The recent incident involving Ms. Winfrey in Switzerland is, in my humble opinion, a striking case of a person who reads a situation from behind the lenses of her home culture, while she is 6,000 miles from home, in a place inhabited by people with a very different culture.
As a result of that trip, I published a photo essay of Saint Petersburg historical center and a tip-post on a good budget hotel.
In the comments of the latter post, I was asked by Victor of Victor Travel Blog, a Russian travel blogger, to post something on Russian food.
Okay Victor, here’s the story around the only Russian meal I ever had.
I wanted that single shot to be totally Russian. It is my habit to eat local as much as I can, especially on short trips, in the belief that food, as much as language, tells a lot about a country’s culture. However, to be completely honest, I’m a total glutton.
Hand gestures and their meaning can be so varied that in some countries represent a parallel language, used along with vocal language. Why is hand-gesturing so important to some cultures? Why it is less important to others?
He is honking his car’s horn with frenzy. He is really mad at me.
Trying to decide whether I should be angry or amused, I look at him. He is a middle-aged Caucasian.
Then I look at his license plate. His car has a Zurich number, like mine.
I didn’t experience many of these encounters here in Switzerland. However, I experienced plenty of them in my native country, Italy. First clue.
He seems to be thinking thoroughly before answering my question. After a long pause, he says “I think that our people did something unforgivable somewhere in Eastern Europe and as a consequence they had to run and hide. And what place would have been better than this to hide, where nobody else would like to live!”
Actually the place we are talking about is awesome. By looking out of the window, I can see a nearly flat land covered in woods and snow, with some granite formations coming out of the ground.
However, living here until a few decades ago must not have been that easy. A long winter, with temperature easily reaching minus 20 F, must have made life hard. For most part of the year there weren’t even crops, leaving only animal food available.
That may explain why I see butter and dried bread available everywhere in the cafeteria. Food habits always tell a lot about a people’s history. Just as much as their language.
But I have a lot more questions about the Finns other than a simple “why are you here?”