Sunday, March 04, 2007
Two days ago I realized what it is like to be a foreigner in a foreign land and quickly judged for your origin and/or location. I want to a friend's birthday party and met a bunch of new people. Shortly after I arrived I found myself in the kitchen with a group of about 10 people and the only one I knew was the birthday boy. I was still observing the situation and had not said much. Aparently they were making fun of birthday boy when he turned to me and asked for an English term to describe their making fun of him. First one to my mind teasing, eh not really a term more of a word and I knew it was slang he was interested in so I threw out "Busting your Balls" There was my first mistake. Once it was out I realized I would now have to explain this slang term and speak slowly while doing so. It's just not the same once you break it down. Most of the room was able to pick up what I was puting down but one guy, whose name I never learned but will refer to as Pink Shirt Boy, had trouble with the expresion. Eventualy he got it. Soon we were sitting across the table from one another and he suddenly seemed interested to talk to me...the conversation quickly spiraled downward. PSB: Where are you from? J: US, RI (the usual explanation) PSB: I could tell you were not from England by your accent J: Yup, not British PSB: I'm going to the Carribean for my birthday J: Oh, on a cruise? a boat? PSB: No J: Are you going to St. Thomas? PSB: No, the Domica J: Oh the Dominican Republic PSB: Yeah J: yeah, that's not part of America PSB: I know but they speak English J: I'm pretty sure they speak Spanish, do you speak Spanish? gf of PSB: Luckily his girlfriend does. At this point they engage in a conversation about the trip and I am cut out. Later that evening, PSB places a wine glass in front of me and the girl sitting next to me and pours wine into them. I asked, "Ist das meine?" (Is this mine?) he responded by yelling back "It's wine, vino, vino" He also found it necessary too inform others that I spoke English and must be spoken to in English, which is only partialy true as peopleoften speak to me in German and I can understand them. I just felt like he treated me like I was stupid because of a communication barrier and this was also my first encounter of this kind. Usually people like to practice their English on me or know why I'm here or talk about US geography and culture. I now realize why I often hold my toung or start speaking German and wait for someone to call me on my Auslander status before flashing it out there. I hope I never treat non-English speakers like that. Please speak slowly but do not yell or otherwise mock people who don't speak your language, they are most likely much more capable of conversation in their native tongue and prob. not stupid. I'm off to Berlin where I will engage in a super touristy American indulgence, Dunkin Donuts or even Starbucks if I find that but DD is more rare internationaly, who knows what other bits of America are lying in the capital city.