I like to share embarrassing language stories with my students. I like to remind them that I understand their fear of saying the wrong thing or making a mistake.
I tell the story of the Deaf Church, where I signed to the priest "I'm searching for sex. Where is the sex?" (This particular story plays better in person.) (A slang ASL sign for sex is very similar to the sign for coffee.) I tell them about my German missteps, my french faux pas and my my British English slips.
Having lived in Zürich for the better part of 8 years, there are fewer opportunities for massive linguistic or cultural errors to make, but they can still happen. And when they happen, I am buoyed by my stockpile of incidences of having being right.
I've cleverly worked it out. I edit and teach (a whole lot of me being the expert) and translate (trust me, this is how we say it) and then when and if I hang out with other expats, I've been here long enough to know things.
But I am foreign here. Banks don't want me to have an account here. And I have a chronic illness and it surprises me by making things go wrong. And I'm struggling with infertility, so I'm at the mercy of some strange science that I just don't understand. But then I proofread a text and I make sense of a sentence that is written in the most German English I've ever seen. I cluck my tongue and shake my head and fix it and feel superior.