Friday, November 12, 2010

Working in Europe

This sign needs some Spanish on it!
So this is what working in a European office is like.

A couple days ago the head of HR brought around a new colleague to sort of orient him and introduce him to everyone quickly.  She does that from time to time so we're used to it.

My department also happens to be the most gregarious one in the company, so we were trying to talk to him a little bit.  One of the opening questions was, "¿Qué idiomas hablas?" ("What languages do you speak?")

"Inglés." ("English.")

Cue cricket sounds.  Dead air for three seconds - everyone had their eyes on HR, wondering what he was doing here, "only" being bilingual.

Then the new dude smiles sheepishly and says he also speaks a bit of Thai, but he doesn't think it will be super useful.

"¡Que si!" ("Sure it will!") One of my more sympathetic colleagues chimes in to make him feel better.

After some chuckles and a bit more small talk, he left.

After they left, a snarky conversation exploded: He ONLY speaks English?  Only?!  EVERYONE speaks English here!  (I work in the headquarters of an international company, so it's true, even though it's not super common in Spain.)  What markets can HE take care of if he only speaks English and Spanish???

That was my 'Wow, I'm working in a European office!' Moment.  In North America, someone who's bilingual in English and Spanish can do pretty well, especially in the States.  Even if someone only speaks English, it's not really an issue at all.  But here in Europe, especially in international companies, people snicker at those who ONLY speak two languages.

Good thing I am considered acceptable with my four languages - I like to say that I speak five, but two of them are different dialects of one language. :P  I really need to get going and pick up Japanese, already!

1 comment:

vriendin said...

hahaha he never told me he speaks Thai!! and im sure you werent here when he was talking english, cause its more like spanglish! ;)