Friday, July 30, 2004

culture bubbles
It's funny how people can do exactly the same things, but for totally different reasons and in totally different ways. Talking with a French colleague yesterday made me ponder a little on the different things we do when on holiday.

For many of my French colleages, a holiday is defined by the absence of work. When you ask them what they plan to do in their workless weeks, they tell you that they are staying at home, fixing the house and stuff. Or else they tell you that they are visiting some other region of France where they have relatives.

When I quiz them on why they don't go abroad, I often get the standard answer, IIn Fraanz ve aav ze veary beeutiiful reejons... Eet iiz not necessairy to go aoutzide. Meaning apparently, that since they have lots of mountains and beaches, there's little reason to go to the expense and trouble of leaving their country.

I suppose that in a country that has good food, good weather and lots of things to do, this attitude is partly understandable. Especially since most people have swimming pools in their gardens.

When I think about reasons why the average British person goes on holiday, I reckon it is safe to say that we choose our destinations for getting the maximum amount of sun possible. Hence, there's nothing we like better than turning up in our thousands to a little British enclave stuck on the bottom of Spain, where they sell our beers and cook our breakfasts. You'll find us trying our hardest to get some colour onto our pasty bulbous bodies, sitting on the beach with a smeary layer of Sun Protection Factor -10, sizzling our skin to a nice healthy shade of radioactive red.

If you lived in a country where it rained 99% of the year, you might do that too!

The Japanese on holiday are also interesting. We have seen them in their gangs descending from tour buses, following their guide's flag like a brood of ducklings following mother duck. The sterotype about them lining up in front of landmarks, taking flashes of photos and then rushing off has been discussed the world over. If you want a reason for this, it seems to me that in mainstream Japanese culture a holiday is mostly an opportunity to get photographs which prove you have been to famous world sites. So under this logic, it's best to see as many sites as possible in the time you have.

If you lived in a country where people frowned at you for taking even 5 days holiday in one year, you might also want to see as many places as possible in the time you had.

So it is clear that the concept of 'holiday' is partly culturally determined, meaning that people from varied countries do different things with their holidays. No surprise there, or with countless others things we do within our nations.

What interests me though, is that no matter what the country we come from, we always take our culturally determined ideas of things with us on holiday. We might change the place we are in and things that we see, but we continue to look at those things, life, in the same way. We float about like cultural bubbles in someone else's air.

The reason I go on holiday is to try to understand my bubble. I suppose I do this in the hope that I can expand my bubble enough that I can find room to enter into someone else's world, see life through the lens of their bubble.

Is it possible even, to burst a culture bubble?

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