Thursday, February 10, 2005

Yo tengo una cita
Once in a while someone else starts living the ex-pat life for the first time, and this week it was the new guy who started in my office. I'd spoken to this guy before since he worked at the design office in Bristol. Now though, he's sitting a few desks down and coming to lunch, carrying himself with a completely unadulterated Britishness. That's fine by me, in fact it's great. The contrast with the rest of the Brits is fascinating.

Out of nine people we are four Brits in the office now, and all of us have been here some time. Three years for me. The amount of adjustment and change that happens to you in that time is quite significant. It wasn't until the new guy mentioned that "Everybody around here speaks atleast two languages" that I remembered what it was like back home, and how much I take for granted the variety of experience I have over here.

In every working day I will speak a mixture of French of English with people of any European nationality - French, English, German, Spanish, Italian. And then there are the clients, who are literally anybody anywhere in the world who happen to fly one or more of our planes. Finally there are the evenings. Mostly it's bars and parties, but yesterday I was in my Japanese class with Yoshiko, and tonight four of us were around mine to do some English/Spanish language exchange.

We started off easily, with a bit of Thai curry, and then moved straight into improving Jordi's English vocabulary by watching Little Britain. It might not be suitable language for him to use with his clients or his girlfriend, but he'll be finding it a lot easier to follow humour that's for sure, which is always the hardest thing to understand in another language. When Little Britain was finished, we moved onto Spanish, with Jordi teaching a little bit of 'I am going to..' whilst Chambao was playing on the stereo.

For the last two years a good chunk of my friends have been Spanish and it is shameful that I haven't taken the opportunity to learn their language already. When people become really good friends, it seems to me to be more than just a matter of being polite to learn what you can of their language and culture. It's a matter of interest and enjoyment, equality, mutual understanding, comradery.

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