Saturday 20 August 2016

Strangers are friends you’ve not met yet

The doorbell rings. The courier stands there, scratching his head, staring at the number on the  door. Yes it is a bit strange. We are number 15. To my left is number 17 and to my right is number 11. We should be number 13. Is this an English thing? Or a British thing? Does it happen elsewhere in Europe? This is the second time we’ve lived in a house that should be number 13.
“Can you take this for next door?” the man asks.
“Of course,” I say.
He mumbles as he fills in the details on his iPad. “Number thirteen?”
“Fifteen,” I say.
He frowns again. “You’ll have to excuse me,” he says. “My English isn’t very good.”
It is 26 June 2016. I wonder what he must be thinking. I feel sorry for him. He probably wonders what I’m thinking. Yes actually, even I can be impatient if people can’t speak English properly. However, there is another side to this. I taught languages for over 23 years and I find it incredibly rude when people make no effort to speak the language of the country they’re visiting. It’s usually in other countries that I get irritated and actually with my compatriots.    
Today, though, I’m not irritated.
We have had a horrible racist incident on one of our trams. I’m pleased to say that everybody rallied and condemned what was going on. Presumably as I’m talking about Manchester at least 40% of the people on the vehicle must have been Brexit.  More if you listen to the assumptions about which type of people travel by which means. Who knows? Yet they came to the defence of the man who was being hassled. British values are still upheld then.  
I look at the man in front of me and assume he’s Commonwealth. He is dark-skinned and has small features. He is slim and young. I expect a lot of people think they have just voted to have people like him sent home but in fact by voting to keep EU citizens out they’re probably making way for more Commonwealth members.  
“Where are you from, then?” I ask as I sign the iPad.
“Germany,” he says. “Originally from Pakistan.”  Ah. Double whammy?  
 The courier firm is German. He’s been sent to the UK to train some others but is covering for a sick colleague today.
“Prima,” I say. We carry on our conversation in German. I manage to reassure him that most of the people he’ll meet will be decent and tolerant and won’t take it out on him personally. Most won’t. There may be a few.
I think I’ve made a new friend. The stranger I hadn’t met at the beginning of the day.                    

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