Watching the English, Part I

Big Ben

The iconic clock tower housing Big Ben in London.

Study abroad guides and similar publications suggest that culture shock can often be worse in countries like the UK, Australia, or other English-speaking countries. Americans expect them to be similar to home because they share a common language.

I’m not ready to agree that the culture shock is worse, but it can often be more jarring, sneaking up out of nowhere to thump you on the head, simply because you aren’t expecting it to.

The following observations Read More…

Two Countries Divided by a Common Language

A view of Oxford from the Magdalen College Tower.

A view of Oxford from the Magdalen College Tower.

Thinkers from George Bernard Shaw to Oscar Wilde have mused that the United States and the United Kingdom are two nations divided by a common language.

Exploring some of the myriad differences between these two ostensibly similar countries elicits laughs on either side of the Atlantic, and the differences are something I’ve come to appreciate more and more as Amanda and I spend time in Oxford.

It’s the language, innit, mate?

My general expression when confronted with strange English words and pronunciation.

My general expression when confronted with strange English words and pronunciation.

The differences in language are sometimes very small, sometimes wildly different, and usually enough to make me feel like an American rube.

Englishmen wear “trousers” when going out — you’d better have on something more than “pants” because here those are what Americans would call “underwear.” Read More…

You Won’t Like It Here: Immigration Stories

Buckingham Palace, where the Queen runs the country using a panel of buttons and levers.

Buckingham Palace, where the Queen runs the country using a panel of buttons and levers.

When Amanda and I first landed in London in October, I steeled myself to face the notoriously strict UK Border Agency, but even after preparing myself, the experience left me mildly traumatized. The immigration official asked me more probing questions than most job and scholarship interviews I’ve completed, delving into what felt like an inexhaustible list of topics.

The official who inspected Amanda upon our initial arrival wasn’t satisfied Read More…

Link: Ted Turner’s vague, quixotic quest to save the West

The shining mountains and rolling green hills at Turner’s Flying D Ranch, located just south of Bozeman, Montana. Photo courtesy Turner Enterprises.

The shining mountains and rolling green hills at Turner’s Flying D Ranch, located just south of Bozeman, Montana. Photo courtesy Turner Enterprises.

Turner’s brand of privatization-for-preservation contradicts Montana’s hard-won land ethic

By Brent Zundel
For the Bozeman Magpie
February 25, 2014

Turner stalks the banks as he fishes a stream flowing through his property. Photo courtesy Kurt Markus, Outside Magazine.

Ted Turner fishes a stream flowing through his property. Photo courtesy Kurt Markus, Outside Magazine.

Everyone from United Nations admirers to global environmentalists lauds Ted Turner as a hero. “Last Stand,” Bozeman-based author Todd Wilkinson’s in-depth biography, subtitled “Ted Turner’s Quest to Save a Troubled Planet,” purports to delve into this “fascinating and flawed” man, but the result is more adoring prose than objective journalism.

Apart from recycling tired and easily brushed-aside criticisms of Turner’s brash “Mouth of the South” style and Montanans’ initial annoyances with him, Wilkinson’s biography does not delve deeply into Turner’s interactions with and impact on the people living in this state.

If Turner is saving the world, why then doesn’t he enjoy that unabashedly positive reputation in Montana? Read More…

Italy’s culinary capital, the oldest university in the world, and Commie agitprop: Bologna

A view of "La Rossa" from the Asinelli Tower.

A view of “La Rossa” from the Asinelli Tower.

The home of the oldest university in the world is also touted as the culinary capital of a country universally renowned for its food. Throw in centuries of left-wing agitation, and you’ve got Bologna, Italy.

A beautiful town with an expansive medieval cityscape, nicknamed “La Rossa” as much for its political leanings as for its terra cotta bricks and roof tiles, Bologna was Read More…

Florence is for Lovers

The Ponte Vecchio, the only bridge in Florence to survive World War II.

The iconic Ponte Vecchio, the only bridge in Florence to survive World War II.

Instead of dragging the reader through a play-by-play of the three days that Amanda and I spent in Florence, highlighting a few of our favorite sites and experiences should provide a window into one of my all-time favorite cities. After Naples and Pompeii, we took a high-speed train to Florence — it was a bit pricey, but the train was nicely furnished and took a mere two and a half hours.

In no particular order and certainly not in an exhaustive list, here are some of my favorite Florentine experiences.

Wandering the Streets

For some reason, Lonely Planet really lays into Florence — especially the historic city center. While the city can become hot and crowded during summer, people flock to Florence because it’s a beautiful city with a lot to offer. If anything, December was the perfect time to visit — we traded off longer daylight hours for almost no crowds or lines, while the weather hovered at a blessedly sunny and pleasantly crisp 50 degrees most days. Read More…

That’s Amore: Naples and Pompeii

Mount Vesuvius looming over the ruined city of Pompeii.

Mount Vesuvius looming over the ruined city of Pompeii.

After Rome, we were off to Naples, a city immortalized in the Dean Martin song “That’s Amore,” birthplace of pizza, and a seedy locale stereotyped as a mafia hotspot. While the Lonely Planet guidebooks generally cast a positive light on destinations they cover, they don’t mince words introducing Naples, describing it as “a raucous hell-broth of a city.”

We took a dusty regional train south from Rome through the dry, Mediterranean hillsides of Southern Italy. As embarrassing as admitting this apparently should be — based on the expressions of the Europeans I later told this to — this was my first time on a train. Read More…

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