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Knowing Another Language Can Save Your Social Life

Knowing Another Language Can Save Your Social Life

I know from experience that moving to a new city for work can be hard for a recent graduate, and particularly so for anxious freaks like myself. Should I pick up a hobby and try to make friends? I’ve already contemplated joining a yoga class or sports league dozens of times. How I’m going to manage participating in either of those things without being able to touch my toes or being remotely coordinated is still yet to be seen. Or I’ve thought about maybe going a more practical route and perhaps taking up woodworking, convinced that my facial hair will suddenly turn me into someone that gives a fuck about different types of lumber.

I could take the built-in method and shop around for friends in the office. It worked in college, didn’t it? One second you’re laughing around the water cooler about how Taylor Swift had such a crazy weekend with her squad, and the next you’re out at a sports bar with new friends watching the Bears get embarrassed by whatever team they’re playing that given Sunday (mostly because Jay Cutler is too busy smoking cigarettes on the sidelines).

Of course, that’s assuming the office etiquette and culture is even geared towards these types of social interactions. What if all your co-workers want to do is just get in and get out? Is it too aggressive to ask Angela from the office to show me around town just because she’s been the friendliest? Or should I go another route and tell Steve from accounting that I’d let Angela sit on my face to let him know that I’m a chill guy?

The point being, at this point, I will do anything to meet new people. Interestingly enough, an opportunity presented itself the past week that has caused me to delve into some thought. I was having lunch in the office when I got a call from my mom. Having been born in Ukraine, I was raised speaking Russian as my first language. Yes, Russian, the language that sounds like I’m double-fisting two kielbasas whenever I speak it. It’s not exactly the language of love.

Immediately upon hanging up, I was confronted with questions and requests for me to say things in my native tongue. Essentially, they wanted to know pick-up lines in another language. Was it shameless of me to say in Russian to my peers of the fairer sex that they were pretty? Maybe. Am I going to get fired for it? Also maybe. It worked though; I suddenly found myself going out that night with 2 coworkers and their friends to some local watering holes.

We went out to some heavily gentrified neighborhood that the hipsters have claimed and found a bar where board games were painted onto the tables outside on the patio. Playing a game of chutes and ladders and taking a shot of Rumplemintz every time you hit a chute turned out as well as you might imagine. Especially considering the fact that it was a Wednesday. A decidedly aggressive amount of shots later, my brother called. I stepped aside from the table to let him know that I was out and I’d call him back in the morning.

I turned back to the group and they were all just staring at me. It was as if I had just unfurled my dick and used it to skip rope in the middle of the dance floor like I was Corbin Bleu in that fire Disney Channel Original. Conversation around Europe began, and people started telling stories of studying abroad and how they took too many shots in Rome with their “sisters.” It wasn’t that the night had been going poorly prior, it was as if I had injected steroids into the evening. Suddenly, I wasn’t the new guy in town, I was the stranger with a storied past.

I ended the night with a few new numbers and even ended up taking one of the girls out for coffee the next day. I truly don’t know what it is about another language that makes people fascinated by you. Maybe they pictured me in a fur coat selling assault rifles out of the back of a nightclub in my free time? Or they conjured up an image of me playing Russian roulette every morning while a bear pours vodka down my throat. Objectively speaking, Russian is the worst language I could have busted out in front of people aside from Wingdings. I can only imagine what would have happened if it had been something sexy like French or Italian?

People are engrossed by culture that’s different than theirs. You think Tarzan scored Jane because of his array of disgusting jungle diseases? Of course not. It was his air of mystery. Language is absolutely an attention grabber, so dust off those four years of Spanish you took in high school and ask that hard 7 at the bar where the biblioteca is. Take that French class in town and tell your language partner that you’ve always wanted to go to Paris and have an omelette du fromage there. Maybe even consider getting an app for your phone that gives you a new sentence each day, you’ll be happy you did. Who knows, maybe along the way you’ll be able to put an actual skill on your resume that isn’t “proficient in Excel.”

Image via Shutterstock

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