.e. a particular sausage you can't buy anywhere else than in a Polish shop, probably not even in the German Deli -- not that I go there often.
When I asked the girl behind the counter to cut the slices thinly, she looked at me with puppy eyes, then nodded and I knew she had no idea what 'thin' means. I repeated it and she ignored me. No idea if she thought I'm talking to myself, most probably didn't she understand what I was saying. In any way, I found it rather rude.
When we went on to the next sausage I had to use my hands to explain what 'thin' means. She understood raw (or so I think) perfectly fine, when I asked about something else.
I keep seeing that phenomenon a lot and I wonder why people don't care about the language of the country they live in. Even if you don't plan to stay forever, why don't you take the opportunity to learn a new language? English comes in handy everywhere. I don't expect people to be speak near native, but to be able to hold a conversation or at least have a basic vocabulary. Yes, it's a Polish shop and maybe they don't like English people (I doubt she knows I'm German, or worse, she knows and can't stand Germans), but I'm always friendly, say hello, please, thank you and even try ask for for some products in Polish.

It was always beyond me how someone could pass on such a great opportunity to learn, to broaden their horizon. Language is the ultimate basis of communication. I'm constantly amazed that I, being German, can mingle with people from all over the world, learn from them, laugh with them, teach them, etc. and that all because we have one thing in common: we are able to speak English.

Cultural differences aside, when women aren't allowed out of the house or speak to others (yes, sadly it's still happening in the year 2011), I will not understand that people can't see what they're missing out by not stepping out of their comfort zone and at least try.

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