Muffin's 20/20 message thread

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auntofthebride Posts : 9,354 Registered: 4/2/06
Muffin's 20/20 message thread
Posted: Sep 19, 2008 6:45 AM

Ladies,

I thought I'd start a new thread because I did not want to drift too much off topic in the other one. The 20/20 thread really got me thinking.

I just got back from two weeks in Europe, and read the 20/20 thread while I was there. The section on "White Privledge" really struck home, as I am white and pretty much used to all the things listed in that message.

But, spending two weeks as an American in Europe made me also realize that there is such as thing as American Privledge or English-Speaking Privledge.

Except for transferring through the airport in London, I was never in a place where English was the native language. However, I had no problems communicating. All of the Dutch and Belgian people I met spoke English, as they had no expectation of me speaking a word of Dutch. When I was in the French-speaking part of Belgium, I did speak French, but upon hearing my accent, they immediately responded back to me in English. Unlike the French in France, French-speaking Belgians are happy to speak English to American tourists.

In the Netherlands, American and British TV shows are broadcast in their original spoken English, with Dutch subtitles. Dutch children necessarily learn English because they can't read the TV subtitles.

Signage, restaurant menus, museum info brochures, tourist materials are all in the local language, and English.

As an American, my passport is accepted everywhere. I can sail across borders without any Immigration officer quizzing me on my future plans. When I was entering Belgium, my first point of entry into the EU, I saw a large group of (?) Turkish people getting questioned in detail about their travel plans. How long would they stay? How much money did they have? Where is the return plane ticket? Where will they be staying while in the EU?

Me? I got one question: the usual "Business or Pleasure?", then my passport was entry-stamped and I was on my way. How must those Turkish people feel seeing me with my blue US passport go through Immigration in about 5 seconds?

Here's another thing. I got to talking about the upcoming US election with some Germans (all speaking perfect English). One German guy said "Here's what bugs me. I will be absolutely affected by the new US president. It affects my life, the economy of Germany and the EU, as well as the security of the world. Yet, I have absolutely no say in who is elected. I cannot vote, of course, nor can I give money to a candidate's campaign." Again, there's that American Privledge. I CAN vote and I CAN donate money to the campaign of my chosen candidate.

Ladies, I urge you all to consider traveling outside the United States. I cannot tell you how enlightening it is to see your own culture through the eyes of non-Americans.

I am especially interested in hearing from those of you on this message board who are not American.


(PS: Just before I left, I put the new Brian Wilson CD "That Lucky Old Sun" on my iPod. I listened to that over and over as I crossed the Atlantic. Wow. It is really great.)

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toto Posts : 54 Registered: 8/18/08
Re: Muffin's 20/20 message thread
Posted: Sep 19, 2008 7:58 AM Go to message in response to: auntofthebride

I just wanted to add to that.

As a (relatively) inexperienced 21 year old, even I have seen this.  Let me tell you about two different experiences I had:

Two an a half years ago, I traveled to Italy.  I was surprised how welcoming they were.  Everyone got a kick when you tried (and butchered) the Italian language.  Everyone was happy to speak English.  It was a wonderful trip, yet slightly disturbing.  I had expected to experience Italy.  What I experienced was...almost tainted with American traditions.

 

So, naively, when I traveled to France the next year, I expected the same thing.  Boy was I wrong.  My impression of the French is that they are very ingrained in their culture and, like Americans, think that whoever is visiting should be able to communicate in the native language (and rightfully so).  But, coming out of my all welcoming Italy trip, my first impression was of snobbery.  It was by luck that we came across an American who was teaching English as a second language there - she showed us around.

 

It wasn't until I came home that I realized that that must be what foreigners feel when they come to America. We could all stand to be a little more welcoming.  

 

 


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auntofthebride Posts : 9,354 Registered: 4/2/06
Re: Muffin's 20/20 message thread
Posted: Sep 19, 2008 8:56 AM Go to message in response to: toto

Dear toto,

I have spent a lot of time in France.

The French are very patriotic about their language. It's almost a pseudo-religion with them, unlike any other place I've been. I tell people it's like the American reverence to the national flag, which is an entirely foreign concept outside the United States.

