Thursday, January 26, 2006

It is nice to carry with you a pocket change's worth of a foreign language when traveling. Although I think it polite to make an attempt to speak the language of the country, I am a devout monolinguist as is my American birthright. Luckily most interactions you face as a tourist are commerce based and thus require a limited and easily remembered vocabulary. Despite this I still find myself mentally rehearsing the dialogue as I watch the counter help or waiter make their way to greet me. When they arrive, I uncomfortably sputter my rehearsed line, and pray the native speaker sticks to the expected script otherwise I quickly run and hide behind the default error phrase, "Do you speak English?"

Scotland is nominally an English speaking country, and the speaker of Americanese can move through life here with only the slightest of hiccups. I remember my first cab ride here. The only thing I understood was at some point he talked about football and at another he made fun of the English. I have later learned that most cab rides result in discussions of football, English jokes, or listing the places in America the driver has been. For this reason, though I live in a foriegn country, I never have that foriegn country anxiety except for one situation. Fish and Chip shops. Ordering fish and chips requires knowing tacit and complicated series of protocol steps and code words that the natives understand from birth.

There are regional differences to the combination of sauces and condiments which you must navigate lest you offend the local customs. Edinburgudians take theirs with brown sauce and salt. Vinegar is for soft southerner poofs apparently. I think, I can't remember. Maybe I have that backwards. This is why I still get that foriegner anxiety when ordering. Sometimes I just sheepishly point and pretend to be mute. Small price tp pay for greased stained heaven.

1 comment:

  1. All you need to know:

    Edinburgh - order Chips with "Salt & Sauce"
    Glasgow - order Chips with "Salt & Vinegar"