International Cultures

Thanks to travelling abroad recently I have noticed many different cultures. Istanbul, Colombia, Sevilla, Moskva, Riga and Napoli all had different cultures thats for sure and that’s what I love about travel, the differences. Closer to home, Harris has its own customs too, the observance of the Sabbath is the obvious one, but its the leaving car keys in the ignition that I really love. That simple act which shows total trust in your fellow islanders. Wouldn’t happen on the mainland though no chance.

Istanbul was an eye opener. We had arrived on a Friday night in June, had a few drinks in the hotel room and headed out. Could we find a pub? There were guys in their 20s sitting in cafes with cups of green tea. We walked to Sultanahmet Square and, because it was Ramadan, found hundreds of families breaking their fast. It was lovely to watch, but not a drop of alcohol to be seen. These Turks are weird I thought but that’s their culture. They in turn must think we’re jaikies. It is a beautiful city and from our hotel dining room we could watch the huge ships sailing up the Bosphorus. The Blue Mosque too is just incredible, almost a religious experience haha.

Colombia on the other hand is chaotic. Friendly folk but alot of poverty, leading to thefts. Again its a different culture where you take any opportunity that presents itself. Thats how my phone got stolen on the busy bus.In Colombia it is the victim who is seen as the mug, who was naive enough to keep his mobile in his back pocket. The thief saw and took his opportunity. But Colombia is beautiful and colourful and I’d go back tomorrow if I could.

Sevilla was a late night arrival but we headed out at 11pm and found restaurants still open and bars mobbed. The locals are still up early but they do have a siesta due to the heat. Have a siesta in Scotland and they call you a lazy bastard.

Moscow is amazing. And immaculate, at least in Red Square/Kremlin area and the famous metro. No litter or graffiti anywhere and wee machines constantly washing down the pavements. I went to a CSKA Moscow game and at half time hundreds of fans put their rubbish in a well positioned wheely bin. Not sure if thats years of communism in action. Moscovites were friendly however, especially when I donned my kilt.

In Riga, capital of Latvia, the locals were so quiet. I had learned basic Latvian but soon discovered there was no need. Nobody spoke. I tried to hand over a 5 euro note in a shop and the woman just pointed at the wee plate on the counter. My change was placed on the plate, not a word spoken. Again, is this a hangover of communism, where anyone who asks too many questions is seen as a subversive and literally sent to Siberia.

Finally, Napoli is brilliant. Chaotic and dirty like Colombia but so vibrant and Italian with a capital I. Hand gestures and shouting and cars tooting and keep a tight haud of your mobile phone! I reckon a Latvian visiting Napoli would freak out. That would be funny to see.

Well thats just my observations during my travels. I hope I’ve not offended too many nationalities with my sweeping generalisations. I did get a glimpse of how others see us recently when I gave a lift to two Brazilians from the Wallace monument to Stirling railway station. “How can you live here?” they asked, “its so cold”.

So, if you get a chance, travel !

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