Because I knew, in advance, of the French attitude towards their language, I learned some French before I ever went there. That was a huge help. My French has gotten better, with time, but it's still mediocre. By speaking even lousy French, I have been treated just great in France. French people are willing to speak English to someone who starts out speaking in French.

As you said, in almost every other place, there is no psycholocial resistance to speaking English. The Italians, Belgians, Dutch, Germans are all happy to speak English to American or British visitors. It is only the French, in my experience, with this national pecularlity.

But, as I said, it is only the Americans with the weird pseudo-religious reverence towards a piece of cloth. We have our own pecularites, too.

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auntofthebride Posts : 9,354 Registered: 4/2/06
Re: Muffin's 20/20 message thread
Posted: Sep 19, 2008 9:00 AM Go to message in response to: toto

Dear Toto,

"It wasn't until I came home that I realized that that must be what foreigners feel when they come to America. We could all stand to be a little more welcoming."

Oh, yes. A French (or Italian or German) visitor to the US cannot expect to ever come across a single person who speaks a word of French. Nor can he/she expect to find French on a restaurant menu, hotel brochure, airport signage, etc.

I was in Thailand, once, and was in a buffet restaurant where the little cards explaining each dish was in Thai and English. I volunteered to translate the English for a group of French tourists.

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NJ4Life Posts : 3,358 Registered: 8/10/07
Re: Muffin's 20/20 message thread
Posted: Sep 19, 2008 9:06 AM Go to message in response to: auntofthebride

I visited Paris abuot 5 years ago and I found everyone very nice actually. When people say that the French are mean and nasty, I never agree. We had a waitress help us translate the menu and try her best to speak English to us. But thats Paris, I imagine if you travelled to the countryside or a more remote location, they probably wouldn't appreciate Americans expecting them to speak English.

As you can see from my ticker, I leave for Brazil tonite. (the ticker is wrong I think) I downloaded In Flight Portuguese for my Ipod hoping to learn it while I sleep on the plane! But anyway I've picked up a few key words like "where?" "bathroom" "how much?" just so I can try.  I've heard brazilians are very nice so I just want to show them that I am trying!  (but most of the people we will be in contact with speak English already!)


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toto Posts : 54 Registered: 8/18/08
Re: Muffin's 20/20 message thread
Posted: Sep 19, 2008 9:56 AM Go to message in response to: NJ4Life

NJ-

Yeah, I had taken two semesters of Italian when I went to Italy.  I'm pretty sure I asked a street vendor if I could "watch" a necklace instead of "look at" it, but they were all very good natured about it.

I wouldn't say the people in France are by any means mean or nasty.  Just as mean or nasty as an American who was frusterated with someone who couldn't speak English, I guess.


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NJ4Life Posts : 3,358 Registered: 8/10/07
Re: Muffin's 20/20 message thread
Posted: Sep 19, 2008 10:06 AM Go to message in response to: toto

No not mean and nasty. BUt thats the general preconception before people go. DH won't even entertain the idea of going tback to Paris with me b/c he swears they are nasty people!! I keep telling him it would be FINE. But its one of those prejudices...

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nanette927 Posts : 1,748 Registered: 1/28/08
Re: Muffin's 20/20 message thread
Posted: Sep 19, 2008 10:34 AM Go to message in response to: NJ4Life

I lived in Germany for 3 years- I was there when the wall came down. I had the hardest time learning the language I butchard the heck out of it. lol.  But not once did I not feel welcomed.

I do agree with Italy though. When we stayed there for 2 weeks, we really couldn't get much help. There were times when we couldn't even get seated at a resturant.  But once I mentioned my maiden name to a cashier at a coffee house near the corner of our hotel, for some reason, the next day things were totally different.  I have a euopean last name and talked about my family in europe, and somehow word got around quickly.  Apperently, my greatgrandfather and grandfather were well known back in thier days.  But still I've always wonderd why- why can't we (everyone) just be treated with decency.  We were treated so differently- you would have thought we were natives. 

My faimily originated in Spain- when I went there, I went to visit family I had never met before and boy let me tell you I LOVE MY HERRITAGE! beautiful-beautiful- I can't say enough.

