Some things in life are pretty scary. And then there are some.
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 1.
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.
I have no earthly clue either. It’s just another lap, guys…
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:
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.