Working for a international airline you can pride yourself on being a part of a truly multicultural team. The Cabin Crew of “my” Airline alone is said to speak more than 120 different languages! Meaning if you ever board an EK flight you shouldn’t have to worry about having troubles making yourself understood. If not a native speaker someone who CAN speak the same language is always at hand.
Which might not be a matter of great importance if we were just talking about a simple “Gin&Tonic” scenario (pretty much international if you ask me) but just imagine sitting next to a person experiencing some nasty digestive problems and desperately wanting to change a seat midflight. Aren’t you going to appreciate that the pretty caucasian trolley dolley is able to translate your request into Mandarin?
See – it’s not just about the pretty face.
Coming from a country that’s the size and shape of a swollen foot and speaks a language that scored number 9 in “10 world’s most difficult languages to learn” I always felt that being multilingual is a must (unless I want to speak to Czechs only for the rest on my life as nobody else can be bothered learning such a complicated set of grammar rules). And moving to Prague from the middle of Czech rural nowhere has only proved me right. You won’t take two steps from your front door without a tourist asking for directions. Which btw – being my nice village-y myself- I would always give:)
The same goes for all the evenings spent in pubs scattered around the Old Town or lectures buzzing with exchange students from all world’s corners.
And I loved it ! “Where are you from ?” very soon became the most used opening line of my conversations. Here I was – my tiny boring self – meeting people from literally ALL OVER THE GLOBE! I was absolutely ecstatic every time I came across a new nationality – trying to find out as much as possible about their country and food and men and fashion and culture and just generally everything until that particular person got bored and moved on . And whenever I was asked back I would proudly reply- ” I’m from around here. I’m Czech”. Coz you see being Czech actually means something in the Czech republic. Especially to expats. It means they know someone who can speak to their landlords, someone who asks for the right kind of beer, someone who knows the right way around things. Plus it kinda means you are also kinda cool – you know with Prague being so cool and being in the Czech and you being Czech and all that. You know what I mean 🙂
So anyway- that’s how I spent my uni years – asking people “Where are they from?” and answering the same with a smile and my head raised high. That ever changing has never even crossed my mind.
Until I moved to the UK.
See – people here don’t use “Where are you from?” as a way to find to out where you come from. Thinking about it they don’t even use that phrase as a question.
In the British dictionary a hostile “Where are you from?” has replaced any form of answer to everyday queries such as “Excuse me, could we get the bill please?” or “Have I missed the last train?” or “Are you in the queue?”
For some reason the nation that’s known for being polite,reserved and well behaved finds it ok to completely disregard whatever it is you are asking them and automatically go into “Offence mode” whenever they hear a foreign accent.
When I first moved here I saw no problem in answering to that 20 times a day and then consequently explaining WHY did I move here and that NO I’m not here to steal anyone’s job or a boyfriend or to get free benefits- and being made feel like an idiot for doing it.
After a couple of years of living here the frequency of FAQ (effing annoying question) has gradually ceased. Maybe I finally got the hang of the English language to an extend that makes people listen to what I have to say instead of how I say it. However I still do come across the occasional douche who thinks it’s so clever to point out that “I am not around here am I”- usually in a room full of people after a speech or a joke I have just made. I make a point of never ever talking to that person again.
Maybe that’s too drastic but you see if you drank coke all day everyday(and I am not even a big coke fan) then eventually you would feel sick just hearing the fizz.
I would like to point out this is not a dig at Britain. I love Britain. I like Britons with their little Queen, their weird weather and their strong believe that a cuppa is a cure for every discomfort.
I guess the point I’m trying to make is that I can’t wait to be a Cabin Crew. To be appreciated for speaking a few different languages even with an accent. Because I’m hoping that once I have helped someone to explain to their neighbour that they should please put their smelly shoes back on I won’t be looked at angrily and asked “Where are you from”?
So to wrap it all up my dear readers:
Where are you all from ?