Worlds collide in every corner, but if you keep your mind narrow enough, you’ll never have to walk in anyone else’s shoes. Elena had never been to any country outside of the United States of America, so when her work transferred her to Tunisia she was more than a little nervous. Still, she reasoned, there’d probably be McDonald’s there, if nothing else.
Her first morning in the country, she tried to buy bread from a baker. She used her airport tactic, which was to gesture while speaking loud and slow.
“TWO BREAD, YUM YUM,” she pointed at the bread and made slurping noises.
The man behind the counter looked at her coolly, and ignored her when another customer came in. She looked at him, and understood nothing.
Elena didn’t want to understand, but when she complained at work the next day, there was an awkward silence. A man with a kind face said to her:
“When immigrants come to your country, they do their best to adapt and learn the basic language.”
“But I’m not an immigrant, I’m an expat.”
“You still have to try,” he told her.
“But it’s hard,” she said.
So he introduced her to an Arabic tutor.