Tuesday, April 10

Doesn't everyone speak English?

Today my post is supposed to be about Culture Shock, which is perfect since I just came back from a two-week trip to Israel and Italy just yesterday. I'll try to post some pics, but we haven't unpacked the camera from the suitcase yet.

I admit I take it for granted that I think everyone should/does know English. While in Israel learning English is mandatory (they're taught English starting in grade school), in Italy we encountered some problems. When I asked people if they spoke English, most people answered, "A little". I learned that for a lot of words I just add a vowel on the end and the Italians usually understood. "Spinich pizza," I ask. (Italian waitress shakes head, confused). So I say, "Spinachi pizza?" "Ahh!" (Ah, now she understands!)

But forget about that. Here's things that shock me...or at least make me uneasy.

Israel: kissing people on both cheeks. In America we do the "air kiss" on one side...in Israel it's two and sometimes three and you switch sides each kiss. You never know if it's a two-kiss or a three-kiss, so you have to be ready. I swear one of these days I'm going to end up kissing someone on the lips by accident. Which actually freaks me out more than it should.

Italy: There are no numbers to the streets, even on maps. So the maps show a mass of lines to show roads, but you never know what those roads are called or where they lead. Has anyone been there? Please confess!

Israel and Italy: What's the deal with the three-hundred and sixty-five degree turnarounds every two meters when driving? Which of the three (or sometimes four) exits do you take?

Israel and Italy: Why is EVERYONE so thin? And why are their jeans so tight you think their jeans are painted on?

Israel: Military personnel all over the place, everyone with an M-16 machine gun or bigger. And why do I feel so safe around all those guns?

Italy: You have to pay for water at restaurants. Makes me wonder what's wrong with their water.

Israel and Italy: Crazy drivers! and Gorgeous men! (also gorgeous men who are crazy drivers)

Israel: Why does the McDonalds taste different. And why do they have "kabob" on the menu? Isn't all McDonald's supposed to be the exact same no matter where you are? Isn't that the whole concept of McDonalds?

Oh, I hate this one! Israel: You have to actually turn on the water heater each time you want to take a shower and the hot water doesn't last long enough for your entire shower.

Okay, enough of my babbling. Anyone else been somewhere during Spring Break where they had culture shock? (I've also had culture shock when I've been to South Carolina - me being a yankee and all)


Lisa Asanuma said...

I think McDonald's is actually different anywhere you go. I know that it's definitely a little different in Japan. The fries taste differently, and hamburgers have everything from soft fried eggs to (I think) fried squid on them.

Japan's really my only experience myself (and not so culture-shock-y for me, since my dad's Japanese), but I'm taking a class that's specifically about intercultural relations and culture shock and things like that, and you're not the only one to go through things like this!

Wendy Toliver said...

I've always lived in outdoorsy places (Texas, Colorado and now Utah), so to go to London in March and see black soot washing off my body whenever I'd shower, or soot in the Kleenex after blowing my runny nose was a little unnerving. Oh, and dodging people dressed in head-to-toe black on rattly bicycles wearing pollution masks over their noses and mouths was quite the culture shock as well. But I've only been there once, so maybe it was just a bad pollution week.

Wendy, who loves to travel but loves to breathe

Kelly Parra said...

Well, the only shock we had this spring break was visiting a relative's ranch with us being city peeps. haha! We saw cows, coyotes, and tractors, where were used to the daily dogs, cats and cars. :) :)

Simone Elkeles said...

Kelly, I totally understand about the tractors and cows. In Israel my family lives on a farm and my kids were running through sheep crap. It was really fun cleaning it out of my daughter's "Heeley" shoes, you know the ones that have wheels on the heels.

I haven't been to London since I was a kid. Really, black soot? I would be concerned, too!

Lisa, thank goodness I don't have to eat burgers with fried squid in them. Yuck! I'll settle for good ol' Mickey D's in America.


alexgirl said...

I can't believe you went to Israel and ATE AT MCDONALDS! That's, like, a crime. Although, i DID see the pictures of Israeli breakfast on your other blog, so I can't exactly blame you.
Culture shock in Japan was pretty cool. (though I guess if I found it "cool" it couldn't have been that "shocking".) I LOVE to travel. I ate crocodile in Zambia once. (okay, barely, but i did put a tiny piece in my mouth and swallowed it.)

Gerb said...

We spent spring break in Australia and it was kind of funny - the kids kept looking around and saying, it doesn't *feel* like Australia. I think they were expecting the outback all over with kangaroos in the streets and koalas in every tree. :)

But maybe it was because some of the places we've visited have required some adjusting. They speak different languages and (shocker) do things differently.

For instance, in Paris: The French computer keyboard is different. (And what's up with the dog poop!?)

China: Same kanji characters, pronounced completely differently. We ate some very odd things...

Germany: learned to ask for water without gas. Made the kids giggle even more whenever we passed an exit (ausfahrt.)

Korea: Kim-chee. Nuff said.

Italy: Learned that 'gypsy' taxi drivers doesn't mean they are Roma (real gypsies.)

Finland: pronunciation of double vowels or consonants makes a BIG difference in the meaning of the word. :)

I could go on and on...

Point is, in Australia, we understood the language, we were used to driving on the Right (as we do here in Japan,) we didn't stand out as obvious foreigners (as we do in Japan...) They expected to have to adjust to culture shock and the shock was... there wasn't any!

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