Hello again from the Big Blue!
Here’s a funny, and true, story for you: A few years back, a woman was found wandering through a small city in the northern U.S., with no identification or memory of who she was. She was picked up by police and questioned but they were unable to discern any pertinent information to help identify her. However, the officer who interviewed her had a hunch and called police in the neighbouring Canadian province to ask if they had any missing persons who matched the woman’s description. Turns out they did and the woman was returned home, to Canada.
When asked why he made that call, the U.S. officer said he suspected the woman was Canadian because she was so polite.
A true story.
Is it fair to make sweeping generalizations about people based on their citizenship? From my travels, and my work in the tourism field, I will say yes…and no. If we are to believe cultural stereotypes, then I must be a beer swilling, annoyingly polite, rabid hockey fan. In reality, anyone who has read The Coconut Chronicles for more than five minutes will know my poison of choice is certainly not beer. Ick. And on those rare occasions I actually watch a sport, it will likely be tennis. As for my manners…well…OK, you got me there. (Prez and I once got into an argument because I said, “Thank you very much” after a cop gave us a speeding ticket.)
So I’ve been watching the parade of international guests coming through Perfect Beach Resort and I’ve been trying to decide if cultural stereotypes hold true. To some degree, they do.
***I have to warn you, I am about to speak in GENERALITIES. Do not read this and think, But I’m German and I’m really footloose, fun, and easy going!!! Yes you are. Of course you are. Now put down that calculator, stop making detailed notes, and listen to what I’m telling you!
Germans, generally, are very serious. A few days ago we had our first really relaxed German guest. This guy is a comedy writer for German TV and Prez, always eager to kick political correctness out the door, said, “You know, you’re the first fun German we’ve had here. All our German guests seem so serious.” This made our guest smile, (whew). “Yes,” he agreed, quite earnestly, “this is a big problem in Germany.”
Brits are second only to Kiwi’s in numbers here. You can spot them a kilometer away by the glare of their white skin. Now, I like Brits. Maybe it’s the humour, (I did grow up watching Monty Python), or maybe it’s the accent? It’s definitely not the teeth – yikes! Nor the cuisine, or lack thereof.
What is it with Western Europe, New Zealand, and Australia and their missing tastebuds?? See, now here’s an interesting study in cultural differences: In the Bahamas, with predominantly Yanks for guests, when we’d say, “We’ve got some fresh tuna and we’re going to make up some sushi for you tonight”, we’d be quickly overwhelmed by appreciation. Americans understand the value of sushi. Even if they’ve never eaten it their life, the fact that you are willing to prepare and share an esteemed fish, such as yellow fin tuna, impresses them. Make the same offer to a group of Brits and Kiwis and you might as well tell them you’re going to sauté a dishtowel and serve it on a bed of leggo blocks. The importance of the tuna eludes them. Very, very disappointing for Prez, as you can imagine. I won’t even try to convey the horror he feels when he is asked if he could please cook the tuna “all the way through”!
I’ve already discussed the dismal grocery selection on the island, but eating out – unless you have the bucks to shell out for the ritzy joints – is no treat either. Every now and then, I am overwhelmed with cheeseburger cravings. Oh, what I wouldn’t give for a big, fat, juicy, all-American (and Canadian), burger! Thus, caught up in my reverie, I scooter out to the closest take-away spot and order a hamburger. And then I go home and cry. Beets?! Beets do not belong on a burger! Neither do eggs. Nor salad! And what is this pathetic little meat disc? I’ve eaten a lot of bad burgers in my travels, (the U.S. and Canada are the only two countries in the world that know how to make hamburgers, FYI), but the burgers on this island are, far and away, the worst I’ve ever had.
The Kiwis love them.
Yeah, you heard me correctly. They LOVE them. We just had a young couple who raved about the local burgers – how big they were, how full of toppings, how tasty! And so, I have come to the conclusion that Kiwi’s must have the worst taste buds on the planet.
