LiBeL Column

Young Americans

Columns from The Nation newspaper

Close encounters of the British-American kind

Last Saturday evening I was on the skytrain, minding my own business, when I noticed a young American teacher get on. I didn’t need to ask his nationality or his occupation because he bounded up to me and, without prompting, proceeded to talk at me, as opposed to talk to me, in a way only Americans do. As he was regaling me with his life story, which I’ll get to later, I began to think about what I’d done in a past life to deserve this. Of course, I’m not tarring all American’s with the same brush – only those who aren’t my boss and don’t owe me money.

I have to admit that I wasn’t really paying much attention to what he was telling me, partly because it was mundane stuff, partly because it was unsolicited ‘junk talk’, if there is such a thing, and partly because he was a recent graduate and therefore his conversation was straight out of the ‘Idiot’s guide to making friends at college ‘ handbook. It clearly hadn’t yet clicked that communication in the world outside Hicksville U. requires a different approach in order to make friends and influence people. My advice to this young ajarn farang would be:

For future reference, remember the majority of people you come into contact with, bargirls included, will neither be impressed or interested by your experiences in Tibet during your gap year. Amidst all this self-discovery, you have invariably failed to discover how dull a story about milking a crippled albino Llamas really is. This was over 3 years ago, surely you must be getting tired of listening to yourself by now? Or perhaps it’s just that in addition to wearing your ‘friendship bracelet’, i.e. a tatty piece of string, until it drops off through natural wear and tear you also have to tell this tale until one day it slips out of your conscious mind to be replaced by an equally wearisome escapade.

He was also suffering from a serious case of A.D.S (Adjective Deficiency Syndrome) this affliction is noticeable in many, mainly west coast Americans. At first it can be difficult to diagnose ” So how was it milking those disabled Llamas?” “Amazing!” . However, when subsequent questions “What’s it like working for British-American?”, ” What do you think of Bangkok?”, “Can you describe your collection of whiteboard pens to me in one word?” etc., all met with the same response “Amazing!” I knew that A.D.S. has set in.

Remember kids – don’t die of ignorance, there are at least five or six other good adjectives out there just waiting to be used and abused. Sorry, “Super amazing!” doesn’t count.

Another tip is that upon finding out that the person you’re verbally assaulting is from another country don’t automatically attempt to ‘bond’ with them by assuming you have a knowledge of the slang which originates from said foreign land. Therefore, whilst I was pleased to hear that you your opinion of your position as one of the teaching fraternity in Bangkok was ‘sorted’ and, in addition, the salary was ‘wicked’ I think you’ll find that your average Brit wouldn’t use these particular words to describe 130 hours a month for 25,000 baht. The last I heard ‘sorted’ wasn’t being used to describe life as a corporate slave and ‘wicked’ wasn’t a number, especially one that equates to the salary of an illegal migrant worker in L.A.

When talking (incessantly) about your job, don’t just regurgitate everything your immediate superior told you. Sure, some of it might be true but you’ll quickly find that a useful attribute in surviving life without your Mom is to get rid of the sponge you have for a brain. Despite this I was pleased to hear that your school “encourages a friendly and open approach to communicative learning “. Is this opposed to some form of strict neo-facist approach practiced by all your rivals?

Additionally, a claim that your “Amazing” students “hail from all walks of life” is hardly an earth shattering revelation. The only possible scenario where that might be worth mentioning would be if your language school had a large neon sign on the door that read: ‘ We accept students from all walks of life, except those who would really prefer to be spending their time in a mall and, no matter how hard they study, will be damned to spend the rest of eternity studying at Pre-Intermediate level.’

So Billy Bob or Bubba, whatever, sorry you didn’t get my name maybe you should have given me the opportunity to tell you before you leapt out at Saladaeng, ready to commence your search for the girl of your dreams in Patpong. I’d just like to thank you for not ‘high five’-ing me as you got out of the train and for leaving me alone, except for the stares from twenty or so, Thai passengers who through no fault of their own, had been subjected to our one-sided conversation.

‘Chok – Dee’ ( you’ll need it)