So I guess the biggest point here is that, it's not just Americans- it's world wide.  Now Bejing, Hong Kong are the worst! Now those are rude places! They call us "LAZY AMERICAN'S- and that we are whiny people with no honor or ture traditions"                              

Here is the link to our HONEYMOON SUITE- FOR 6 DAYS AND 5 NIGHTS

http://www.motion-vr.com/tourm.aspx?tn=445&cp=1&b=1&la=0&fl=1 

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Lorilee Posts : 437 Registered: 12/18/07
Re: Muffin's 20/20 message thread
Posted: Sep 19, 2008 11:22 AM Go to message in response to: toto

"It wasn't until I came home that I realized that that must be what foreigners feel when they come to America. We could all stand to be a little more welcoming."

I'm sorry, but I completely disagree with that statement. My mother's family is French-Canadian; my FH's family came down here from Quebec. They were welcomed, but they had to learn English if they wanted to succeed. Why in God's name should I be forced to take Spanish when some (not all) people who speak it are too ignorant to learn my language. I was accused of being 'racist' when I said I wanted to learn French.

We already have things in place to help people coming into the country. The governement takes a percentage of my paycheck to pay for these people who mooch off the system, and we pay for it. Example number one: I had no health insurance at a job. A girl went out and got pregnant. Two days later (while I was struggling to try to get insurance) she waltzed up to me and said (and I quote), "It's great to be Latino and pregnant. They take care of me. And I quit." I was an assistant manager at the time. I still see her. She had another child in order to stay on welfare. Now, don't get me wrong; I've seen plenty of people who don't milk the system based on race. Example two: I've been laid off of work. I have been told by unemployment that I cannot be aided with finding a job, but I can collect money. Imagine my surprise when I went to fill out a form when I saw a line of people, all waiting. I asked about this line, and was told that they were getting job search assistance. I wanted to know how I could get this, and was told that I couldn't. The person who told me was incredibly rude to me, and I felt slighted. The gentleman then went over to a woman who barely spoke English and told her that he would find her a job.

And you all know that affirmative action is little more than government sponsered racism, right? In theory, it's a good idea. But saying that, based on somebodys race, gender, sexual prefrence, they cannot get a job on their own in a certain field is crap. It creates a sense of entitlement. And this is apparently okay with people who will cry 'racism' at the drop of a hat.

I'm not trying to knock this thread. But I think we've done plenty for people coming into this country.


Lori & Bob
October 11, 2008

 

Daisypath Wedding Ticker

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auntofthebride Posts : 9,354 Registered: 4/2/06
Re: Muffin's 20/20 message thread
Posted: Sep 19, 2008 11:48 AM Go to message in response to: Lorilee

Dear Lori,

I think it's a huge difference to move to a foreign country as an immigrant and coming in as a tourist.

Yes, I believe immigrants should learn the local language and live within the system. If I were to emigrate to some other country, I would certainly work hard to learn their language and customs.

It's a whole different situation for the tourist. I was a tourist in Europe for the past two weeks, as I said in my first message. I went around in the Netherlands, German and Belgium speaking only English. (Ehh... well... some German and some French in French-speaking Belgium.)

My experience as an English-speaking tourist in the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany is far different from that of a Dutch, Belgian or German tourist visiting the United States. The visiting tourist cannot count on anyone speaking his/her native language and must speak English everywhere.

In defense of the US, how could we possibly accomodate all the languages of the world? What second, third or fourth language should we put on our hotel brochures, airport signage, museum info posters, etc? Sure, in Florida, California or Texas, there is Spanish. But not, usually, in a place like Boston.

Anywhere else, they figure that by putting out a sign (brochure, etc) in their own native language, plus English, they will serve almost all tourists, as most people coming from non-English speaking countries will speak English as a second language. Thus those English signs in the Netherlands help the Japanese, the Koreans, the Africaners, the Germans, the Greeks, the Israelis, etc.

This is part of what I mentioned, in the original message, of English-language privledge. As native speakers of English, we have a tremendous advantage in world travel. We can go almost everywhere and communicate in our own native language. Others cannot.

