Following on from her post about Dating in Academia, Experimental Dater The Rock Chick is back with her observations on the difficulties of forging relationships abroad.
Miss Twenty-Nine xxx
Inspired by Miss29’s post about travelling, I thought I’d explore the topic GEOGRAPHY by sharing four observations of cultural differences I’ve made since living abroad. They include differences in humour, attitudes to nakedness, the advantage of novelty, and the absence of British stereotypes.
1. Sense of Humour
Is important! We Brits are notorious for having an exceptionally dry sense of humour, including the use of sarcasm, irony, and self-deprecation. For me, it is critical that someone finds me funny… whether I am or not! And it turns out it’s not just the Americans who don’t always “get” British humour.
The Swiss (at least those in the German-speaking part, where I live) have a habit of taking everything I say literally… literally (speaking of word games…).
Humour in German certainly exists, but is very different in style – largely due to the very strict constraints of word order in German sentences. So, while British humour often relies on plays on words, punch-lines are difficult when you can’t put the subject of the sentence at the end! And endlessly long compound nouns don’t lend themselves to double meanings. I did find a couple of tips from John Cleese for how to get a laugh in Switzerland but maybe I just need to find someone sufficiently naturalised to the British sense of humour…
2. The Novelty Factor
One useful thing about living abroad, however, can be termed as the ‘novelty factor’.
It is very noticeable that I attract more attention outside of the UK, particularly from the opposite sex. It’s something I’ve noticed before (for example during a stint in Denmark), and not, therefore, something specific to my current circumstance. I think it simply relates to the fact that, while I don’t fit the typical British stereotype of ‘beauty’ (for want of a better word!), that stereotype is not important outside of the UK. Being different can be attractive. Very flattering!
3. Gaydar Failure
Related to this idea of stereotypes not holding abroad, another interesting observation (to me!) is my ‘gaydar failure’. Or, if not failure, then occasional gaydar malfunction…
I’m sure everyone is familiar with the idea of a ‘gaydar’.
I’m referring more to women here, with whom I’m more familiar. I find it is no longer possible to say short hair + checked shirt + skater shoes = lesbian, for example, or more subtle variants thereof (!). Perhaps this is part of my ‘success’ in attracting guys here too. My sexuality is not prejudged by the way I look (although I am not, it has to be said, particularly ‘lesbotronic’!).
Regardless, the absence of stereotype (or at least of those that I am used to) is refreshing.
4. Attitudes to Nakedness
This final observation was stimulated by a conversation I had with an American last week, and one I have had myself, to a lesser degree, as part of a sports team.
She was telling me about Bikram Yoga (i.e. yoga in horribly hot sweaty temperatures!). In the States, she says, people in Bikram Yoga classes wear the skimpiest and most revealing clothes possible. Read: Bikram Yoga is an exercise in “seeing and being seen”. But, she went on to tell me, put these very same Americans in the changing room post-yoga and they will transform into coy, shy, self-conscious beings. Showering will take place in individual cubicles. Towels reign. No hint of flesh, or, god forbid, nipple, on display. Next, she says, contrast this with the Swiss Bikram Yoga experience. Here, in class, attendees will wear the baggiest, most comfortable clothing they can find, including occasionally seemingly impractical long shirtsleeves and loose-fitting trousers. But, in the changing room, roles are reversed… the famous ‘German attitude to nakedness’. Showering will certainly be communal, serious conversations in the nude or the norm, and towels serve their real purpose. For drying. So, truly, the inverse to the American experience. Clearly, here are two extremes on a spectrum. But I know which I prefer the idea of – being comfortable in your own skin is surely fundamental to any functioning relationship. Though I must admit, I think it will take me some time to be completely comfortable with naked conversations! (And I can guarantee you’ll never find me in a Bikram yoga class…)
Next post? Well, I’ve got a date lined up! So, let’s see…