Entries tagged as cultural differences
- Agggggh I've collapsed. Long Monday (actually it felt short) with a cold :( October 8
- I listened to 5 seconds of the first track on @TheUkes album The Secret of Life and my heart felt soothed. ♥. http://t.co/wsZquPh5 October 7
- @patheuk hiya, I was wondering if you guys have a general enquiries email address? October 7
- Terrified of flagship #Primark about to open on Oxford St. Tottenham Ct Rd will vamp into as much a tourist mess as the one by Marble Arch.. October 7
- Then I googled a phrase from my poem. 119 results came up. Namely an interview w/ singer @bethjhoughton - lovely music! http://t.co/nFJ55YKW October 6
Entries tagged as cultural differences
books elizabethan era fluency languages literature london market people relaxation russian travel tv fitness japan culture fashion favorite places food nature rushing amsterdam ancient history czech france globalization home international experience lse malta movies technology theater united kingdom walking yoga actors music
Saturday, June 25. 2011
My latest love is 19th century travelogues. I first got into them last year when I was preparing for my trip to Belgium. There was a huge section of yellowing, crumbling, leather-bound travelogues in my university library.
I checked out two - both published in the 1840s. One was by an average American Dr. John P. Hiester, who starts his journal with his determination to go to Europe for the first time:
In common, perhaps, with the majority of persons inhabiting this Western Continent, did I entertain, at an early period of my life, a strong desire to visit the great Eastern World - the land of my forefathers, and the source of all our institutions, civil and religious; except that one, that greatest of all institutions, the institution of Liberty and self-government.
Wow! We might not say it so eloquently (or maybe long-windedly) today, but isn't that that sentiment something you can relate to? And did you know that the stereotype used to be that French people were very polite, and Russians were all polylingual? I love reading them for glimpses into everyday life like that: some perspectives have changed so radically, while others are just the same. We follow his journal, starting on a packet ship (in 1845 trans-Atlantic steamboats were still newfangled and dangerous), to France and Italy. The book ends before he reaches Germany... and that's it, there's nothing else to find out about him on the Internet.
The other travelogue I first read was by a geology-obsessed naval captain who, it turns out, later wound up in a mental asylum. He writes about his circa 1818 trip over the Alps and Italy. Sometimes I look up names mentioned, but Google often gives me nothing: these are people who lived, but there is no record of them at all except in obscure books like this. On the other hand many of the places they travel to are just as touristy as they were 150 years ago.
It turns out I also had Mark Twain's A Tramp Abroad - a 1907 edition - which details his exploits in Europe in the 1870's. The way he comments on cultural differences, or (most of the time) makes fun of himself by making fun of others, is just hilarious. Here are some of the gems from Volume II, which I'm reading right now:
A man accustomed to American food and American domestic cookery would not starve to death suddenly in Europe; but I think he would gradually waste away, and eventually die. He would have to do without his accustomed morning meal. That is too formidable a change altogether; he would necessarily suffer from it.
Deciding he wants to climb a mountain, he reads a guidebook:
"It is very difficult to free the mind from excitement on the evening before a grand expedition -" I saw that I was too calm; so I walked the room a while and worked myself into a high excitement; but the book's next remark, - that the adventurer must get up at two in the morning, - came as near as anything to flatting it all out again.
A wonderful example of Twain poking fun at both his own laziness and the little white lies travelers tell:
Nothing is gained in the Alps by over-exertion; nothing is gained by crowding two days' work into one for the poor sake of being able to boast of the exploit afterward. It will be found much better, in the long run, to do the thing in two days, and then subtract one of them from the narrative. This saves fatigue, and does not injure the narrative. All the more thoughtful among the Alpine tourists do this.
On the difficulty of the German language:
I heard lately of a worn and sorely-tried American student who used to fly to a certain German word for relief when he could bear up under his aggravations no longer, - the only word in the whole language whose sound was sweet and precious to his ear and healing to his lacerated spirit. This was the word Damit. It was only the sound that helped him, not the meaning; and so, at last, when he learned that the emphasis was not on the first syllable, his only stay and support was gone, and he faded away and died.
You can see all the books related to travel I've read at my LibraryThing, here.
Posted by Natalie Meyer at 15:19 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
Friday, June 10. 2011
"Politically incorrect" is probably the best turn of phrase for the Japanese TV drama Rebound. I definitely can't imagine it airing in the US. But it's such a surprisingly well-done story that I'm hooked. A lot of you will know actress Chiaki Kuriyama from Kill Bill and Battle Royale who shows up here as the dark-natured, frank roommate of the main character.
Imagine this plotline. A girl is addicted to cake so much that she dreams of marrying a cake-shop owner when she grows up. She becomes overwhelmingly overweight as an adult and is dumped by her boyfriend because she's just too fat. !?? If that's not bad enough, she vows to lose weight and work at a fashion magazine, never eating cake again. But her boss (who legit fires people who are overweight) forces her into an interview with a cake-shop owner… and thus she "rebounds" into being fat again, and the vicious cycle starts all over.
What in the world!??
I burst out laughing after hearing about the plot. Can you imagine this airing in America, ever? It's almost taboo to call someone fat here. In Japan it's really not like that at all. I've had Japanese friends who were suddenly labeled as having gained weight - out loud, in public - by other friends. Their attitude toward weight is completely different than in America - more open, which can be more painful - and of course it's in some ways even worse to be overweight there since a good majority of people are just, well, naturally skinny.
As a foreigner though don't expect to ever be called out on your weight by a Japanese person (unless you marry one)… it's completely expected that foreigners are bigger, which is sad, but also it's pretty hard to get close enough to someone that they would actually tell you that.
This drama is a good, if completely ridiculous, way for me to applaud myself for not eating cake lately and the characters and relationships are interesting. It also delves into other modern issues from a Japanese perspective, like, should women work after they marry? In Japan they usually quit their jobs. It sounds sexist, and maybe it is, but very few women are doing anything to change the status quo there right now. And of course there is some good old-fashioned "it's what's on the inside that counts" too… just in a much more, shall we say, politically incorrect fashion. I really hope this series will tie up with some sort of theme about the necessity of having a healthy relationship with food itself, as well as people.