You’re Finnished

, , , , , , | Friendly | February 7, 2018

(I’m Finnish, but I currently work and live in London. Some of my friends are visiting from Finland and we go to a nice, small café near my flat. We are chatting and, obviously, we use Finnish since it’s everyone’s first language. A man maybe in his 50s has been sitting near us and now approaches our table.)

Man: *rudely* “What are you talking?!”

(We are a bit surprised by his tone, but I assume he is just wondering what language we use, since Finnish is kind of rare and a hard one to guess. He’s not the first one to ask. So, I answer politely that we are speaking Finnish.)

Man: “No! You have to speak English! This is London! Anyone can’t understand you!”

Me: “I speak English when I’m speaking with other people, but we are all Finnish, so we can, in fact, understand each other.”

Man: *speaking on top of me* “NO! You need to speak English all the time! All the time! Other people need to understand you!”

Me: “Look, mate. I don’t see that this is in any way your problem. We speak English with other people, but Finnish with each other. We have been understood perfectly well by everyone, since we speak English to the people who don’t speak Finnish.”

Friend: “Yeah, so, please leave us alone.”

(By this point the barista and everyone else in the café have noticed that something is going on.)

Barista: “Excuse me, but is everything all right?”

Me: “This ‘gentleman’ is kind of bothering us.”

Man: “They need to speak English! Otherwise, people can’t understand what you are saying! You could be talking about anything! You could be talking about me!”

Friend: “Why on earth would we be talking about you?”

Barista: “Sir, there is no law that says everyone must speak English all the time. Have they in any way indicated that they were talking about you?”

Man: “Well, no, but they might! I was listening, and I couldn’t understand them at all, not one word! They need to speak English.”

Barista: “So, your problem is that you tried to eavesdrop on their conversation, and now you are annoyed that you couldn’t?”

Man: *pause* “No… Well… No… Other people can’t… Need to understand them…”

(The man went back to his table, took his things, and left. We thanked and tipped the barista. My friends just thought the whole thing funny. I can’t understand how a person can function in a multicultural city with hundreds of different languages and millions of tourists with that attitude.)

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