I take the bus to school every day. This was true for most of my high school years as well, but of course, like all else that has happened here so far, the experience is nowhere near the same.
For starters, I’m allowed to stand on the bus here. In fact, I actually prefer standing for a few reasons that the over-analyst in me has identified:
- Standing ensures I won’t have to awkwardly give up my seat for an elderly person that may come on at a later stop. The older the person, the less likely they are to speak English. How am I supposed to tell them to take my seat? Yes, I could just keep my seat, but how rude is that?
- A lot of the seats are in groups of two with something in front, whether a plastic wall or more seats. This makes getting out of the inner seat, or the one closer to the window, awkward for both parties. Having to shift in a way that lets the other person know you are about to get off, and then actually getting around them. Or, having to move for the other person/having them climb over you. No thanks.
- When the bus gets jam-packed full, sitting only makes it that much harder to get off. Everything I mentioned in number 2, plus shoving your way past standing people. Again, no thanks. If the bus is even the slightest bit full, I avoid sitting, no matter how weird people might think I am (no one is thinking this).
All that said, the bus needs to be pretty darn empty for me to sit. And even then it’s risky because what if more people get on?
Despite all my overthinking, riding the bus here is something I enjoy, yet also feel weird about sometimes. In fact, living in this country is something I feel weird about at times.
I’m constantly surrounded by people who don’t speak the same language as I do (at least not their first language). What if someone tries to talk to me? Can people tell I don’t speak Slovene? Do I look American? All these questions have ran through my head more than once, among others.
They are silly questions, I know. Enough people speak English here that it wouldn’t matter if someone tried to talk to me. I also know how to say, “Sorry, I don’t understand Slovene very well. Do you speak English?” IN Slovene!
As for looking American, well, I do have this theory that Europeans and Americans look different enough to the point of being able to tell them apart, but I might be the only one. Or am I? What do y’all think?
What was I talking about again? Oh yes, the bus. Riding the bus gives me two feelings: one where I feel like a cool city girl whose main mode of transportation is public, and the other is a strange sense of feeling like an imposter.
Sounds ridiculous, I know, but since I only speak one language, and am constantly surrounded by people who don’t share the same native tongue as me, I almost feel weird. Like I have a secret that no one knows about.
This is not limited to the bus. This is how I feel 100% of the time when out in public.
The thing is, by simply looking at me, no one would ever be able to tell that I only speak English. At a glance, I speak Slovene fluently. Maybe English too and perhaps some German or French? And let’s not forget Croatian. I could speak Russian or Italian for all they know! The possibilities are endless when it comes to the snap judgments of strangers!
Why do I care about this? I don’t. Instead, I am fascinated at how little we are able to tell about a person by simply passing them on the street or making awkward eye contact on a bus (which should be avoided at all costs, but as Hannah Montana taught us, nobody’s perfect).
I think about this just about every time I go out. At times, it doesn’t matter that I don’t speak much Slovene, like when riding the bus to and fro school or walking down to the city center. Other times…
Other times it matters A LOT. When I go to the store, what if they say something and I don’t understand? Ordering at a restaurant?? As if that wasn’t scary enough!!!
Just kidding y’all. I’m being dramatic. What I just expressed is only a fraction of what I actually feel. Still, it’s crazy how being in another country can make you fear things as simple as grocery shopping or ordering at a restaurant (okay, I’ve always been kinda terrified of that one).
How long will it be until I don’t feel this way? My prediction is never. Which is okay because these feelings aren’t negative. They’re just a part of living somewhere as a foreigner.
And as someone who is prone to having a bit of social anxiety and leans more towards the reserved end of the spectrum. Lucky for me, Slovenes lean toward this end as well. Phew!