The 700th Post: A guide to some of the world’s peoples

At last, I have reached this new milestone – the 700th post on the blog, though it is musch later than I ever envisaged. As is my habit, I thought this particular entry should again by marked by something memorable. As I was wracking my considerable brains towards this, I suddenly recalled this charming little ditty by the Kingston Trio.

As is the mark of any significant work, it is still relevant in the present time – more than half a century since it was written (of course with a few small changes). Let me share it with you…

They’re rioting in Africa
They’re starving in Spain
There’s hurricanes in Florida
And Texas needs rain.

The whole world is festering
With unhappy souls
The French hate the Germans,
The Germans hate the Poles

Italians hate Yugoslavs
South Africans hate the Dutch
And I don’t like anybody very much

But we can be grateful
And thankful and proud
That man’s been endowed
With a mushroom shaped cloud

And we know for certain
That some happy day
Someone will set the spark off
And we will all be blown away

They’re rioting in Africa
There’s strife in Iran
What nature doesn’t do to us
Will be done by our fellow man.

From these happy thoughts, let us move to the reason for all this and give me an opportunity to exhibit my didactic nature.

In my opinion, most of this discordance is because of lack of knowledge of all other cultures. It has always been my policy to help bridge the gaps by seeking to know more and more about other cultures and enable you all to know it too. “I am a man and nothing pertaining to mankind is alien to me”, said a Roman poet/philosopher (You can thank your stars that I’m too tired to give it to you in the original Latin).  So in this purpose, and in a format you all will find easy to comprehend here is a brief nugget of information about some peoples. culled from the indispensable “Xenophobes’ Guides…”

Let us begin alphabetically……

AMERICANS:  Always aim to win – Winning is central to the American psyche. As American football coach Vince Lombardi put it, ‘Winning isn’t everything. It’s the only thing’. Virtually every event in American life, from school graduation to marriage to buying an automobile, is structured so that one party wins, or at least comes out looking better than any of the other participants.

AUSTRALIANS:  Logic down under – Aussies will twist any statistics to their own ends. One statistic doing the rounds was that 40% of drivers in accidents had been drinking. Since this left 60% of drivers who hadn’t had a drop, but who still had accidents, it must obviously be safer to drink and drive.

AUSTRIANS: Kitschy, kitschy, koo -Home life for the Austrians is a never-ending quest for Gemütlichkeit or cosiness, which is achieved by accumulating objects that run the gamut from the pleasingly aesthetic to the mind-blowingly kitsch.

BELGIANS: We’re on the map – The Belgians would be very happy indeed if all the world knew them to be good-natured, tolerant, individualistic, self-assertive, modest, moderate, and the embodiment of European ideals. This is a long-term project. Meanwhile being placed somewhere on the map of Europe will do.

CANADIANS: On a clear day you can see forever – Having so much land has a great effect on the character, customs and culture of the nation. Take, for example, the prairies. The plains of Canada stretch out endlessly. The flattest spot in the world can be found here, with nary a tree to obstruct the view, which leaves the prairie observer with a remarkably huge view of nothing. In Saskatchewan it is said that you can watch your dog running away for three days.

DANES: Combined forces – Danes co-operate. Lego comes from the Danish words leg godt which means ‘play well’, and this is just what the Danes are good at. They get along well with other people. In any brochure translated for the world market, the word ‘co-operation’ will appear at least three times per page along with a generous sprinkling of ‘joint ventures’.

DUTCH: Double Dutch – For the Dutch, the other side of the question is as important as the question itself. Dialogue is the lubricant of tolerance, and the essential ingredient of dialogue is ‘Yes, but…’.

ENGLISH: Irrational rationality – The English can admire something without enjoying it, or enjoy something they suspect is fundamentally reprehensible. You can never be sure which stance they are going to take – the reassuringly reasonable, or the wildly irrational.

FRENCH: Dress for power – French politicians look smart because power itself is chic, attractive, seductive, and one should dress to look the part. The French electorate would never allow any government to intervene in their lives if it were shabbily dressed.

GERMANS: Longer must be better – Most Germans apply the rule that more equals better. If a passing quip makes you smile, then surely by making it longer the pleasure will be drawn out and increased. As a rule, if you are cornered by someone keen to give you a laugh, you must expect to miss lunch and most of that afternoon’s appointments.

HUNGARIANS: Gloom and doom – With Hungarians, pessimism is a state of mind. They are happy to cultivate this gloomy view: as they put it, ‘An optimist is a person who is poorly informed’. Hungarians are realists: in their folk-tales they live happily ‘until they die’, not happily ‘ever after’.

And here to lets break the ranks, and accomodate two more vital nations:

JAPANESE: Haiku IQ – The quintessence of unspoken mutual understanding is to be found in the word yoroshiku: ‘You have understood what I want you to do. I have understood that you have understood what I want you to do. Therefore I leave it up to you to finish the task and I expect it to be done in the way I want it to be done. And I thank you for understanding me and agreeing to take the trouble to do the task.’ All this in four syllables.

RUSSIANS: Getting pickled – A Russian who has not pickled at least a hundred kilos of cucumbers, green tomatoes and peppers, plus a barrel of cabbages, will be looked upon with pity and compassion: he must either be ill or too lazy.

To be continued…..

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