Posted in Weekend Chat

Weekend Chat 7 April 2013

215561_10150156966756445_7044587_nGrab a cup of coffee, find a comfy seat and discover some my favourite blog posts, films, etc from this past week.

Things to read

“He contrasts prescriptive cultures, where “social forms generate appropriate acts”, with performative cultures, where “appropriate kinds of actions create social forms”.  Intrigued?  I was!  Read here about how this concept helped Kate King understand more about her life in Papua New Guinea!

Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy” by Eric Metaxas.  Absolutely fascinating read.  I learned so much not just about Bonhoeffer as a person, but also about the times and the context.  It’s long but so worth it!

 

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What’s in a home

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(photo: Huang Qingjun)

The content of a home.  What stories does it tell?  About the people.  About their lives.  About the country and society they live in.

Some of it seems so incongruous.  A mud house and a satellite dish.  Only the very basics and yet a television.

Part of me really wants to climb into the picture, to meet the people, to hear the real stories.  Understand the constraints (financial and therwise) on their lives.  Ask them what it is that makes their house a real home for them.

So much I would love to know.  Why are there no books?  Is that telephone maybe the only link to family far away?  What are the precious things, the things that hold special memories, the things that make them smile?  How does the rapid economic development in China affect them – and bypass them?

So many stories I would love to hear!

(I recently re-discovered this article which talks about a project by Chinese artist Huang Qingjun, described in the article like this: “Huang Qingjun has spent nearly a decade travelling to remote parts of China to persuade people who have sometimes never been photographed to carry outside all their household possessions and pose for him.”)

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Willkommen! Bienvenue! Welcome! Or not???

Last month, CNN reported that apparently tourists find the French the least welcoming of all nationalities, while Brazilians are the most welcoming (you can read the full article here).  I have to confess to feeling a slight sense of relief that Germany did not top this particular poll 🙂 In fact, we only come in at number 4, behind Russia and the UK.

The UK???  Now they really had my attention!  I might be slightly biased but I’ve always found Brits to be incredibly friendly and welcoming.  And so encouraging and appreciative of even the tiniest bit of English visitors speak.  There are always exceptions, of course there are, but on the whole that’s always been my experience.

I wonder how people decide whether a place and its people are welcoming or not.  Is it dependent on whether or not things go their way?  Whether or not local people speak the visitor’s language, thus making things easy for him or her?

Particularly as tourists, we tend to come to a new place with so many expectations, and often with very little willingness to learn, to understand, to be challenged, to meet people on their turf.  No wonder things often go so very wrong!  A few things happen that confirm my preconceived ideas and suddenly I “know” that in [fill in appropriate country] people are rude/unwelcoming/arrogant/etc.

The article makes some very good points about differences in culture and values.

“The French are very protective of their language, and customers can get different responses for ordering in French or in another language,” said Lo. […] According to Yi, though queuing is a social norm in the West, it’s not a common behavior for Chinese people, “so [it] could be interpreted as being rude [by international travelers.] […] “[These waitresses] don’t have the confidence or language skill to handle foreign travelers. Sometimes, they’d rather avoid them,” said Lo.

So maybe the waitress I wrote off as being rude might just be feeling very insecure as I am making her speak a second language.  And the man in a shop in the Middle East might actually be showing me respect by not looking me in the face.

It’s not easy getting over my emotional responses to things but not treating people as just a colourful backdrop to my holiday experience (bit like a theme park) and instead remembering that I am visiting people in their home, as it were (even if I’m paying), is very helpful. There is so much fun to be had by adjusting my attitude!

OK, getting down from my soapbox now 😉

And yes, there definitely are rude people in each and every country!

However, I still don’t understand how the UK could possibly come in at number 3!

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One of the enduring mysteries of British culture! I reckon this is the real reason: “I think the real reason why we Brits hang on to our single taps is because as a nation we are prepared to tolerate minor inconveniences if the alternatives are a) more expensive and b) involve changing a familiar system which works perfectly well.”
I love the place! 🙂 But NOT the single taps!

CrossPurposes

So why do most British homes have separate hot and cold taps (see December post)? (Note for transatlantic readers, tap = faucet!)

Reasons of history:

A high proportion of British housing stock dates to the 19th and early 20th century, before efficient mixer taps and modern valves were available. Some of our housing is much older than that – one of the consequences of living in a part of the world which has few earthquakes (see August post). When interior plumbing was introduced it would have begun with a simple system piping cold water straight from the mains into the kitchen.  Hot water was later added separately, hence a dual system.

Reasons of health and hygiene:

Early plumbing systems used pipes of lead, so while cold water from a lead pipe may be potable, you wouldn’t want to drink hot water that has come through a lead pipe…

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