Daily Archives: November 17, 2008

Things I’ve Learned From Foreigners

Over the past few months living with the model UN I’ve picked up a thing or two.  The following is a brief list of what I’ve learned from my roommates.

1.  In Italian, French, and Swedish there is no word for ‘spooning’.  (Sort of cuddling sleeping position for those unfamiliar.)  However, in Dutch there is a phrase for spooning, but it involves saying ‘little spoon’ twice.  In order to remedy this problem for the Italians, French and Swedish I’ve learned how to say “I like to spoon” in each language and say it as often as possible.  I hope it catches on.  

2.  I’ve learned some curse words in Italian, complete with hand gestures.  My Swedish curse word lessons begin next week after the Italian has sunk in and I get the hand gesture right.

3.  Montreal is an island.  Seriously, did other people know this???  I heard this from my French Canadian roommate and did not believe him.  I went straight to google maps and found out that Montreal is in fact an island.

4.  The Dutch sing a lot.  My roommate from Holland has had two different groups of friends visit on separate occasions and they are always singing.  They aren’t singing along to music or the words to any known song, they are singing about what they’re doing.  I kept trying to think if my friends sing this much together.  I think mostly we sing in the back of taxi’s when a good song comes on.  

5.  Danishes in Denmark are called wienerbrød.  That would be just silly to call them a danish.

6.  Italian mothers don’t send cookies.  They send jars of pasta sauce and blocks of cheese.  I believe my Italian roommate, Giulia, is working her way through 6 jars of pesto at the moment.

7.  Since there is no Thanksgiving in Denmark, Christmas starts the first of November.  The entire city is decorated and Christmas markets opened November 14th.  

8.  Christmas beverages are big in Europe.  Did you know there are special Christmas colas?  They don’t just slap a santa claus on the packaging, the whole product is different.  There is also Christmas beer and a warm Christmas wine like drink.  I’m skeptical of the warm wine, but my Swedish roommate’s mom sent her some so I will have to try it.  In return everyone here is going to try the eggnog I make.  (I found Martha Stewart’s recipe online. . . more than half is bourbon and rum. . . Martha’s a little boozehound. . . probably developed the habit in the slammer.)

9.  If they don’t understand you say it louder and slower.  We’ve had a few miscommunications.  Sometimes it’s hard to find the right english word when translating from a person’s original language.  Sometimes the english equivalent doesn’t exist.  My Italian roommate was asking about the english word for a barley drink that is warm.  I didn’t of one, but she continued to repeat “B-A-R-L-E-Y” slower and louder until I said “T-H-A-T’S not H-E-L-P-I-N-G.  I don’t think we have that product in the US.”  

10.  One of the dutch visitors was talking about the red light district in Amsterdam.  She was looking for the right word to describe the problem that still exists with human-trafficking.  She used “They bring the women here to play hooker”.  I was pretty sure she wasn’t talking about a board game.

11.  Things are just smaller in Europe.  Stores, cars, streets, food quantities, ovens. . . My Danish family ordered a turkey for when my American family is here for Thanksgiving.  We normally get a bird that is at least 20 pounds. . . so about 10 kg.  My Danish family didn’t think a bird that size would fit in their over.  I agreed.  Ovens are totally tiny here.  If you tried to stick your head in the oven I don’t think you’d have much luck.  This year we will have to eat a svelte bird of only 14 kg.  

I am sure there will be more – I’ll keep adding to the list.  But so far I’m feeling good about learning curse words, hand gestures, and how to decipher cryptic language.  You know . . . the really important stuff.