Back online after being on the road for both personal and professional reasons. During the last few days I have travelled in Italy, the UK, the US and had the opportunity to experience some cultural shocks like I appreciate... In this post, I wanted to share with you a few signs I have bumped into, and which made me smile...
An eye on your pockets
In London, first, when walking up the street, I came across this first sign by Buckingham Palace. Having lived in several major cities, I am used to that kind of inconvenient side-effects that are called pickpockets. I touch wood, but so far my shaved and somehow tough-looking head (not to mention my prominent muscles) have managed to keep these nuisances away. Nevertheless my hears are now used the usual warning messages such as "watch your belongings", "thieves are operating in this station", etc. However, I had never come across such a sign:
Where else than in the UK could you have the humour to reverse the proposition: instead of protecting the potential victims, let's remind the criminals of their own risks... "Bad boys, bad boys, what you gonna do, when they'll come for you" says the song.
The Italian job.Next stop, Rome where I was visiting some friends who got married in the Eternal City (some pictures here). The Italian capital is not only renown for its ancient stones, its Vespas and other Fiat 500, but also for their relaxed interpretations of regulations... Note that Vespas and Fiat 500 are themselves loose interpretations of what a car and a scooter can or should be.
Anyway, walking in the narrow streets of Trastevere, a group of friends and I entered a Moroccan style shop where Shishas were at the customer's disposal on every single table. Nicely seated on cushions, you had the leisure to appreciate the subtle scents of exotic tobaccos, here with melon flavours, there with caramel hints... Comfortably installed, you could let your spirit wander alongside the smoke curls, until your eyes get in contact with the following scene:
2 years later. Same story.And finally the US... Georgia state and its big city Atlanta, or Fatlanta as some nicknamed it. A rejuvenating trip to their conference centre during which I had the chance to attend the largest employee meeting in the world with 13,500 attendees (MGX for the ones in the know). Rejuvenating because alongside the visionary presentations and inspiring speeches, we were invited to some social events which brought me back in time. I had not been in the US since 1999 and a student trip with some mates. I had not stepped in roller coasters for even longer, etc.
But what was awkward was that two years after writing my first blog post, I was facing the exact same situation which made me start this blog on the cultural differences and the funny misinterpretations that can be generated by foreign words read in your own language.Well, the US are so keen on superlatives. Everything is "the best", "the greatest", "the world #1"... that they could not avoid doing better than Marks&Spencers. The British chocolate was mini. In the US, the bite had to be perfect. Don't get it? Have a read here, but beware, you might never enjoy your chocolate sweets the same way.
Every nation has its cherished numbers. Christianity has a very peculiar relationship to 13 as it was the number of guests at the last supper of Christ. Satanists hail the triple 6. Sport fans will associate 23 to a flying deity and the 10 to either a headbutting crane, samba dancing feet or a divine arm extension. Chinese despise the number 4 but love 8. The earlier is indeed sign of bad luck, whilst the second is about abundance and prosperity. It is interesting that from an arithmetical perspective twice the evil equals happiness...
Want some funny implications of those believes? In Europe, hotels will never have a room 13 or a 13th floor to avoid any disturbance amongst the most pious customers. In Chinese countries (i.e. countries where the Chinese diaspora has a strong influence like Singapore, Taiwan, etc.) a lift would bring you straight from the 3rd to the 5th floor. No intermediary stop. And guess what? When are the Beijing Olympic Games starting? On August 8th, 08.08.08! Will they push that principle to its very limit and ignite the torch at 08:08 pm, I can only assume so.
My own 8.
Recently, I have been tagged by
- make my career evolve. First it led me to resign from my previous role as an Sr. Account Director in a web-agency by nourrishing my professional frustrations, and then it fulfilled my personal ambitions. I was indeed recruited for my current job thanks to a headhunter who found my profile on... Facebook.
- keep in touch with friends on the other side of the world, of the Channel or even of the city. RSS feeds are simply one of the greatest inventions to save time... Well yes, I am busy because of point 1.
- be live on a national TV channel in prime time for 15 minutes. A TV Producer found this blog and liked my thoughts on the Entente Cordiale and asked me pay him a visit on Sky News.
- share my "art". One of my flickr pictures has been selected to be published in a photo book to be released in September
- keep track of my running performances in a constant effort to regain my former fitness.
- bring virtuality into reality by meeting people from very diverse horizons
- watch reality becoming an astonishing virtuality through fantastic initiatives like wefeelfine.org by Jonathan Harris.
- enrich my marketing classes with videos in a vain effort to shine in front of final year business school students.
Apparently the Chinese are right, 8 is quite fulfilling... What do you think? What are your 8 digital achievments?
"My movies are very international. In Japan, Belgium or America, everyone understands a slap in the face"
Jean-Claude van Damme (1960-)
The return of the hero.
What I like about this guy is not that he can still put his feet on chairs that are two meters away from each other at almost 50. It's not either his stratospheric and metaphysical considerations about the interconnection between human beings and dolphins. It's not his capabilities to speak his very own language, a mixture of French, English and VanDammish... No, what I like about this guy is the fact that he has overcome many barriers and opinions to ultimately become an icon.
Interesting enough, for a long time, as this previous paragraph testify of it, the JCVD icon was associated with negative stereotypes. Show business, drugs, super-ego... You name it. But recently JCVD has managed to go beyond and turn this downsides into his advantage. He has for instance been doing advertising spoofing his own caricature. And now this... JCVD the film.
The virtuous and hilarious circle
I really like the way the journalist from Variety, Rob Nelson, puts it: "Incalculably superior in tone, attitude, intent, and intellect to bulk of bodybuilder vehicles...". The plot is appealing by essence as Jean-Claude Van Damme plays himself in parody biopic. Call me a cynical, but the perspective of seeing a guy taking a piss of himself can only succeed.
When I got married, the priest said to the assembly a very interesting line: "Praise the one keen to laugh about themselves, because they are not about to get bored". I think that this film is a great illustration of this as you can see on trailer: