I usually get slated for these rants and for some stupid reason they also attract more page views than my proper travel articles on backpacking through Uzupis, crossing the border into Honduras and touring waterfalls in Guyana. But whatever, here’s another random rant for you…
“One man’s freedom fighter is another’s terrorist” – Bobby Gillespie
One thing that annoys me about some other travellers, travel gurus, wannabe Guru Gods, liars, fakes, phonies and other bloggers is this “immerse yourself in local culture bullshit” we hear. I met a girl in Poland last month “I love to go to places to immerse myself in local culture.” “What do you mean?” I asked her “Meet the locals, try the food, see the architecture etc.”. Conversation ended soon after. Bored, as if culture has to be “local”, as if eating a pizza in Italy makes you more “cultured” than the guy who didn’t try pizza in Italy. What if he watched an Italian football match and you didn’t? Oh shit suddenly you’re not cultured anymore, better take one more walk round Venice avoiding other tourists just to make sure. Bollocks to that.
Basically the reason I hate this ridiculous assumption that you have to live with a local family to “really see the country” or “try the local food” or “spend a month in a village in the middle of nowhere”. It’s bulldog and you know it. How to see local culture when you go somewhere? Culture is everywhere, everyday, everything. Right now – look around you – that’s fucking culture so it is.
“You’re shit and you know you are” – every football league club’s fans to the other team in the 1990s.
For me, everything is culture, some of it is local, some of it is not local. It’s culture. You don’t do “x” activity on a city or eat “y” food in a country or spend “z” years in a region to know the culture. You can get the culture in a second, in a moment, in a minute, in an hour, in a day, in a month, in a year, in a decade. It’s all culture. I experience culture all day everyday on my travels. Most of it is local culture. These instances are all local culture:
– talking to a local
– living with a local
– buying food in a shop
– eating in a cafe or restaurant
– drinking in a bar
– crossing the road (different cultures in different countries/cities)
– crossing a border
– watching football
– getting a hair cut
– kissing a local lady
– singing karryboaky
These are some cool examples of local culture:
– A man collecting rubbish
– Tramps doing drugs
– Murders on side streets
– Loyalist wall murals of terrorists
– Bank robberies
– Getting your willy randomly cylinderically moved in a massage parlour
(but you didn’t go backpacking writing about drugs did you? No, you took a photo of a Cathedral and talked to a “local person” who immersed you in local culture)
“Heroes in a halfshell; turtle power” – 1980s cartoons.
So anyone who wants to immerse themselves in local culture, here are some ways to really see local culture it in my homeland of Northern Ireland:
– throw a petrol bomb at the peelers and shout “Yeeooo!”
– become a joyrider for a night
– paint a mural with guns glorifying murders
– set fire to a flag because you’re a racist
– drink vodka with the KGB in Moscow
– join the Taliban in Kabul
Not so keen now folks are we?
The only thing that means you see different culture is by moving to places.
OK, here are TWO scenarios for you, which person is more “cultured”? (answer at bottom of post):
PERSON 1 – Louise is a cool backpacking chick from eastern Guatemala. She spends a month with a local family in outback England. She speaks a bit of English, she gets to try Yorkshire Puddings (with gravy), watch English football on the Box, post a letter with the Queen’s head on the stamp, spend British pounds and go shopping in ASDA (which incidentally is owned by the USA).
PERSON 2 – Jimmy is a rock n roll star on tour, he hails from the town of Shangrao in China. He spends an hour and twenty three minutes at the airport in Los Angeles where he has time for a McDon’tald’s (DickMonalds) Big Mac meal and a pint in the airport bar where he meets a cool ex-Vietnam War veteran. They speak in English the whole time and spend US Dollars.
In travel, nobody is better, nobody is worse, we are all human. Everything that is human on this planet is culture. Yes, even McDon’talds and Ratsbux.
“The guy in the butcher’s shop can be rock’n’roll” – Liam Gallagher.
When I travel, I prefer to leave the airport and train station for culture somewhere else, but then I’d lose the experience of airport culture. Also local airport culture.
Sleep tight and travel in peace my friends.
ANSWER – Both are as cultured as each other. There is no winner. They are both cool humans enjoying culture on this beautiful planet. However, in my experience person 1 will look down on person 2 as if they’re less cultured or human. They’re not. Nobody wins or loses. Everyone’s a winner baby.
“D’you know what I mean, yeah yeah yeah?” – Noel Gallagher.
“Culture sucks down words, itemise loathing and feed yourself smiles” – Richey James Edwards.