Menu Close

Author: tXc

Expat gone foreign: Adventures of a linguist settling abroad.

REduce, REuse, REcycle

I know Expat Gone Foreign is supposed to be all about life abroad, learning languages, discovering new cultures and places, and so on. However, we might not have a planet where to do all those marvelous things sooner than we think. The demands of modern society have turned us into frantic zombies who try to get by from one day to the next. This lifestyle comes at a price. Not only is it killing us, but it also has a huge impact on the planet 1Expat Gone Foreign, tXc, Reduce, reuse, recycle, rethink, plastic

I bike past stores, shops and bakeries every morning. Sometimes I count the people I see biking. Sometimes I count the cars that only have one person inside 2. Sometimes I count the people I see holding a disposable cup. Sometimes I have to stop counting to prevent being run over by yet another frantic driver.

Environmental awareness is one of the aspects that I really admire about Germany, yet 320.000 disposable cups are used every hour in this country alone. That makes 2.8 billion cups per year. But it’s not just Germany. Oh, no. The human being is a horrendous creature everywhere on the planet. Worldwide, 500 billion plastic cups are used every year. Yes, that’s one 5 followed by 11 zeros.

Nowadays it’s practically impossible to live without plastic, but we can choose to minimize our hazardous impact. If something can’t be reused, repaired, recycled or repurposed; remove it from your life or at least reduce its consumption. Would you like a drink? Great! Bring your own reusable cup. Or better yet, take a 10 minute-break to clear your head, sit down and enjoy the little pleasures of life.

Umlauts

Someone asked me if there was something about the German language that I found amusing. Well, umlauts are fun. Those two simple dots change a vowel’s pronunciation just by hovering over it. They cause more than a headache to Spanish speakers and take hours of practice to master for anyone who attempts to learn German.  Expat Gone Foreign, tXc, Umlauts, German language, fun, lustige SpracheIf you can’t get the hang of umlauts, here’s the ultimate tip to be able to pronounce them in no time. This strategy helped me as a native Spanish speaker. I’m sure it’d work for Italian and Portuguese people as well. Here we go!

  • Ü (the head-over-heels happy u): put your mouth in “u” position (as if you were going to say /u/) but say /i/ instead.
  • Ö (the flabbergasted o): put your mouth in “o” position but say /e/.
  • Ä (the scared a): put your mouth in “a” position but say /e/.

Easy peasy.

Come to think about it… there’s something inherently disturbing about this drawing. Her face is just… unsettling. What have I done?! I’ve created a monster!

·_·

Schrödinger’s Immigrant

The human mind functions in mysterious ways. It believes what you want it to believe. Once it’s made up, it will scrape for ideas to support that belief, and it will dismiss every piece of information that contradicts it. It will blindly swallow whatever resonates with it and promptly reject everything that doesn’t.

As I mentioned earlier this week 3, I can understand that not everyone can be into languages and traveling. Maybe you had a bad experience in French class back in school, maybe you live in a fascinating country and never felt the need to go abroad. And that’s alright.

I can even understand that some people might be afraid of foreigners, diversity, and basically everything that involves a degree of strangeness. We gravitate towards what’s similar. The cultural bubble in which we grew up becomes the standard for “normality”. The mind feels at ease around what’s familiar and certain, and it startles at what’s different and uncanny.

However, being reluctant towards what’s unfamiliar is one thing. Another completely different issue is displaying irrational, latent animosity towards it. Where is this hatred coming from? Did that French class go really wrong? Were these people wronged by foreigners? Do they just have very small penises? So many questions.

I need answers. I ask and listen to their arguments. Their minds are made up, and will cling on to that belief no matter how poorly founded. The mind will recite he same ol’ broken record: “Immigrants destroy our economy. They steal our jobs, increasing the unemployment rate among locals; they are lazy shits who sit around all day leeching off of state benefits”.

Well, hold on a second. Are immigrants ambitious overachievers who take all our jobs, or are they too lazy to work? It took me a long time to unveil the logic behind this argument. Hours of complex thinking and scientific analysis. But don’t worry, I figured it out:

Expat Gone Foreign, tXc, Schrödinger's Immigrant, racist arguments, economy

 

Now, let’s get serious for a moment. Let’s assume that you did in fact have a horrendous experience with foreigners and your aversion is somehow justified. Let’s focus on the one thing that makes the world go round: money. I’m not an expert in economy (I’m not even good at Math) but I do have a basic understanding of it: those who work pay taxes, and that tax money is used – among other things – to support those who don’t work (retired citizens, children, etc).

