We’re all the same, just, different – cultural differences around the world

I’ve been back in Oxford for about four months now and have loved seeing friends and family and being mothered by Mrs C, but those who know me will realise that I’ve been getting itchy feet again. So before I set off on my next trip, to Mexico and Cuba to start with and who knows what after that, I thought I’d get back to my blog after a lengthy break.

One of my favourite things about travelling the world is the opportunity to meet so many amazing people that come with different cultures, customs and beliefs. Without any intentions to offend, I thought I’d share some of the observations that I’ve made over the years.

What better place is there to start than the way we all sound! Being from Oxford I have the unshakable presumption that I am ‘posh’. I actually begin to believe it myself when working on ships with those that come from further north in the UK, be it as far north as Scotland like my colleague Gemma who has to work extremely hard to tone down her accent when addressing confused looking parents from all over the world, or Jack from Biiirminghaaam who feels the need to elongate words all the time.

Being British means that I am useless at learning any other language. If I, or a lot of other Brits, attempt to address somebody in their language they are likely to laugh, before launching into a better English than we speak. So I have untold respect for anybody that can speak a second language. But that doesn’t mean I can’t have hours of fun with pronunciation mistakes. Here are some of my favourites:

I had a South African friend who would talk about ‘deck six’ on the ship. If you weren’t listening closely it would sound suspiciously like a conversation about ‘dick sex’.

I heard a story, rather than witnessed, about a Ukrainian youth staff who was on the microphone during a sport session. She repeatedly shouted ‘focus guys! focus!’. Those within ear shot would turn to look for who kept shouting ‘fuck us guys! Fuck us!’.

I had Chinese colleagues that had difficulty distinguishing the sound difference between ‘shit’ and ‘sheet’. This was especially fun when parents arrived and were asked to fill in the ‘sign in sheet’.

As I said before I have huge respect for those that speak a second language, especially when they can understand me better than a lot of Americans for some reason. In the American’s defence I speak very quietly and they come from a country where everybody seems to shout everything they say.

Australia and the UK have a shared history which probably goes a way to explain some of our similarities. We drink to excess, love sport and have very sarcastic sense of humour. The only difference is that the Aussies can be annoyingly happy and upbeat all the time where us Brits love to moan. I wonder if having the sun all year round compared to wind rain and clouds has anything to do with it?

You’ll have to search long and hard if you want to find a more friendly and sharing people than the Filipino. There is no party like a Philippines party, it will have more food and drink than you can imagine, everyone is welcomed and it’s likely to end in karaoke.

Other extremely friendly races that I’ve encountered would be the Indian’s, full of life and love to dance and the Japanese an extremely humble culture that embraces the spirit of hospitality. It is an amazing country that is unbelievably clean and tranquil. I’ve had multiple experiences of Japanese people helping me with directions despite not speaking a word of English.

My favourite destination still remains Costa Rica with it’s people so friendly and welcoming. It would be wrong of me also not to mention the laid back culture of the Caribbean where people openly great strangers in the street just for the sake of saying hello. A very strange concept if you grew up in the south of England.

Finally a word on one of my favourite cultures. Passionate about everything to the point of argumentative. Some of the best food in the world. They know how to dance like no other race. The Latin American culture is one of a real love for life. They go out on nights out to just dance. They don’t even need a drink to give them the courage to get up and dance in the first place!

So that’s where I’m going now. Sat on a bus toward Manchester before flying from Manchester to Cancun to sample some more of the Latino culture. I’ll try to keep you posted of my progress.

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