#31 Using Words in Other Languages
One of the few things that Expat Aid Workers love more than having a deep, nuanced and specific understanding of many local cultures, is being able to demonstrate (show, don’t tell) to others that they have a deep, nuanced and specific understanding of many local cultures. And there are few things that get this across as effectively as using words in other languages.
Many will confuse “using words in other languages” with “speaking another language.” But these two things are not at all the same. Speaking another language is a great skill to have if you’re tied down to one place. Speaking another language can make it easier to “go native. ” Phraseology in another language can certainly help those Expat Aid Workers who like to explain local culture to locals. It can also make those who dress like locals (perhaps in an attempt to blend in) or who make a point of not seeing other foreigners more convincing.
But using words in a variety of other languages helps to show that you have been around. Peppering your speech, skype chats, Facebook updates with words in other languages lends that je ne sais quoi of a true global nomad. “Accidentally” murmuring phrases in a random language during sex (“I just don’t know how to express that in English….”) helps you play up the mysterious, nomadic part of your persona. Using words in other languages communicates that you have a deep, phuc tap personality. You have spent so much of your life as a mzungu or bule that very little can phase you.
Being force-fed cheese that smells like socks somewhere in the high-desert? No problem. It’s all yokshi for you, Спасибо very much. You maligayang pagdating diversity and new cultural experiences with open arms and an open mind, yet you feel… oh, how to say it? Well, grieng jai really expresses best how you feel about imposing your own world view on others. And Expat Aid Workers who have really been around (and who really have that nuanced understanding of many diverse cultures) can rack up loads of field cred by explicating to newbies the subtle differences between huu tieu and kwoi teiow (is there even a difference..?), or arguing in a vociferous-yet-good-natured way with each other about the differences between, say, sheesha and narghileh.
A common variation of this theme is to “translate” words in other languages back into clever English. Instead of the exceedingly mundane “masturbation”, for example, you can say “flying the kite”, “polishing the carrot”, or “tickling the butterfly.” These kinds of obviously cross-cultural references, tactically inserted into everyday conversation are sure to make the point that your breadth and depth of worldly understanding surpasses that of most newbies and certainly that of non-insiders, but doesn’t demean them by using foreign words that they must either ask the meaning of or pretend to understand.
We could go on, but halas – you get the point? Si? Bueno…