Saturday, October 15, 2011

The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence...

...until you're on the other side and realize there's nothing to eat but grass. I just read a hilarious and disturbingly accurate article from Cracked: 6 Reasons Your Plans to Move Abroad Might Not Work Out. Number 3 is "What You Hate About America, You Find Everywhere". I read this article Friday afternoon, and it was incredibly appropriate because that morning my wife and I observed a white European being insanely racist towards a black African, racism on a level that is all too common in Europe but would never happen in the States. Seriously, if the racist stuff that flies under the radar here happened in the States, cities would burn. It's mind-boggling. Probably the most blatant example of this is Zwarte Piet, "Black Pete". You see, in the lowlands, Santa Claus has a black slave named Pete who accompanies him wherever he goes. His job is to scare the children into being good. Because being black is scary. Oh, and also Pete is always portrayed by white people in blackface. Notice I write "white people" not "white men"; Pete is often portrayed by women.

Of course, another point made in the Cracked article is that when you live overseas you eventually start blaming your host culture for every single thing that you find offensive or annoying. For example, customer service is, as far as I can tell, an American phenomenon -- or perhaps an Anglo phenomenon. So is lining up to get on a bus, train, elevator, etc. So is safety. My wife and I were once walking down a busy street and passed a circular saw, plugged in and spinning, just laying there. No protective guard or anything. Some workers had been doing something with it, and went to take a break. Nobody else thought it was unusual to have a saw that could cut off their legs spinning away in the middle of the sidewalk, they just stepped around it.

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