Archive for the ‘Cultural differences’ Category

Dear Patrons of the Bar I Visited Friday Night:

You are the reason I don’t go out much (though there are other reasons too). I needed to do reconnaissance for a PR project, so I willed myself to exit my home, collect my friend René, and head to Metalsome Karaoke: karaoke backed by a live band.

René and I get ready to rock.


This was our view during the karaoke extravaganza.

The night started out great, but quickly went downhill. Why?

The Drunk Girl
I’m sorry (not sorry) I had to hip check you. René nicely asked you to stop flinging yourself against me. You would not stop. And then you took the stage, and we saw that you were way past the point of reason.

The Bouncer
This guy took himself very seriously. It was like he was guarding U2. “Come on, dude,” I thought. That is, until the above tried to rape the guitarist onstage. And then I understood why the bouncer was on high alert.

The Predator
The girl in front of you clearly wanted to watch the band and “singers.” She did not want you humping her. I promise.

After a badly botched rendition of “Bitch,” by a friend of Drunk Girl, René and I decided to leave the comfort of our Stage Left perch and explore the rest of the bar.

That was a mistake.

We waded through the beer soup on the ground floor up the stairs to find two more floors of sweaty bodies. All the guys were short, aging, puffy frat boys. Exhibit A:

Yet the women were Size Zero model wannabes. Exhibit B:

The men outnumbered the women three to one. And there were so many people! There had to have been fire code violations.

Me trying to get out of the bar

When we finally made it through the press of bodies and landed outside on the sidewalk, I apologized to René. He looked over his glasses at me and said:

And that’s why I don’t go to straight bars.

Got it.

Still drying out my shoes,

* Reference for title


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Dear Brits,

I love you. You know I do. As I recently found out thanks to the results from the Ancestry DNA kit, I have at least 18 percent of you in my system (the geography nerd in me is a little confused by how Scotland and Wales are somehow marked separately from Great Britain, though). Look here:

Anyway, I’ve always been an anglophile, thanks to my burning desire for Adam Ant.

So when I needed time away to complete a project I’ve been procrastinating on for a year and a half, I chose your chilly, tea-soaked environs. Thankfully, I had a Delta voucher, vacation time available, and two long-time friends who live within 20 minutes of each other.

These are a few of my favorite things:

1. The pubs. Within a one-block radius in Uttoxeter, for example, I worked on my project at The Black Swan, The Old Swan, The Old Star, Ye Olde Talbot and The Vault. The Guinness was spectacular at all.

2. Coffee. I have no shits to give about tea (sorry), but you have proper coffee. I love that you feel free to order cappuccino at all times of the day.

3. Friendliness. You love Americans like mothers love their weird, wayward sons. I was a source of curiosity in every pub I visited to write. Many of you wanted to know what I thought about Donald Trump. (I try not to think about him.) Many of you were pleased at my beer of choice. Every pub played American music, which amused the crap out of me as I am the biggest fan of the Second British Invasion.

4. The TV. No one does television better than you. There is no way anyone else (except maybe the Dutch) would have given the world “Naked Attraction.” The promo line? “A daring dating series that starts where some good dates might end — naked.”

It’s not pixelated at 10 p.m. on a weeknight. I’m shocked. And hooked.

5. The language. I’m tickled at your phrases. The terms of endearment alone sold me (“Duck,” “Shug,” “Love”). I’m definitely “sorted” at the moment. I’m using “straightaway” instead of “now.” I’m in love with “posh” (the word, not the Spice Girl).

I could listen to you all day. And did:

“She wants a wee!” — said by Man One to Man Two as I was trying to slide past Man Two to get to the ladies room.

“We’ve replaced you with someone far more attractive. You weren’t doing your job, so we’ve sacked you.” — Man Three to Man Four as I was sitting in his seat at the pub.

6. Your bluntness. Take this sign, for example.

Harsh. I feel sorry for the Simon Howie haggis. They can dream, I guess.

Anyway, thank you for being you. I hope to see you again soon.


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Dear Lacoste,

It’s going to be hard to say goodbye. You’ve meant so much to me over the past 10 weeks. And although we’ve had our differences — I like to walk normally, and you like to try to break my ankles with your cobblestone streets at 60-degree angles; I like to sleep, and you like to let the clock tower chime three times every hour — we’ve gotten along splendidly overall.

I regret the time I cheated on you with Paris. I admit that I felt dirty in the City of Light. Yes, the week of having access to world-class shopping, restaurants, landmarks, artwork and entertainment was wonderful, but I thought about you the whole time.

You know I also cheated on you with Apt almost every weekend; L’Isle Sur La Sorgue on a number of Sundays; Fontaine de Vaucluse and Bonnieux four times; Avignon, Ménerbes and Lumières three times; Gordes, Ménerbes, Oppede le Vieux and Roussillon twice; Cavaillon, Carpentras, Coustellet, Saignon, Lourmarin, Nîmes, Aix-en-Provence, Marseilles, Milan and Turin once. But they meant nothing to me. I always came back to you.

You are like sleep-away camp for grown-ups. I enjoyed being a camp counselor and didn’t even mind being on call all day every day. I may never again have the opportunity to discuss a grade on a paper while scooping potato balls onto my plate at dinner. Or hear students coming back from the Café de France at 4 a.m. I love your isolation that enables and requires close connections with others who are also enjoying your charms.

You are intense. You are immersive. You are insulated. You required me to work closely with other professors on a variety of projects and field trips. I might not have had that chance otherwise. You required me to practice my stick-shift driving skills in rickety nine-passenger transit vans on narrow, winding roads. Never before have I had to fold in my mirror so that I could safely pass a La Poste vehicle on a dirt road built for one car. You required me to rethink my idea of space and material goods. I lived quite happily in a small centuries-old apartment with few personal items and no television.

You are not the sleepy, hilltop village everyone thinks you are. You are a locus for plenty of activity — much of it mental — that results in a life-changing experience.

While I have to say goodbye — I was actually cheating on Savannah with you — I want you to know that I won’t forget you. Thank you for everything.



Things I will miss about you:

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