Saturday, October 18, 2014

We Live in a Globalized Society and Yet Americans Don't Travel Abroad

My wife and I at the Colosseum
My wife and I recently returned from a two week conference and vacation in Italy and were sharing some of our stories at a party when one of our friends said, "You know, I really need to go abroad!"  To which I responded, "Yeah!  You really do.  I mean, you already travel to Mexico and the islands, so why not go somewhere different?"  At which point the guy sitting next to us jumped in saying, "But there is already so many things to see in the States; why would I travel to see other peoples's countries first?  Do they come here?"  "Sure they do," I replied -- thinking in my head, oh god, how did the conversation turn into this -- "But, wouldn't you want to see the Sistine Chapel for yourself, or the Sognefjord or Budapest or Chennai  or Taipei?  I mean, those are rather fantastic places as well."

They both just looked at me. "Oh, look," I said, "I think I need to refresh my drink…."

Driving home I said to my wife, "I just don't get it; with all the latest advances in global travel, going places is as easy as it can get.  So, why don't more Americans travel abroad?"  Then, just this past week, I came across a possible answer: it was a 2011 article by Natalie Avon titled, appropriately enough, "Why More Americans Don't Travel Abroad."  A quick read, it is very insightful.

According to Avon, only about 30% of Americans have a passport, and of those who do, 50% only go as far as Canada or Mexico.  Why?  According to the experts, there are a handful of reasons which, when combined, help to explain why more Americans don't travel abroad.  She states:
Tourism experts and avid travelers attribute Americans' lack of interest in international travel to a few key factors, including: the United States' own rich cultural and geographic diversity, an American skepticism and/or ignorance about international destinations, a work culture that prevents Americans from taking long vacations abroad and the prohibitive cost and logistics of going overseas.
While the explanation seems reasonable -- for example, one of my friends, an Engineer of some 25 years, only gets two weeks of vacation a year -- it is, nonetheless, sad.  As best as anyone has figured, heaven or not, we only get one go-around in this life.  For those fortunate to gather enough coins together to actually travel, it seems a pity not to see another corner or two of this incredibly diverse and beautiful planet on which we live!  But, that is just the opinion of one lonely traveler.  

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Would You Please Mind those British Phrases in Your American Vocabulary!

I just read a recent blog post by Maraithe Thomas, a Deputy Production Editor for the Gaurdian US -- click here to read it!

It is, as the Brits say, Brilliant!  In fact -- as someone who spends a sizable amount of time in the UK -- I remember the first time a Brit called something I did "brilliant," and thought, "Wow!, somebody finally recognizes how smart I am!" Then I heard them say the same thing about a cup of coffee!  Oh well…

But, it does go to the point of Thomas's blog post.  For Americans sympathetic to the joys and idiosyncrasies of British language and culture, one cannot help wanting to move into that space where American and English blur and where one has fun playing off the Derrida-like differences/diffĂ©rances of language, both spoken and written.

The only problem is that, once you do, you are in a very small group, as either side of the pond finds your speech odd; or, worse, they see you as a bit of a poser!

"What," they'll say, "you think you are a Brit now?"  Or, worse, "Who the hell says that?"

Well, actually, I do!  And, I enjoy it!

C'mon folks, admit it, everyday life gets a bit boring -- or at least for me it does.  So why not have a bit of fun and start mixing up expressions and trying on new words?  Why not pretend one is having a cup of tea in in Whitby, rather than drinking machine coffee in one's windowless office space?  Or here's one: drop the article "the" in front of hospital, university, grocery store and other such words that Americans love to treat as proper nouns, and see what people say!  Or, say egregious American things to Brits, like "Git r dun!" when up against a deadline that everyone is desperately trying to complete!

It's funny, or at least it is funny to me.  And if they get ticked at you, just say, "Ah mind your own language!"