Thursday, August 18, 2011

Tails, You Lose...

Imagine all the doom-sayers were right, and the US economy tanked, the dollar becoming expensive toilet paper like in the Weimar Republic of the 1920s. You realize that another country, one of the AAA-rated ones, perhaps, offers you and your children the possibility of a better life (I'm not talking about England, Canada or Australia here, either, but a non-English speaking land). You will probably have to take a low-level, low-paying job, even though you may be a university professor, doctor or engineer back home, since all of your certifications are useless and you don't speak the language well or perhaps even at all.

When you get there, you'll have to jump through hoops just to get and then keep your visa, filling out numerous applications, sitting in offices and standing in lines for hours at a time. You will be profiled as one of those "dan-jer-us furriners", and police will be able to pull you over at any time to see your registration card.

Of course, you won't be able to actually read any of the forms you are filling out, and you'll be working 10-14 hrs or more per day, probably at 2 jobs, just trying to make ends meet and give your kids what they need to learn and thrive. You won't have time to study the language, but if you're lucky, your kids will learn the language quickly and be able to help you fill out the forms, acting as unofficial translators whenever you have problems. People will assume you are either mentally defective or plain ol' lazy. And even getting around will be tough at first, since every sign is of course only written in that country's native lingo.

Think you could hack it? Are you flexible enough, do you have the cojones?

I came to Japan in 1990, mentally woefully unprepared for such an existence. Good thing I came to Japan, I guess, because I didn't even have most of the above problems. Signs in train stations are also printed in English lettering, for example, and most people at least speak a smattering of English (some speak better than I did in junior high, where "ain't" was the main word in my vocabulary). My immigration forms are all bilingual.

So, what's my point? Immigrants to the US live this every single day. So think next time you want to bitch about the immigrant who doesn't speak fluently or who has a thick accent; put yourself in his shoes.

I dare you.

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