Living overseas, as a diplomat interacting with people from many different countries, has made me realize that I am truly blessed, in many ways, to have been born in the United States. Birth into a nation that speaks the most widely spoken language in the world makes life a lot easier than it might have otherwise been.
In any given week, Horatio and I attend several dinners and receptions with diplomats from many other countries. Many of them speak very good English as a second language, so we are able to converse and share stories and get to know each other. In the past two weeks, I have had the chance to spend time with men and women from: India, Poland, Brunei, Egypt, Israel, Croatia, Serbia, Germany, Thailand, Singapore, Italy, Botswana, Slovenia, Korea, Japan, Brazil, Sweden, and of course China. The only language besides my own that I’ve had to speak is Chinese. To varying degrees, all of the other people have spoken English. As I sat among some of these friends, at the home of our British Defense Attaché, last week, I made a point of saying how lucky I feel to speak English as my native language and that they all speak it as a second (or third or fourth) language. I acknowledged the fact that they all must be quite tired after all of the dinners we attend because they spend the whole time conversing in a second language. It can be exhausting, I know. Sometimes I spend the better part of a day speaking Chinese to make my way around town, and I am completely spent by the end of the day. One of the women nodded her head and agreed. She even thanked me for stating the realization. She said she didn’t think we Americans would notice. I definitely notice every time we are out at these events, and am grateful that I can communicate with relative ease.
Getting to know people from so many different countries and backgrounds is a blessing. Not having to to spend the extra mental energy to communicate is just one of the many benefits I have just by accident of being born American.