Going abroad to prove you are a patriot

If you have read our article about changes in our mother tongue after being abroad you know that people endure problems trying to retain their native-speaker advantages. It always leads to funny everyday language changes or may end up in language attrition or even language death (linguicide) on a community level. All of that made me think of my own experience but in terms of not only language but also my national identity.

Absolutely right, now it is easier for me to write an article in English than in Russian. Sometimes I use English language patterns for Russian. After speaking all day in English and doing German tandems I go on Skype and my parents often see only my vague look instead of eloquent Russian speech. It is on a technical level but what about the deeper one? Am I losing my Russian core? And what’s more important: have I ever had one?

I have been told many times back at home that I am not a typical Russian: that my mindset is more European-like, I dress more in European style and I don’t want to accept some deeply-rooted views on how everyone should live in my country. My favourite Czech proverb “When you learn a new language you acquire a new soul” may explain a lot: I plunged into English language since childhood and not so long ago I tried to emerge into German culture as well. And when you put your soul into language learning you get a new one as a prize.

Maybe I have never sounded like a patriot before but during my internship in another country I would never say a bad word about my motherland. When you stay abroad for a while you grow up, put off your pink glasses, learn how to be objective and compare pros and cons of different cultures. But even being objective is hard in front of foreigners. Pushkin said: „Of course, I despise my motherland from top to toe but it is a pity if a foreigner shares this feeling with me”. Succinct words. We wash our dirty linen at home and therefore we solve our problems inside. Lovingly. Because we care about our country.

I tried to avoid Russians in the first months of my stay to have a full living abroad experience but now I am actually drawn to my Russian friends in Hamburg. We can discuss how we have developed here and laugh at both Russian and German peculiarities in comparison. I have discovered Soviet Union films from 30 years ago along with my foreign friends here and understood why they are much praised. And you laugh through tears when you see the first Google suggestion “Why I don’t like Russians” which boosts a range of emotions: from bewilderment to anger and patriotic feelings.

So I think I have discovered a patriot in me – not because I am home-sick here, on the contrary, but because I take the best from my internship here – not blind patriot but conscious, open-minded with love to other cultures. And now I have a desire to solve the problems of my country because now I see them from a different perspective. So explore the world and you will find hidden sides of you! Just remember Goethe’s words “Those who know nothing of foreign languages, know nothing of their own”. And it applies to cultures as well.


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