terça-feira, 12 de maio de 2020

Version 2.008

I can't get over how many Portuguese people ask me if I am doing OK in the U.S. They talk to me as if my life is in eminent danger. And today, someone sent me an article from Expresso saying that people of Portuguese ancestry were having trouble getting help in the U.S. because they could not speak English. I find that very odd because when I schedule an appointment at the doctor, for example, I am asked in what language I would like to communicate. Hospitals and law enforcement have a network of volunteers who can speak foreign languages and can assist in case of an emergency. I know because, when I lived in Stillwater, OK, I was the Portuguese-speaking volunteer interpreter.

Less than two weeks ago, while talking with a Russian friend who lives in Houston, TX, she complained to me that, at the community center that she attended, they had information in Spanish. She felt like everything should be in English -- if you can't speak English, you're in the wrong country is her view. I told her that the U.S. does not have an official language; in fact, if she went to Chinatown, the street names would be in Chinese. If you go to East Providence, RI, there are street names in Portuguese. In the U.S., you can get by without speaking English, if you wish. Lots of people do it.

When I started my current job, one of my co-workers was Brazilian and she was spending a few months in the U.S. to familiarize herself with the American business. Our company hired someone, an American person, to drive her around and take her to places like the bank for her to open an account, the Social Security Office, etc., even though she spoke perfect English. Yes, there are people here who make an honest living helping others navigate the bureaucracy.

Even when I came to the U.S. as an exchange student, almost 25 years ago, one of the Study Abroad Office assistants drove me around campus to get a room in a residence hall, buy a meal plan, enroll for classes, open a bursar's account, sign up to take the TOEFL, etc. Then, in my dorm, there were student volunteers who would walk with us around campus to show us where our classes were. This is the way America works. There are lots of people willing to help others and the system is based on people helping each other.

But let's turn the tables and see if the Portuguese live up to the standards that they demand of others. Is it common practice in Portugal to facilitate the life of Ukrainians or Germans, for example? Do hospitals and government offices offer access to translators and interpreters? And how is the expat community in Portugal faring in this pandemic?

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