Friday, 22 January 2010

A confession

I’m going to put my hands up to making a very basic error, and one that has taken me over two years to realise.

When I visited Swansea back in August 2007 I went for the afternoon to Carmarthen. Part of the reason for going was to look at the castle, because I had heard lots of people going on about how good the castle was.

I didn’t think much of it, all there appeared to be were a couple of walls and a small bit of rampart. I thought I must have missed some really big site (to be fair I had already been to Kidwelly castle that day, and had to get back to Swansea to pick up my luggage and the train home, so I didn’t have lots of time to investigate.)

It was only with the planning of my current trip to Holyhead that it suddenly dawned on me that rather than Carmarthen castle people might have been talking about Caernarfon castle.

And yes, Caernarfon castle is spectacular.

To paraphrase a well respected Russian – Aleksandr Orlov
Carmarthen, Caernarfon, don’t even sound the same, Simples!

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Sunday, 15 March 2009

My good Spanish better get no!

Despite knowing no more than a handful of words in Spanish I have managed over the last couple of days to successfully purchase (in increasing difficulty)

  • Stamps for some postcards back to the UK
  • Train tickets for a day trip to Almeria
  • Coach tickets through an automated ticket machine at the bus station

I would like to claim this is because of a fast mastery of the language, but it isn’t.

The stamps were got by taking my postcards to the counter, stumbling through a phrase from the phrase book and being reduced to a polite Si, when asked, in flawless English, if I wanted stamps for these three postcards back to the UK

The train tickets were purchased through the judicious use of making a note of the train times and service numbers in both directions, the date of travel and then a combination of bad stumbling through phrase book and the use of small slip of paper with aforementioned times and dates on it (along with an arrow in both directions to show that I wanted to come back as well).

The coach tickets I was most impressed with myself, as I didn’t see any English, and didn’t use the phrasebook. Instead I copied exactly what the previous three people in the queue had done and hoped.

I made it all the way to Jaén and back, with my tickets being inspected, so I either did it correctly, or got it so spectacularly wrong that everyone decided to take pity on me (and then have a dam good laugh about it later!)

So to all the people of Andalucía that I have caught up in my bumbling, apologies and thank you, and to all those Brits who wonder why they are disliked for talking slowly and loudly in English to be understood, you don’t need to. Just a bit of prime Boris Johnson bumbling and you can get by just fine!

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Sunday, 3 August 2008

And this is the reason why everyone hates the Brits!

Before finally dropping off to sleep last night I overheard the guy in the room next door on his phone to friends (I would assume) back in the UK. He was, by his accent, from Manchester, but the views he espoused were similar to those I have seen from a number of Brits abroad.

He felt the area around Interlaken was not a very friendly place as they spoke German at you and that when he tried to make them speak English they would get rude.

Now, forgive me if I am wrong here, but Interlaken is in the German speaking part of Switzerland, and therefore the language they will naturally greet anyone (who they don’t know the nationality of) will be in German.

Of course the easiest way to deal with these natives who don’t realise “we beat them in the war” (small note of historical accuracy, Switzerland was neutral throughout both World Wars, but don’t let the facts stand in the way of a good rant) is to speak LOUDLY and S L O W L Y to them as everyone can understand English the louder and slower you speak it. It’s a known fact that in their everyday dealings the rest of the world speaks English, it’s only when tourists are nearby that they swap into their “funny lingo”

I won’t even go into the casual racism that he then descended into in describing the other tourists in the region, other than to point out that Interlaken has an international appeal and visitors from most parts of the globe, as well as a resident population drawn from a wide variety of nationalities.

His final closing comments were “I don’t know why they don’t like the Brits, We won the war, we gave them our language, what more do they want”.

It could always have been an elaborate hoax or wind-up down the phone to a friend, but the way in which it was delivered, and the tone in the voice, suggested that these were his actual views as if he was warning friends to avoid this bit of Switzerland.

I’m sure he is also exasperated when the annual surveys come out and rank the British as one of the least liked groups of tourists around.

Personally, I’m surprised that we don’t come top.

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