Holidays are a strange affair. I’ve just got back from Switzerland which was lovely! we had a great time, spent most of the week unwinding and relaxing, but by the end of the week there was a desire to come home.
Not that I want to be ungrateful for the trip away. Actually it was wonderful and I would love to go again. but I think there is a finite amount of time that one can spend abroad before wanting to return to our own culture.
I guess ultimately we are creatures of habit and we like to be in the familiar, to have those we know and whose reactions we can better gauge around us.
While we were in Switzerland I took a trip to the shop in the village where we were staying which was in a German speaking part of the country. the lady running the store was really nice but I was SO ashamed that I could not speak her language. I ddin’t even know enough to apologies for not speaking german.
I am not fluent in any language but I can get by in French and when I was in Kazakhstan I had enough Russian not buy supplies and to apologies that I couldn’t do much else!
I find that inability to communicate really difficult. Not just embarrassing but an obvious barrier. I like to talk, I like to engage with people and where I can I like to make people smile. All of this was impossible in a country where I had no useful language to communicate in!
Add to that the cultural differences we encounter when we travel and it becomes a mine filed.
Once, while I was at Vicar Factory in Bristol I made a joke when introducing myslef at a whole collage meeting. Because of my name I said “Hi, My name is Ali I am the college’s token Muslim student” it got a laugh and I thought nothing more of it until some months later when a Korean student rather timedly asked me if I really was a Islamic!
You see humour is, I believe, at least for the English (British?) a vital componant in our linguistic toolbox. Humour however does not cross borders well. This can be tricky when it forms such an important part of our cultural make up. Years ago when I was doing cross-cultural studies we were told that you could judge yourself fluent in a language when you could not only understand jokes, but tell them too. Presumably if you also find them funny you have REALLY arrived.
Take that skill away and you can be left feeling isolated and alone.
Perhaps that is one of the reasons, though we enjoy holiday’s we are more-often-than-not also relieved to return home.
Britain may have its problems, it may not really know it’s own identity at the moment. But it is home. I love to travel, but I love to come home too!