Sometimes, expats really get to me. Remember how I ranted about how I hate the bizarre hierarchies in development communities? Well, here’s the NUMBER ONE WAY to make sure you get scratched off my guest list:
Be a jerk to the “locals” when we go out to eat.*
Maybe it’s because I waited tables all through college. Maybe it’s because my partner is “local.” And maybe it’s because I’m just a decent human being. But WTF is it with expats who are rude to “local” wait staffs? Or worse, get angry with them because they don’t understand your language. What? Going out to eat in a francophone country requires knowing French? Crazy! And did you know that the bartender’s a friend of the family? And the waitress is her daughter? And the girl serving rice is her cousin? Oops.
Also, treating your local** staff poorly in front of me embarrasses me because I never know what to do. You and I, we share a common culture, and a common language. Just as importantly, you understand when I make a Simpsons joke! You don’t look at me funny when I opine for hot showers and March Madness! I like hanging out with you because it’s easy!
But when you treat your employees and coworkers rudely because they’re not American and don’t always catch on to your broken French and weird cultural nuances, it makes me uncomfortable because your employees are often my friends. Or my partner’s friends (we do seem to have a disproportionate number of friends who work for int’l aid orgs).
So, do I say something? Do I pretend that I didn’t see anything? Do I just sigh internally and chalk it up to stress? WHAT DO I DO? You just made my life more complicated, and I don’t like it one little bit.
And all this is why a huge part of me loves the two-weekers and the interns. They might be full of shit and hope, with all sorts of strange assumptions and baggage, but they are almost never rude to my friends when I take them out for a beer.
* “Locals” is in scare quotes because I never called the French “locals” when I was in Grenoble. I didn’t call the Hungarians “locals” when I visited Budapest. And I’ve never heard anyone call an American “local” when coming to visit. Which doesn’t mean there aren’t perfectly good times to use the word; however, I am currently irritated by the way it’s used by short-term visitors (i.e. anyone who’s been here less time than me, goddammit) who are thrilled to go out, get a drink and experience “local color.” Ok, I’ll stop now.
** See? That’s an appropriate use of local.