The legal working age in my country (and I’m willing to bet it’s the same throughout Europe) is 16. Within the first 16 years, the state spends around 150.000 € per person in education and health coverage. Once you reach the legal working age, you can become a cog in the system and contribute to the gold pot with your taxes – although let’s be honest, in reality people start working much later.

When foreigners move to your country, they find jobs, and they start paying taxes from day one. Yes, their taxes aren’t as high as the average local, basically because foreigners are usually paid less – especially at the beginning 2. Yes, sometimes their salary is so low that they need additional support, such as reduced housing prices or food aid. Nonetheless, the amount of money that the state spends in these cases is laughably ridiculous compared to that initial capital invested in every national. No country takes in foreigners out of altruism. It’s sad, but it’s true.

So, you can keep hating immigrants as much as you want. You can keep reciting the same ol’ broken record and blaming them for the ailing economy.

But the fact is, your aging country desperately needs them.

The Octopus Cashier

Just as Romania has vampires and Ireland has leprechauns, Germany also has a species of its own: the octopus cashier. These powerful creatures dwell in grocery stores nationwide under a humanoid disguise, but their true colors surface whenever a customer approaches the check-out. This cephalo-mammalian hybrid is highly trained to scan a bazillion items per minute by unfolding its multiple extremities and hurling produce in the air at ultrasonic speed.

The customers, subjected to their slow-paced human condition, have no other choice than to randomly shove the groceries into their bags. Woe betide thee if your money is not at the ready when the octopus cashier scans the last item. This last item indicates the finish line, and if you are still packing, you will be scorned by the other humans in the check-out line 3. They will start rolling their eyes impatiently while muttering “Das geht doch gar nicht!”. Avoid this situation at all costs by trying out these tips:

#1 – Team work: Drag your partner to the store. Four arms still won’t equate to the manpower of the octopus cashier, but if you train your team-packing skills, one of you will be ready to whip out the money while the other finishes stacking whatever is left.

#2 – Go green: Buy tons of fruits and vegetables. They will slow down the octopus cashier considerably, since produce needs to be weighed and have its code entered in order to be priced. Also, fruits and vegetables are good for you and stuff.

#3 – Screw it. Get a cart and shove absolutely every item into it as the octopus cashier tosses them past the scanner. Pay, leave the store, and peacefully stack your supplies into bags. Warning: do at your own risk. This option usually involves a couple of broken eggs and burst yogurts.Expat Gone Foreign, tXc, German Cashiers, high-speed, express register

Good luck with your future endeavors in your next encounter with the octopus cashier. You know what? I’m in the mood for calamari now. Maybe I should pay our molluscan friends a visit.

Christmas Decorations

Growing up in Southern Spain, every year we would wrap our Christmas decorations around the largest plant in the house and the palm trees outside. This is why the widespread practice of using disposable pines is gruesome to me.

Why would you axe-murder a perfectly happy tree, when you can build your own with random junk in your desk, then keep it in a shoe box for the next year?

Expat Gone Foreign, Christmas tree, get creative, save a tree

For this one I used three nails, five meters of green ribbon, red and green cardboard for the ornaments, a regular string of lights and random toys. Ta-dah!

Are you putting up a Christmas tree this year? Get creative, save a tree! 🌳

Metropolis

“It felt right. It felt invigorating. It felt like I was exactly where I was supposed to be at that exact moment. The metropolis had pushed me into an endless vortex of frantic euphoria, and I couldn’t get enough of it.” – Excerpt from the EGF book 2.

Multilingual Christmas Wishes

Christmas is coming and I’ve spent the weekend designing this year’s Christmas cards for my family. Before delving into the creative process,  I asked myself “What is Christmas for me?”

1. Family
2. Delicious food
3. More yummy food
4. Sunny weather
5. Did I mention the food?

And here is the result!

Expat Gone Foreign, tXc, language comics, travel comics, fun cards

I also wanted to wish everyone a “merry Christmas” in their native language, because “If you talk to [a man] in his language, that goes to his heart”. But who has the time to customize every card? The solution is sending multilingual Christmas wishes! Not only do they promote language fun, but they also provide two minutes of coloring relaxation.

Expat Gone Foreign, tXc, language comics, travel comics, fun cards

And the best part is… these Christmas cards are now available in the Expat Gone Foreign’s Store, ta-dah! Here are the links:

Multilingual Merry Christmas (card)
Christmas is coming! (card)
Christmas is coming! (postcard)
¡Llega la navidad! (postcard)

Surprise your family and friends with multilingual wishes! :D

Do you have questions, suggestions or wishes? Send me an email at expatgoneforeign@gmail.com : )