Sunday, October 09, 2005

Ahhh, the culture gap

One of my favorite things about being here is the international character of Oxbridge and Camford. In my flat alone, we have people from Scotland, England, Northern Ireland, Nigeria, China and the United States. Our graduate group at my college includes students from Belarus, Canada, South Africa, Australia and Malaysia.

This diversity can lead to unforgettable encounters -- although not always the kind you anticipate. The candid, straightforward mannerisms of Germans can be difficult to process, particularly in a matter-of-fact conversation like the one Coalescent Boy and I had last night:

Hans: So, you want to study in South America?

Me: Yep. (Launch into brief explanation of planned work)

Hans: I was in Bolivia last year. And, ja, my friends and I bought some cocaine, you know? But I did not realize they don't like that at home; I guess it's illegal to bring it back. And the customs, ja, they were really angry.

Ja, you don't say?? I'm trying to picture Hans in the customs line declaring his imports: a handmade rug, a few paintings and an ounce of cocaine. They must have been so stymied that they didn't know what to do with him -- or he's really, really good at getting out of sticky situations and I should hire him immediately to help me out at Cambridge.

No comments: