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Cultural Observations  
12:19pm 03/07/2005
I have noticed some of the cultural differences I had been expecting. I've noticed technological and organizational differences. Here's some of them. The bathrooms are a lot more private over here, for one. The doors are full doors, and the wc has it's own little room, as opposed to a stall. The showers have two knobs, as one expects. But they do different things. One controls the temperature, and the other controls the volume. A better method, I think. the food and desserts especially are generally not as sweet as their US counterparts, but they taste just as good, if not better. People seem to have a smaller personal space here. The trains in Germany are simply on time. If the timetable says it's leaving at 10.40, then forward motion commences at that time, to the second. Smoking areas are more common by far. In France, the people are not rude so much as indifferent. The customs guy simply did not give a damn. The reputation for rudeness comes, I think, from the fact that their manner of speaking is more direct, and they do not conceal thier body language and bearing as much as we're used to. The content of the conversation and the words they're saying are not offensive, but if they think you're being an idiot, this will be evident in their bearing and facial expression. It's important to note that this does not affect their willingness to offer assistance or service, they just don't make as much use of the polite screen on their mood as Americans seem to be accustomed to. The Goth scene in England was quite friendly, as seemed to be knit more tightly that any of the scenes I've seen in the us. Granted, I was only there for one night. They were also more open and welcoming than I had been expecting. Which was cool, as I was expecting them to be pretty welcoming. The people in Ireland were quite friendly, on two occasions even approaching us to offer advice if we seemed confused. As for driving, in Dublin, pedestrians in the road are apparently fair game. if you're on the sidewalk, you're safe. In the crosswalk with the light in your favor and all is well. If you should stray into the road without a crosswalk or against the light, it's "game on". In England, they more faster, but seem to be skilled enough to handle it. Kinda like LA. in France, they don't seem to really give two hoots about what the lights have to say. If you've got space to cross, go. The cars can't be counted on to stop just because their light turns red, however, they also don't seem to be as eager to collect points as Dublin drivers. In Germany, there is the most slack given all around. the people abide by the lights, and the cars do, as well. Granted, the safety margins seem to be a good deal thinner here than in the us, but hey, it seems to work, so good on them.

More surprising than the differences, though, are the similarities. People here are still basically as people anywhere else. social strata seem to be the same as elsewhere. Cliques and circles have about their same places and structure. One can easily spot the relative positions and international counterparts of the ones back home. people here are just as distrustful of strangers as everywhere. People here are neither better or worse than anywhere else. The big cities are generally the same as big cities in the us. Homeless and wealthy, druggies and nuns, taxi drivers and tourists. Bars and churches still do the same things. Cemeteries and carwashes are seen no differently here than elsewhere. Subways have turnstiles which are occasionally jumped. Friendly waiters get tipped better than mean ones. If someone steps on your foot, they'll likely apologize. Traffic jams have honking horns, and statues have pigeons and museums have lines and bars have drunks and gutters have trash and churches have faithful and the unfaithful and green means go and red means stop, and a screaming child means an unhappy parent, and that is the way of the world. It's just neat, I think, how much stuff isn't different at all, no matter where I've been.
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