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SocalGal Posts : 456 Registered: 6/3/06
Re: Muffin's 20/20 message thread
Posted: Sep 20, 2008 12:21 AM Go to message in response to: auntofthebride

I absolutely agree that there is such a thing as English language priviledge, but I don't see any problem with that (as opposed to the underlying racism of white priviledge, which doesn't sit well with me, even though I'm on the beneficial side).  English is the most widespread language in the world, and is the common language of business.  It makes sense to me that this trickles down into everyday dealings.  Of course, as native English speakers, we do have the advantage of fluency...without a doubt.  And really, when you think about world history, English being the language of international business makes sense.  Consider the world powers, both present and past...if Spain had held on to the power it controlled in the 1400's, we'd all be speaking Spanish, and there'd be a Spanish language priviledge.

As for the American priviledge...I think in part it reflects the whole "world power" idea again.  I think, generally speaking, that people from larger or powerful countries will have an easier time travelling than people from smaller or less influential ones.  Also, (back to the English priviledge) there's no language barrier to deal with, which makes things easier.  But as to your friend who bemoaned his inability to participate in American elections, that I don't see as being American priviledge.  Elections in other countries will affect the United States, and me as a citizen, but I don't think it's unfair that I have no say in those...it kinda goes with the territory of citizenship.  But it did make me giggle a little bit...it almost sounded like a reverse "no taxation without representation" to me.

 


True love never has a happy ending; true love never ends.

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auntofthebride Posts : 9,354 Registered: 4/2/06
Re: Muffin's 20/20 message thread
Posted: Sep 20, 2008 9:37 AM Go to message in response to: SocalGal

Dear SoCalGal,

"But as to your friend who bemoaned his inability to participate in American elections, that I don't see as being American priviledge."

He was just making an observation. 

"I think, generally speaking, that people from larger or powerful countries will have an easier time travelling than people from smaller or less influential ones. "

It has to do with the liklihood of the visiting foreigner to overstay their official entry time and look for a job. 

Usually First World nation citizens can travel freely, as they are unlikely to overstay their visa. Third World nation citizens have a difficult, long and expensive process just to enter a First World nation as a tourist. 

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CatStandish Posts : 2,766 Registered: 6/20/08
Re: Muffin's 20/20 message thread
Posted: Sep 20, 2008 10:56 AM Go to message in response to: nanette927

Okay, Nanette... are you a military BRAT?  And if so, what school were you at?

I lived in England for three years.   And during that time, I was really blessed to be able to visit other countries at a cost point my family could afford.   I've not been back to Europe, but I'd love to go.  My experiences are around 22 years old.

When I went to Mt. St. Michel (France), I was wearing a beret because I loved them.  I entered a store and saw a huge host of berets, and because I did not wish to be accused of stealing, I did not go anywhere near them.   However, when I walked out of the shop, the shop keeper ran after me calling me a thief.   I tried for a moment to speak French (but honestly, "I didn't steal your beret, I had it on when I came in your store" is not standard teaching!), so I finally point blank told him to bite me....I'd had it when I went in and I didn't go hear his berets FOR THIS VERY REASON.  if I had not been wearing one, I'd likely have bought several from him as he had a great selection of colors.  After a moment, he calmed down and backed off.   This was one city I'd wanted to go to for years, but Mt. St. Michel will always be tainted by that, especially since he started to berate me for being an American.

When we went to Holland, we were excited to go to the Diamond Factory.  However, the company heard "Americans are coming" and put out the expensive items, rather than the more affordable.  They think we're ALL rich.   They didn't understand that this was a tour put together by the Enlisted Wives Club, so we didn't have a lot of money.  But it was neat to watch diamonds being cut.

My experiences in Paris are several.  The first trip was very positive.    Like I said previously, I always tried to speak French to the people.  They almost always responeded in English, and if they didn't, they would speak more slowly for me. (Because those folks can talk FAST!)   The worst one though was at a pizza restaurant -- and I don't think the guy was trying to be rude...really.  I just don't think he realized how hard I had worked to come up with the question I asked.  He answered me with a single word.  I wanted a complete sentence dang it! (I wouldn't have UNDERSTOOD it, but I worked really hard to ask him that question!)   I had shop keepers treat me very well and very courteously simply because I had tried to speak their language, rather than going in there all "you speak English right?  No?! You ignorant French dog!"  Of course they get annoyed.

