“I’ve never seen A4 paper in the wild before,” my friend Davenport said, pointing to some papers on my desk.
“I mean, we don’t use A4 paper in Canada.”
His way of expressing it might have been a little funny, but he’s right, North American standard size paper is usually 8.5 X 11, A4 exists but not “in the wild.” A different standard from much of the rest of the world.
Who cares though, right?
Well, I recently sent some documents to my dad. Out of seven pages only the last one bears my signature. On the face of it that’s a good thing; my dad who has found a few grammar mistakes (my Polish isn’t always the best) can fix any that aren’t on the signed page and print them. On 8.5 X 11 paper.
It’s such a small detail that most people don’t notice until something like this happens, but those of us who live somewhere, somehow between cultures, we’ve had experiences like this. Some are minor practicalities, some are seemingly small differences that make a huge change. Inspired by my current multinational troubles I thought I’d list a few of my own frustrations, just for fun:
Living in Korea – one of the most technologically advanced countries in the world – I have a dumb phone, otherwise known as a clamshell. It can be annoying at times but one thing I’ve avoided is a binding contract, it was the next best option to an unlocked smart phone – something I couldn’t afford at the time.
Now that I will be buying a phone, it’s become difficult. If I want an iPhone then I can get LTE speeds in England and Korea (plus a whole host of other countries) or in Canada and the US but not all of them. And never in Poland. If I choose an SIII then I have to find a world version.
In the next 2 years I intend to spend a month or more in no fewer than 5 different countries, with one of those being a semi-permanent move. Not everyone’s situation is as… mobile, but finding a phone that adequately handles anything more than North American can be a challenge.
Did you know you can’t use paid apps in every country? Yep, just something else to think about.
Understanding other languages
Here’s the deal: many Americans only speak one language. Many white people are assumed to be American (especially in Korea). So logically I must only speak one language. Right?
In addition to Polish and English I speak French. I also know some Russian and, like many of us, can understand several Slavic languages in addition to a fair bit of Spanish (from the French).
How surprising for a white person, eh?
You know what’s awkward? When two Uzbeks in my Korean class were discussing some grammar point in Russian and I randomly started chiming in in English. They stared at me. I’d forgotten to inform them that I understand a great deal of their language. Actually, it never really even occurred to me, I just sort of interpreted it as English… or something.
You know what happens if you’re forced to cancel your Canadian debit card because of loss or theft, but then when the bank sends you a new one it gets lost in the mail?
You can no longer access any sort of banking short of calling and talking to a live person on the phone because they refuse to send another new one unless you come to the branch in person.
Thank God I still have a credit card.
I have the important stuff in Korea with me, obviously. My passport, main IDs, etc. But when it comes to gathering things like a copy of my university diploma, my birth certificate, and anything more obscure that I didn’t bring with me but whose location I can’t pinpoint with accuracy it is incredibly difficult to co-ordinate when you’re in another country. (Seriously, applying for a Polish internship that is open to Canadian citizens, while living in Korea is… complicated).
Getting anything shipped from North America
When I was away on vacation a package was delivered to my apartment. A notice was left on my door and when I came back I had a co-worker call the company to find the package. The delivery man complained and said that next time I should provide my Korean phone number because there was some weird number on the package.
I didn’t order the package, it was shipped from a university. They provided their own, Canadian phone number and shipped using DHL, an international freight company. The only appropriate number for them to have put was their own. Thankfully I called just in time and got my package rescued from the throw-away pile that it was in.
Facebook: It gets confused.
It’s worth noting that mine is set to Polish.
These are random, and actually at this late hour I’m probably leaving out many, but I just wanted to share a few examples of the sorts of little practicalities that can affect you when you start splitting your life between countries, whether those are Canada and Poland or anywhere.
Do you have any random little annoyances like this? What did I miss?