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#88 Foreign Language T-shirts

September 1, 2011

Submitted by MG

After a thick, tattered passport, or an exotic looking partner of another race/culture/ethnicity, nothing says “experience” to Expat Aid Workers more than a healthy collection of assorted t-shirts with various indeterminable languages on them.

Celeb + anything written in Arabic = awesome

How else to boast of your capacity building credentials that with the customary, and often obligatory t-shirt that accompanies it? Foreign language T-shirts suggest that not only do you know the local language, but more importantly, that you have deep, meaningful relationships with local partners.  Besides, they just look darn cool when you bump into tourists.

Foreign language t-shirts show that you have done stuff. You have been there. In the thick of it. One t-shirt equals one project completed, or one workshop attended. No t-shirts mean you have not yet managed to establish your field credentials (or were not at the stand when they were handing them out – which is a dead giveaway of a newbie = not yet managed to establish field credentials).

The most highly prized are those t-shirts which include no visible English, or that include multiple languages translated into each other. This can often give the handsome and welcoming impression that you might actually know some of the languages, or if need be, gives you the option to happily offer a translation.

New EAWs may wish to establish their credibility with foreign language t-shirts from other conflicts around the world. This has the dual benefit of both highlighting your experience in other conflicts that are not nearly as important as this one.  Plus, they provide something cool and enigmatic to wear in the hot season.

(Note: Gifts of foreign language t-shirts are a great way to ingratiate yourself to newbies . Be sure to give them causally. “I have ‘way too much stuff in Dari already.. you want this?”)

For long-term, veteran EAW, t-shirts which make the point that they are, you know, long-

won't see this one every day...

term veterans are a “must.” Capacity building t-shirts from 2003 highlight your experience, and long invested interest in the region.  For the nomad, a well crafted foreign language t-shirt allows you to communicate all your mission statements and experience, while still being the mysterious quiet stranger in the corner of the room.

There will be no t-shirt handed out at the end of this post.

9 Comments leave one →
  1. GeeB permalink
    September 2, 2011 10:31 am

    What about local beer/beverage shirts? Beer Lao shirts are super popular. Or Peruvian Inka Kola.

  2. September 4, 2011 2:41 am

    I agree with GeeB, this post forgot to mention Beer Lao shirts!!

  3. September 4, 2011 1:20 pm

    May I add “foreign fabric” t-shirts? Batik or Kente shirts stylishly worn at home or in a different region of the world also provide the appropriate field credentials (and, let’s face it, look better than a beer t-shirt).

  4. September 4, 2011 1:21 pm

    Actually, how about a beer t-shirt in Arabic? That must exist somewhere.
    Hell, if it doesn’t, I’ll go print it. Who wants one? :)

    • September 4, 2011 6:00 pm

      me! me!

    • September 8, 2011 6:36 pm

      me too! Can you make it “Ale From the Hood”?

      • September 8, 2011 8:50 pm

        Haha.. alright, am back in Cairo on Monday, will see what I can find and keep you both posted!

  5. termis-a-go-go! permalink
    September 8, 2011 4:42 am

    easy guys:

    points for having lived in cairo when stella beer actually *could* kill you…

  6. September 8, 2011 6:35 pm

    I dunno… seems to me that pretty much any tourist can pick up a Beer Lao or Bintang t-shirt without even leaving airport property (and I say this, still being pretty proud of my own beer label T-shirt collection). The discerning EAW, however, will set her/himself apart from the slathering wannabe hordes by sporting a not beer foreign language t-shirt

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