Author: Tomas Marcinkevicius
Late ingenious comic George Carlin once did a perfect rant, called „Modern Man“. In a bit more than 4 minutes he was able to name most of the overused fancy words that are bombarding our brain from the internet, TV, business meetings and intellectual talks in such a fun poetic manner, that his contemporary Allen Ginsberg would have been left standing in awe. I know you’ve heard this phrase before, but you simply must see this video on YouTube:
Carlin was for sure a raging tireless and wireless workaholic and a bloodhound for cynicism of this world, so he perfected his speech skills in years of performing and his observational talent over his whole life. I, for instance, being a native young Lithuanian, spent 7 and a half months as an EVS volunteer in the Republic of Macedonia. Nevertheless, this time was pretty much enough to hear all the words I’d need to make my own „Modern Young European in a Different Culture for a Relatively Short Time“ rant. The list includes exchange, project, activity, intercultural, European citizenship, tolerance, nationalism, community, traditional, disadvantaged, point of view, and many more.
I believe most of EVS volunteers, Erasmus students and international interns could relate to my list and expand it.
One of the main words in my rant would be stereotype. It worked out pretty simple: I had some stereotypes about Macedonia, such as inhabitants being lazy and overly-nice people from the South, all-embracing poverty and carelessness for the future, lonely shepherds taking care of mountain goats, trails of Yugoslavian socialist-realist culture etc. As I saw afterwards, some of them were complete nonsense and some were partly true.
So it happens in this cruel world that the one who kills the monster tends to take its place… Did you ever notice how the ones, who came to break their own and others’ stereotypes, tend to be or become quite stereotypical themselves? Let’s run through a few types of young Europeans in different cultures: volunteers, students and interns.
The Arbeit Macht Frei believers
They went abroad with a clear purpose and they will for sure not give up on it even for a few days. If there are children to be taken care of, children will be taken care of. Trees will be planted, lectures will be attended, libraries will be occupied and project deadlines will not pass: no pasaran! The AMFs can usually be noticed by dark bags below their eyes, annoying levels of enthusiasm, overall fatigue and irritability („I am the only one who’s doing any work here!“) and sincere hatred from all the more-relaxed colleagues.
The Oh Yeah, Baby, Let‘s Exchange type
Their morning starts at 2 PM with a cup of freshly-ground delicious hangover from the crazy night before. Woo-hoo, it‘s a few months abroad and once you get here, why not enjoy it? The same three bars will be visited for their weekly dose of cultural exchange. No local or/and international girls/boys will be left unkissed and no traditional drugs/alcohols will be left untried. The opposites of AMFs, from the side they seem to be pretty much similar: dark bags below their eyes, annoying levels of enthusiasm in the evenings (and devastating lack of it in the mornings), overall fatigue and irritability („chill out, man“)… These „ships in a strange port“, by the way, are loathed the most by the locals, especially those whose liked ones they kiss.
The OMG I Love This Place people
„Why do fools fall in love?“ asked Frankie Lymon back in the ‘50s, and I can answer you, Frankie: because they’re fools. To contradict myself, all the best things in life are foolish. In Macedonia, I met a Spanish girl, who, after spending four months in the country, started to identify herself as Macedonian and slur against Greece. The OMG people lose the sense of reality, observe their new temporary home with large anime-styled eyes filled with tears of joy and can’t see a wrinkle on the face of a nice toothless 80 year-old lady next door. They love the country, they love the people, they love their colleagues and they’re so going to miss them afterwards… They are the ones in love, and all we, mere mortals, can do, is to despise and secretly envy them.
The WTF Is This S..t? crowd
„Why doesn’t this country produce proper beer?“ I used to ask sipping on „Skopsko“. My colleague once reminded me: you wanted perfect beer, you should have gone to Belgium, not Macedonia. That’s how I stopped worrying and started to love wine and rakija. The WTF crowd are usually the ones who traveled the least and find it hard to adapt. They are going through hard times, so for them everything seems to be dull, not interesting, completely different in a wrong way, depressing and purposeless. Homesickness and apathic laziness is haunting them like bad breath. Don’t worry for them too much: they will enjoy their moments when they lose them. Fake hatred and fake love both don’t last long.
The Keep It Real guys
They’ve been there, they’ve done that. They understand the absurd of temporality way better than anyone else, so they will never attach to anything or anyone too much: neither to the country, nor to the experience, neither to the work, nor to new friends. The music can stop any second, and they don’t want to be the only ones left dancing. Their months or years abroad will have ended one day, and they will be brave: get drunk, tell a sad speech to co-travelers through this period of life about how it was good, but it ended, take their experiences, go without turning back to look and try to re-integrate in their native society. The realists are usually right and deserve to be respected, but wait a second… Were not the right and respected ones exactly those who nailed some guy to a cross a few thousand years ago?
These are but five of all the stereotypes you can find between – and in every one of – young people who have gone to live and study/work in a different country. I am pretty sure you’ve or you will notice more, so share your observations in the comment section. And if you ask for advice (I assume you will do), I can tell you: don’t be afraid of stereotypes. I think in those 7 and a half months I spent some time in tens or even hundreds of them. Just don’t stay in them for too long and bite your coins to see what’s real gold and what’s just shimmering.
This is one of the winning articles of the Mladiinfo Article Writing Contest. The content of the articles does not necessarily represent the view or the position of Mladiinfo.