Some things in life are pretty scary. And then there are some.
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 1, 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.
You are abroad, little foreigner. Far away from your country, your native language, and your folks. Whether you are living abroad or traveling with friends, foreigners often stick together and use their common language to communicate, and most of the time they assume that there’s no one around who can decipher their messages. Well… watch out, for the language ninja might be right behind you!
Here are some case studies featuring The Language Ninja in action:
Case study #1 (image above)
I’m on the subway in Berlin on my way to meet a friend. The two Spanish women next to me are exchanging workplace gossip, including some disgusting pranks and sketchy office practices that could get more than one person fired. My friend calls me up, I start talking to her in Spanish while I can see the two women going vampiric pale and sweating more than sinners in a church.
Case study #2
I’m getting groceries in a supermarket in Savonlinna (Finland) and two dark-haired guys stare at me as I walk past them. Spaniard A says to Spaniard B: “Look at that curvy goddess”. I turn around and reply: “¿Gracias?”. Hysteric giggles follow. We end up in a karaoke bar singing hits of the 80s.
Case study #3
I’m in a hostel in Stockholm and introduce myself – in English – to a bunch of friendly Austrian guys. I unpack and do my thing while they resume a heated conversation about their sex lives, their numerous partners and their kinkiest bedroom stories. After half an hour one of the Austrians asks me about the location of the showers and I respond in flawless German. The Austrians burst into hysteric laughter, which takes almost ten minutes to dissipate, and spend the next hour apologizing. Later that day I meet their girlfriends, who insist on me tagging along to the bars that night (#solotravel). The Austrian guys spend the night subtly paying for all my drinks in exchange for my silence on their sex stories.
What about you? Have you ever been busted by a language ninja? : )