I had a rather long taxi ride the other day, with a driver who’s been in Ireland for 40 years, but is from a different country and culture. After a conversation about dogs (he has a lovely sable German shepherd) and a friend he had who’d had a rabies scare in his home country, he started talking about another friend living in Ireland.
This friend had been through some shit. His wife had complained of back pain, gone to the hospital and been sent out with painkillers a couple times, and then collapsed. Turned out she had aggressive cancer in her spine. She died less than a month later, and for some reason her family blamed him for the death and sued for custody of their two small children. They managed to win custody over the kids, possibly because the man was spiraling into depression and having trouble taking care of himself financially as well, but it was another blow to the grieving man. The taxi-driver friend wanted to help, so he suggested taking on extra work on the weekends as an escort.
A couple years later, he was shocked to find out the friend had been arrested for advertising for prostitution and didn’t understand why his friend blamed him. He’d been living here for 40 years but hadn’t known the connection of advertised escorting services to sex work. He’d simply thought that getting paid to accompany people to events would be a good way for the friend to force himself to leave the house and to socialize and meet people.
Navigating a culture and language different to your own always has its gaps and pitfalls, and I imagine those areas where a culture is least willing to self-examine will have the biggest pitfalls to the unwary. I didn’t expect at the beginning of the day to find myself at the end of the day explaining to a man in his fifties that he’d inadvertently nudged his vulnerable friend into sex work without realizing it, or to be explaining the use of euphemistic code words for plausible deniability in the sex trade to a man with very good English.