My second trip made me angry--at my Dad.  I'd been to Paris before, spent a week there.  Obviously, I knew a little of how the transit system worked.  But we were approached by a "helpful" Parisian who spoke English at the start (a super red flag. really.)  who offered to help us get our Metro tickets.  So my dad asked some questions, the guy told him the price.  I told my dad IN FRONT OF THE GUY that he was being scammed.  And my dad chose to ignore me.  I told my mom, and my dad ignored her.  So I just sat back and watched.   And when the guy left, I asked my dad how many tickets he got.  He said "3" and I said.... "Well done, you paid for 30.  I've been here before. I know the currency.  And the next time I tell you you're being scammed, MAYBE you'll listen."   He was pissed at PARIS for the rest of the trip.  But it was not Paris.  It was his own fault, and to this day I have no sympathy for it.  I might have been more sympathetic if I'd been in the bathroom and didn't know it was going on until afterwards.  But I was there and he ignored me.  I also felt perfectly justified in calling the con a con to his face.   But the con also knew my dad was not paying attention, so his MARK was not compromised and didn't stop working the con.  

I will say this though:  freakishly enough when I've been travelling, I don't usually encounter crime.  I've been to Paris twice, and three times have been in an incident.  The con was the third of them.

During my first trip, we were at the Metro.  A guy came up to my roommate, stuck a knife at her side, and asked her if he could borrow a franc.  She pretended she didn't understand him.  So he said it in English.  She still looked at him like she didn't understand him.  He gave up and walked off.   (Now, I don't care what language you speak, if someone sticks a knife at your side, what that person is saying is "Give me your money."  The words really aren't relevant.)   She was SO SO SO lucky that he didn't just stab her right then and there.   We told her she was an idiot and that we'd have covered her for the rest of the trip, but we were also glad she didn't get hurt.

So at the very next Metro station (we had not even gotten safely above ground from the first incident yet), this little beggar child, about four, snatches the same girl's purse.  Oh, I'd had it at that point, and I took after the brat, and beat her over the head with MY purse.  She dropped my friend's purse and went crying to her mommy who tried to scold us.  I did pull the English thing here.  I told her that if her daughter wanted to play with the big boys and girls and be a thief, she'd have to learn that we MIGHT just defend ourselves and our property.   She wants to act like an adult, she'd be treated like one.  And I dared her to call the cops and report that I'd assaulted her child.  I also told her I wondered what the authorities would think of a mother who encouraged her children to steal (if that girl was even her daughter).  She just looked at me like I was insane.  My friends were a little shocked too, that I'd whallop a kid with my purse.  I'd have done it to an adult who tried that, I'm not ageist <G>.   But my feeling has not changed.  Momma was teaching daughter to steal.  I taught daughter that there are consequences when you do. 

Other than that, I had an absolutely lovely time in Paris and in France.  I found the French to be perfectly charming, if you showed them respect they returned it.  


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LinzZ Posts : 683 Registered: 12/13/07
Re: Muffin's 20/20 message thread
Posted: Sep 20, 2008 1:06 PM Go to message in response to: auntofthebride

I was in Greece for 10 days and only once did we run into someone who did not speak English. He was a little old man in a tiny mountain village. We toured Central and Southern Greece (including the island of Santorini) and he was the only one who didn't speak English, amazing!

 

In Mexico (for our honeymoon) we had a very similar experience, but I know that was influenced by the fact that we were at a resort, geared for tourists. But the better the employee spoke English, the better job he got. Many of the wait staff told us they were taking English lessons.

 

I know that neither of these senarios would be the case for a tourist coming to the states. For whatever reason, our country just doesn't think it's necessary to know another language. And I'm disappointed by that.

 

In Ohio, as a teacher, I can get a certificate to teach ESL (English as a Second Language) students, without ever knowing the first language of the students. That seems crazy to me.


Yesterday is History. Tomorrow is a Mystery. Today is a gift, that's why it's called the Present.

lin and nate

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CatStandish Posts : 2,766 Registered: 6/20/08
Re: Muffin's 20/20 message thread
Posted: Sep 20, 2008 1:24 PM Go to message in response to: LinzZ

In Ohio, as a teacher, I can get a certificate to teach ESL (English as a Second Language) students, without ever knowing the first language of the students. That seems crazy to me.

Actually, they even offer that course on line with no teaching credentials required to take it.


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