Italians on the other hand… mama mia! Our three Italians were not only the giddiest, happiest guests of all, but man can they cook! They whipped up this pasta dish for one of our potluck dinners, apologizing that they did not have all the necessary ingredients, and it was a thousand times better than any pasta Prez and me slave over to make. We are seriously considering a stint in Italy once this gig is over, just to eat and eat and eat and eat!
We haven’t had a lot of Asian guests but those we have had have been…demanding. They are friendly, in a quirky kind of way, but when they ask for things it’s never really a question, it’s always a statement.
Our Canadian guests have almost all been from eastern Canada, which is pretty much a separate country. But they have all been polite. Very polite. Kind of boring how polite we are, sometimes.
To date, we have only had three American guests: Mr. Wu, a couple from Hawaii, and Phil, who spends most of his time in the Antarctic. I don’t think that’s a very good cross section of your “typical” Yanks. Here’s what I like about Americans: they’re outspoken. Here’s what I don’t like about Americans: they’re outspoken. Ah, what a conundrum. I have enough U.S. names in my Yahoo! Address book that I can say the cultural stereotype of the “loud mouthed Yank” is not true, and yet, compared to Europeans and Kiwis, Americans are total party animals.
Here are some differences I’ve noticed between our clientele here (mostly Europeans and New Zealanders) and our clientele in the Bahamas, (mostly Americans):
1. Here we work to get the guests excited and socializing – in the Bahamas we had to work to keep the partying under control.
2. Here the typical leftover food might be a jar of jam and a bun – in the Bahamas we basically survived off the food guests left behind.
3. Here conversations are about global warming, politics, housing prices, etc. – in the Bahamas conversations were about fishing, fishing, and fishing.
Like it or not, when you travel, you become the ambassador for your country. The bad news is: people are going to judge your country by your behavior; the good news is: you can put ‘former ambassador of Canada’ on your resume! (But only if you’re Canadian). I’ve never been to Sweden, Italy, Germany, or New Zealand, but I am forming opinions of these countries based on the guests I meet here.
Funny thought: Our foreign guests are going home thinking, People in Canada sure move quickly and love fish!
However, the more I try to fit people into neat little squares, the more they insist on bursting out. Last week, for example, we had an older British couple, Janet and Charles, stay in our Beach Hut, (the most rustic of all the huts). We were worried. They were so little and frail looking – Charles celebrated his 79th birthday on the flight over – and how were they going to cope with the steep stairs, the outdoor shower, the shared toilet? But they arrived and they were absolutely thrilled. Janet scolded me, “Don’t worry about us, we love this sort of thing. Last year we went to Samoa and all we had was a platform to sleep on covered by banana leaves!” Hell, even I wouldn’t stay at a place like that!
Bless their stout little British hearts, they had the worst weather we’ve seen here but that didn’t dampen their spirits. Three nights ago we had a tropical depression come through with swells so large the Beach Hut was almost floating. I’m talking about serious weather – Prez and I had our shoes, passports, money, flashlights, and a bottle of water on standby in case we had to evacuate. Well, all our guests were out at an Island Night and didn’t get back until late, so Prez went out to make sure everyone got safely into their huts. I guess Janet was a little tipsy and poor Prez was chasing this seventy-plus year-old woman, trying to herd her into her hut while the wind is screaming through the palms, coconuts are falling like bombs, and waves are sweeping away trees and beach furniture!
Ready to go,(I don’t think Mamalade cares) Storm Damage
Defy your cultural stereotypes, I say! Germans, laugh out loud for no reason. Brits, get some braces! Kiwis, put some hot sauce on that horrible hamburger! Canucks, next time only say thank you instead of thank you very much, that’ll show ‘em!!
QUESTION: What will I think of your country after I meet you?
Until next week, I hope this finds you healthy, happy & lovin’ life!
p.s. HAPPY BIRTHDAY MOM II (Ruth-Ann)!!!!!!! We love you!!! xoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxxoxoxoxoxoxxoxoxooxoxxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxox