Norway (Valuable reservedness)
Norwegians are rather reserved by nature. This can also be beneficial, as the following example proofs.
We rented a holiday-cottage from an agency. As we wanted to arrive two days early, we phoned the owners. Each time we rang them, they replaced the handset already before we even had the chance to explain ourselves. Maybe they didn’t speak English or German well, so we tried again with an SMS. Immediately, and in surprisingly good English, we got the reply that this was all right. Besides, we were being asked, whether we intend to do the final cleaning by ourselves or not?
We didn’t react on that question, as we thought we can sort it out later in person. They had placed the key, a posy and a plate with fresh fruit on the table. However, apart from an SMS, wishing us a nice stay, we didn’t see and hear anything from them. We didn’t even get an answer, after we requested via SMS, how much the additional nights cost, and whether we shall meet to pay for it. While joking, whether they let us stay for free, rather than meeting us for the payment, the phone rang. A lady from the agency enquired whether we have an argument with the owners who live nearby. It seemed weird to her, that she – in Oslo - was asked to query us, whether we do the final cleaning ourselves?
Sweden (nobody ever complained…)
Less than five minutes after sorting that out, we received an SMS from the owners. We were informed that we don’t need to pay for the additional nights. Furthermore, we were asked to send an SMS, just AFTER our departure; most probably to let them know, when the coast is clear again...
Our room at a naturist club-ground in Sweden was equipped with a small kitchen, but if we wanted to use a baking oven, we had to go to the camper’s kitchen next door. Though, the stove looked quite new, it took ages until the oven got hot. As we lamented with other guests in the kitchen, a Dutchman mentioned that the stove’s ceramic hobs were equally slow in heating. As Heinz, he too used to work as electrician and after rough examination of the stove, they concluded that it must be wrongly joined to the power supply. After informing the caretaker Inge, the problem was fixed within 10 minutes. An astounded Inge explained that a professional company had revised and re-connected that stove TWO YEARS ago. He couldn’t believe that nobody ever complained, not even those who baked fresh bread twice a week! Well, he paused for a moment, and then remembered that one person actually did; but it was a notorious moaner, so Inge didn’t take him serious...
Sweden (The devil’s semi-luxury products)
According to the town’s website, Karlshamn must have been “the devil’s workshop” some 100 years ago. It produced large quantities of alcoholic drinks, punch, tobacco and snuff. On top of it; almost all game cards used in Sweden, were printed here.
As the Swedes don’t communicate too straightforward, but rather diplomatic, Karlshamns town-hall took into consideration that most of the non-Scandinavian Tourists are Germans. Apparently, some have a tendency to overdo it a bit, when it comes to alcohol- and tobacco-consumption. What the English version of their Website translates as „The Devil’s workshop“ and the Dutch as „De werkplaats van de duivel“ is in the German version, belittled to something equivalent of : “early manufacturing of semi luxury products” (frühe Herstellung von Genussmitteln)…
Greenland (Shit collection)
At the youth-hostel in Qeqertarsuaq, we experienced what every Greenlandic household north of Ilulissat has to cope with: a dry closet. In a country, where the rocky ground is frozen for 8-9 months a year, it’s difficult to deal with water- and sewage pipes. Therefore, northern Greenland has not only dust-men collecting household garbage, but also shit-men collecting the people's “droppings” that are put in special yellow bags deposited in front of the colourful houses!
Grönland (Perimeter advertising boards)
Qeqertarsuaq is a rather sleepy fishing village that isn’t spoilt by Tourism. Just two days prior our arrival, a big event was held in that small village: the Greenlandic soccer championship. The perimeter advertising boards were still in place. They were quite different to those the world is used to, as the advertisements were handwritten on coloured cardboard. Then they were put up on wooden boards around the dusty lot that was the site of the championship by the sea.
Spain (Spanisch times)
One warm summer night, while we were sitting on our terrace at the Spanish nudist resort Natsun at half past midnight, we heard some noise from the rooftop terrace of our neighbours (who weren’t there then). After seeing a man screwing on the TV antenna, we shouted at him and asked what his justification is? He calmly replied that he is adjusting the antenna. Brave and stark naked as she was, Brigitte immediately went up to the rooftop to chase him away, as she didn’t believe him at all. Heinz thought that a gang is maybe using a dirty trick to distract us, so he first moved everything of value, from the terrace into our apartment and locked it properly, before helping Brigitte hunting the suspicious intruder.
To Brigitte’s big surprise, the man didn’t even attempt to escape. Instead he had a Laptop connected to the antenna and insisted that he is the urbanisations TV technician who got the order to adjust the antenna, as TV reception in some apartments wasn’t as good as it should be. When asked why he is doing this job after midnight, he introduced himself as Christobal and replied: “I’m a naturist as well and prefer to spend the day on the beach. Now it’s simply too hot to work during the day”. Brigitte wasn’t fully convinced, but next morning Jan, Natsun’s owner, confirmed that it is quite possible, that Christobal works in the middle of the night on the rooftop.
Our meal with friends in a Gault Millau rewarded restaurant was appreciated by all but Brigitte. She was very, very annoyed as this gourmet temple served her garlic-mayonnaise in an ashtray! Only a few weeks later, over the border in Spain, we sighted “that yellow ashtray” again and again; sold as a serving dish mainly for Ali-Oli (garlic-mayonnaise)!
Japan (ice tea)
A drink dispenser was situated inside our Ryokan (Japanese Guesthouse) and Heinz opted for what he thought is a refreshing ice tea in a can. However, what came out was a sizzling hot can and Heinz brought it right up to reception to inform them, that the dispenser machine must have some malfunction.
The owner only looked at him and replied a bit puzzled: “this must be a hot tea!” He asked him whether he chose the can from the red or blue section and now we learned that in Japan these clever machines are able to dispense hot and cold drinks…
Australia (Kangaroo tail ...)
While we were checking in at the Motel in Halls Creek, which had a large Aboriginal community, we watched an Aboriginal taking an ice-cream and a frozen Kangaroo tail out of the same freezer and asking for the price. The Thai lady that was a new employee at the counter, looked at him in disbelief and asked: "really, you want to buy this?" Then she looked at us, smiling all over her face. Then the Manager (from Monaco) arrived and explained to her, that this was a standard item, selling for 10 dollars. Well, the customer found this was too dear and handed the furry tail to the Thai lady, who almost didn't want to touch it, until the Manager told her to put it back into the ice-cream freezer.
Later, we saw two local foodstores selling the same item for $ 7 - 9, depending on its size. Obviously, in the outback white people have adapted to the local habits and demands of the indigenous population.
Palau (Ingredients from the island!)
On Angaur island we got a whole house by the beach to ourselves, and as there was no restaurant, we could order meals that were cooked by the owners. Initially, we were told that the meals were being cooked with ingredients available on the island and naively, we meant to have heard "ingredients from the island". So, we secretly hoped for some local food.
But after getting boiled sausages and army-biscuits for breakfast, we realized our misinterpretation. Soon we knew that the only thing we would get fresh, were fish and crab - if someone caught any. Everything else was imported. After a boat had called in the next day, our nutrition got healthier and improved even more after a full moon night made it almost too easy to catch crab. So, about a dozen landcrab and a delicious coconut-crab landed on our plate.
Australia (Bring our own plates ...)
On Christmas day, the members of River Valley Naturist Club invited to a communal lunch under the shady trees. We and also the other tourists, which came from America, run into a bit of a cultural misunderstanding there. As we were told to bring our own plates, we thought we contribute with two loafs of freshly baked bread, which we did in the morning, believing everyone else would also bring some food to share. But there we were, with our empty plates, soon realizing, it was meant like "bring your own and eat your own". Never mind, we started to distribute our bread anyway, it would have been far too much for us and then we took some cheese out of our fridge to fill our empty plates... On the other end of the table, we saw the Americans feasting on 30 satay-sticks, accompanied only by a slice of bread.
Guided by a good weather forecast, we went to the Okanagan Valley. And really, in Kelowna, we got temperatures over 30 degrees Celsius, whilst it was rainy in many other areas.
We found Kelowna's nude beach where a sign clearly marked, that dogs had to be kept on lashes and that nudity was not allowed! Ironically, 50 meters past that sign, all dogs roamed freely and all sunbathers were in the buff!!! So we didn't worry and simply joined the other illiterates.
At breakfast, Heinz got his butter and bread served, but no jam. So he was asking for it. The waitress asked, whether it should big or small...Heinz was puzzled, but decided a small one would do...he got a Chang, a small bottle of Beer Chang!
Vietnam (Latex knickers)
For those who liked or needed to dress-up, the most elegant suits could be ordered at very cheap prices. Heinz tried to order a casual airy type of shorts, but got stuck in cultural misunderstanding. Not that the Lady, that took his measurements, wouldn't have understood his English well enough. And not that Heinz wouldn't have said clearly and many times over, how wide he wanted the shorts to be...
As all over Asia, cloths are meant to cover everything, never the less, figure-hugging. So that Lady just couldn't imagine, that he really wanted shorts so loose and what he got, fit almost as a pair of Latex knickers...
Asia (WC in sign-language)
Not all Asians are speaking a language, which we do understand as well and so, sign-language always helps.
However, Brigitte felt embarrassed, when Heinz tryed to find out the way to the toilet, went in his knees, supposedly showing in the middle of the restaurant, how he wanted to put his trousers down. So, she asked him, to do it on a more discrete way and for example, indicate with his hands that he wanted to wash them. Unfortunately, this diplomatic version went completely wrong, as he was sent to the sink in the restaurants kitchen...
Hungary (everything deep fried)
We like to eat well but we were disappointed when we ordered a filet "Vienna Style", and got a little brown thing which had been a nice piece of filet before it was hammered, bread crumbed and deep-fried ! We felt sorry for the meat. In general, all fish, even the best, was deep fried aswell!
After we had just moved in to our apartment in Aphrodite Village, where we wanted to stay for 6 weeks, we were surprised to see Helen and Remy sitting on a bench just in front of our patio. They congratulated us on the good location, because, in their 15 years holiday experience here, the've found it to be one of the best - sheltered from the wind and very sunny. It's their favorite Spot just before sunset.
"How did you manage to get this apartment?" they asked.It was just good luck. The lady from the rental agency gave it to us when we booked it in April. Helen and Remy were convinced that we searched for this excellent location with an Anemometer!
After a nice evening meal in Vallon Pont d'Arc:
Waiter to Heinz: "Je vous offre un Digestif".
Heinz to Brigitte: "I don't understand 'Digestif'!"
Brigitte: "Something for digestion".
Heinz to Waiter: "Une Boule de sorbet de pommes s.v.pl."
The waiter looked quite perplexed, then he laughed; he rather thought a Cognac...
Austria (Gracious Mr. Professor)
In Switzerland we are constantly amused by the Austrian's enthusiasm for grand titles. In a pub, we asked for a room. The waiter said: "You have to ring at the back door and ask the Gracious Mr. Professor!.
Brigitte was touring around with our Austrian friend, Gusti. There was a ad on a factory wall "Echte Glarner Chämi Salami" - Authentic, Glarner-Style, chimney-smoked salami. Gusti asked: "What is Chemiesalami ???" (Chemical Salami)