Travel observations from a writer

So someone really thought through this design…

This post is a variation of one I just wrote for my life blog (http://littlewhitetruthsblog.blogspot.com.au/2014/06/little-white-travel-truths-and-quirks.html), but I’ve re-cast it from a writer’s perspective.

As a writer, one of your tasks is to observe – whether with an objective eye or with a subjective one (when you’re writing from the perspective of a particular character).

I’ve been fortunate enough to have done a good deal of travelling – fortunate in the sense that this is where most of my disposable income has gone in the past, and I don’t regret it. As part of these travels I’ve lived for a few months in Florence, Italy; Seville, Spain; and New York, Yemen (had you there for a second…; ) ). My husband and I also migrated to Berlin for just shy of two years at the beginning of 2012 and returned to Melbourne in late 2013. Over my travels I’ve noticed various quirks about different countries – including my own – and I wanted to share them. I’d be excited if anyone wants to add to the comments below about their own travel observations. They always make me smile, and please note: they’re meant well and not meant to be taken the wrong way!

Also, if I’m lucky, some of the observations below might be useful to fellow writers and spark off some ideas about content to include in their own writing. That would be really cool : )

The list!

Nowhere else in the world does washing strung high between windows look so amazing as it does in Italy.

Greece: I totally agree that a large bottle of beer should cost less than a small bottle of water.

Laughter sounds the same in every language.

Dear Germany: there’s more to life than potato and sausage.

Dear Australia: There is no need to treat your citizens like two-year-old children and over-regulate to the point where breathing the wrong way may soon be a punishable offence (which of course will carry an extortionate fine that most of us can’t afford to pay).

If we all smiled as much as the locals in Thailand, the world would be a happier place.

Mexico… Where every salt shaker is filled with salt, and every pepper shaker is too.

The Swiss embarrass me. They speak better English than I do.

German is a useful language when one is in a foul mood.

Egypt: I get that tipping is standard when you provide good service in restaurants. I’m not sure the same applies when you remove all the toilet paper from the cubicles in public bathrooms and then hand it to me in scrunched bundles, expecting payment for this ‘service’.

So Canada… What’s with the gross yellow cheese? You know that’s not the only cheese on the planet, right?

Melbourne: Where you can get off a train at a station you don’t know, in an area you don’t know, and yet be certain that decent coffee is a stone’s throw away.

Italy, I like your style. Smoking in underground train stations might be illegal but when people do it anyway, ‘eh’ is a great response.

Um, Germany… For all the hoo-hah about the brilliance of German design, you do realise that your traffic lights are placed in such a way that you can’t actually see them unless you bend over your steering wheel, cock your head and peer upwards, right?

Having said that, dear Germany – I LOVE your autobahns. Please publicise to the world (and particularly to my own dumbarse country) that you have one of the lowest road tolls on the planet. Speed limits do not always mean safety.

Oh Australia, I am happy to drive at 40km per hour in school zones. I am not happy to do same for phantom roadworks.

You learn things when you travel. Like snow really does fall on beaches. And Texans really do speak and act as they do in films. And even the smallest country town has an Italian restaurant, a Chinese one and an Irish pub.

Hi Mexico, just a suggestion – not every dish has to be drowned in condiments. If I order meat, I want to taste meat – not a gluggy, soupy mass of seven or more unidentifiable sauces.

So, um, America… Portion sizes, obesity… Yeah? Speak to the French for more information.

Dear Europe: Light switches should be placed just inside the room you intend to illuminate, not in random positions in the room outside it.

Dear Europe 2: I love the large bathrooms you have in many of your hotels, really I do. So luxurious, so much space – I could play mini golf in some of them. Do you not think, however, that the showers could be enlarged at least slightly? As it stands, I don’t have enough room to wash my hair without smashing my elbows on the shower screen. And I often accidentally turn the tap off with my arse when I bend down to pick up the shampoo. Not ideal.

G’day Australia, I’ve been thinking – if you want your citizens to prosper, perhaps you might consider reducing your prices so we can all afford to eat? And speeding/parking fines shouldn’t bring one to the point of bankruptcy. Just a thought.

So Belgium… What’s with the local attitude? Are you still p*ssed over the fact that the French claimed fries as their own?

‘Ladies and gentlemen, our sincere apologies for the delay in opening the boarding gates. However the hostess tells me that you are all on board and seated and your luggage is correctly stowed, so we can in fact leave 20 minutes early.’ (Christ I love Germans.)

Hi again Mexico, another suggestion: If you’d like to solve your traffic problems, you might consider introducing rules and actually enforcing them.

Dear Western Europe: Why can’t I ask for a glass of tap water with my meal? I mean, what’s the problem? Do I need to pay for air too? And can’t I just use a public toilet without paying for it? Please???

Dear Eastern Europe: Thank you for giving me tap water with my meal without me having to ask for it. And for not charging me to use public bathrooms. I love you.

Oh Australia and your over-regulated ridiculousness, the whole cigarette plain packaging thing didn’t really work out, did it? You turkeys.

Asia… I thank you from the bottom of my heart for bringing us some of the best cuisines on the planet. I have to ask though, what’s with the desserts? Is bean curd flan really such a good idea? Really???

South America, I ask you kindly to please reconsider your bus system. Tiny two-way lanes high up on mountains, paved in gravel and with no lighting, and crazy drivers doing crazy turns at night are not a good mix. I do rather like travelling with cages full of chickens though.

Someone seriously needs to explain to the Germans that a coffee is not a jug-sized cup of boiled foam.

Attention: India and France. Please learn how to queue.

Turkey… Why do you get angry when I want to pay in your national currency? I’m not European and I don’t want to pay in Euro. Thank you.

If Italy and Greece can’t stick to timetables for public transport, why have them at all? What a waste of paper.

 

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