Canada's Diverse? Try London.

Monday, September 26, 2005

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Written by Chantelle Petersen

While I was applying to various exchanges and considering the London Semester abroad, a friend of mine took interest in London as well. However, when she screened the idea with her parents, they thought that London would not be enough of a cultural experience. They could not be more wrong!

Though Canada is revered for being a veritable cultural mosaic, I feel that London wins the prize of diversity. It’s true that I’m not learning a language, but I’m sure that by the end of my trip I’ll have caveman capabilities in many.

In two weeks I’ve met people from more countries than I can count on my body. In fact, an Ethiopian man just interrupted my writing to enquire where I’m from and left praising my French skills. Unfortunately, the people I’ve seen the least are Brits; I was hoping to come home with a Madonna-esque accent. The Brits I have met, though, have given me some important cultural lessons. A bloke I met at Cheapskates, a bar in Soho, taught me that if you spill a drink on someone it is completely acceptable to suck the liquid from the offended party. I’m not sure if this was English tradition of if he was trying desperately to personify the name of the bar. Another rude awakening I’ve encountered was from a Parisian before he mocked my Quebecois accent (of course undetectable to me) and called me Celine. Apparently, to blow smoke in someone’s face – a motion sure to induce gagging or at least a dirty look in Canada – is a flirtations device to get someone’s attention. Arguably, it did work, but in my Celine accent I tried to explain the difference between negative and positive attention.

My Austrian friends know the difference. They flamboyantly parade themselves around the bars and throw “dance parties” in their room virtually every night. They’re also eager to teach me German phrases although I’m not sure if I trust their translations.

However, if I’m feeling apprehensive, I can call on my German friends for assurance. They’ve taught me a lot too; it IS possible to chug Jager and Tequila from the bottle with a cigarette in your mouth, and mixing alcohol is always welcome (red bull, vodka and wine, for example).

Karaoke nights give everyone a chance to practice their English and believe it or not, a Canadian comes in third for most-requested songs. Can anyone guess who it is? No? Well, after the Beatles and Bob Marley, our own Alanis Morrissette gives everyone a lesson in irony. Much like David Hasselhoff, she’s more popular in Germany than in her own country.

Apart from these lessons I’ve also found that Dutch women drink like Irish men, every foreigner wants to sound British, I shouldn’t smile during the day to anyone I don’t want to talk to and at night to anyone I don’t want to follow me home, and everyone hates Americans. This last lesson was more confirmed than learned, especially in a political discussion I had with a Palestinian who argued that, “Bush has destroyed the ‘American Dream’,” but that’s a whole other topic.

I’m sure I don’t have to offer more examples of London’s diverse culture. Foreigners are actually often frustrated that they’ve come here to learn English but are constantly finding people from their own countries. If I’ve experienced all the aforementioned people and more in two weeks time, it should be interesting to see what ten more weeks has to offer me.

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  1. Posted by: MAUSI on Oct 25, 2005 @ 12:38pm

    Cheers to FOB-LOVIN'!!!!
    YESSSSSS hit parades and dance parties!
    and did i say EXPLOSIONS!!

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