Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Lesson 7: Gaydars don't work in Europe

You know that hot guy you see walking on the way to class. His skin is perfect, he's dressed nice but not fratty. You think he might be questionable, but you tell yourself otherwise so you can keep staring at him. You hear him speak and then you know...damnit, he's gay.

Well, in Europe this happens with every guy you see. EVERY. SINGLE. ONE. Except the thing is, they're not all gay. They all just look like homos according to our American way of seeing the world. The ones you think look straight, act gay. The ones that look gay, act straight. Then there's some that are just all over the damn place, and they don't really know if they like guys or girls. I guess you could call that being bisexual. In reality, I think they just take what they can get. Europeans are very sexual creatures. They will oblige to the goods in whatever package it comes in.


Anyway, there was this one guy. Let's call him Wooden Shoe Boy, for the sake of not embarrassing him if he should ever stumble upon my blog. Wooden Shoe Boy looked kind of straight, I guess, except for the greasy "Fonzie" looking hairstyle. Actually let's call him Fonzie. So, Fonzie could speak English, obviously, so he hung out with us sometimes. He was nice and everything, but young Fonzie didn't understand something. He liked to blame it on the "cultural differences" but, Derrick and I knew the truth. Fonzie is a closet homosexual.

I really thought he was straight at first, I mean I really did. After hearing him say "I love you" to Derrick and other males in his freaking gay accent, I just knew he was lying to us. Fonzie had a habit of flirting with men. In America, and pretty much everywhere else on the damn planet, you don't do that unless you are gay. You also don't play footsie with other guys, tell them "I thought about kissing you in that picture," or buy them drinks at a bar. Sure, it could be a "cultural difference"... but really? People need to just come out of the closet. Gay is gay, no matter what country you're in. You can't just be all up on boys and then be like "oh, I'm just kidding!"  No. You like boys.

Basically, be prepared to not have a single clue as to whether a guy is gay or not. Even if you're gay yourself, you still won't be able to tell. I can't speak for the European girls because I didn't pay attention to them, naturally, because I don't roll that way. But as for the boys, you will never know. Leave your gaydar at home and try to find out the old fashioned spittin' some game.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Lesson 6: Not all Arabs hate Americans

Okay, I'll admit it....sometimes I can be judgmental. Who isn't? I go out of my way not to be, but it happens.

I'm not racist. I'm not a homophobe. I'm not even afraid of the Mexican construction workers that stare me down (or anything with a vagina for that matter) and start babbling in Spanish really fast to their greasy friends. Okay, that was slightly racist. But in reality, I have nothing against them. They're just kind of creepy.

The sign has a point. God I love Taco Bueno!

Since 9/11 we've all been paranoid, and with good reason. Nevertheless, anyone that's tan and wearing those head scarf burka things gets stared at. They're not all freaking terrorists, people! I've never been nervous around anyone like that.

Until I got to France.

Let's rewind a bit. My second day in Vichy, I decided to actually show up to my afternoon class. I lied and told the teacher I was sick the day before, obviously, and sat down next to a girl, Uldana, from my other class. I skimmed the room to see if I knew anyone else in there and I didn't. A couple Asian guys introduced themselves to me, Kiet and Paul, and we chatted for a bit before the teacher decided to start class.

Out of the corner of my eye I noticed a few older Arab men giving me the stank eye. I thought I was imagining this, but every time I looked back at them they kept staring. Then they'd babble to each other in Arabic so I couldn't understand them. Normally I wouldn't be bothered by this, but like I said I was getting the stank eye. They looked like they hated me and I didn't understand why. Then I remembered the fact that I look like a Barbie doll, and they probably had figured out where I was from. I was paranoid, unsettled, and also the only American in my class. Oh, and one of them was named Osama. Great.

Random Arabs giving some girl the stank eye

Our teacher made everyone go around the room and say where we were from. I gave serious thought to claiming Australia, but the teachers already knew what nationalities we were so I refrained. Now, you have to understand that people on that other side of the globe have staring issues. It's not impolite to stare the hell out of someone over there. It didn't really bother me when French people did this. It was a different matter, though, when I was being mean mugged by 30 year old Arab men. I knew they hated me, I just knew it!

me and Amy reppin the stars & stripes during the World Cup.

After all the introductions were made, our teacher decided to have us play a little vocab game. Guess who I got paired with? Those stank eye giving old men! Story of my life. I knew it was coming but I tried to ignore it. I reluctantly moved my chair over by their desks and tried to act like I had no idea they'd been gawking at me the past 20 minutes.

Once they finally decided to stop speaking in damn Arabic and talk to me, they were actually really nice. They made jokes about me not being a "real" American because I wasn't fat. Hardy harr harr. Okay, it was kind of funny.

 I had judged them. I let my paranoia get the best of me, and for no reason. Yes, they had stared at me relentelessly. Did they mean to be douche bags? No. Staring at people isn't a big deal over there, and I only got freaked out because they were Arab....and old. It was stupid, and I felt bad about it later.

So, my fellow Americans, we all know this but sometimes we forget: Not everyone hates us. Yes, lots of people do (because we're awesome!), but lots of people don't. Leave your prejudices at home because you never know who could turn out to be a good friend.

PS - check out my new novel on Kindle and Barnes and Noble 

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Lesson 5: Livin in the Hood

Students preparing to study abroad always struggle with this question: to stay with a host family or not to stay with a host family?

For me this was an easy thing to decide. I hate being around people 24/7. I need my space.  There are only two people on this earth that I can handle being stuck with at every waking moment: my mom and my best friend Laura. Obviously the thought of staying in some rando's house for a month was not too appealing to me.

I mean it really just depends on your personality and how far you want to push yourself. Madeline and Parker stayed with host families and they loved it. Most of us ended up meeting Madeline's family and they were pretty fab! Jennifer didn't have such a great time with her family though. They were rude to her sometimes. Okay, most of the time. One day they asked her if she liked George W. and Jennifer being a Republican said yes. Well, unfortunately for her that was a bad decision. Most of the world thinks he's a total douchebag so it's better to avoid the question if you like Bush, or lie. There's always the risk of getting stuck with rude nasties like Jennifer did :(

If you're really, really wanting to improve your language skills a lot in the time your there, then the host family is probably for you. Then again, you can always find a hot foreign lover that doesn't speak English. Nothing can make you pick up a language quite as fast as the goods can. Brandon swears by it. I have to say I agree with him since the boy is from Tulsa and sounds like a native French speaker. Europeans (the non native english speaking ones at least) aren't as used to the casual romantic flings as us crazy American college students. They take things a bit more seriously, which can be good sometimes. However, if said foreign lover starts telling you they love you after two's prob time to bounce. I'm just sayin.

Danielle, Derrick, Foreign Lover, Brandon, Travis

Anyway, I'm definitely for the dorm option. I loved that I had my own space, but when I wanted to socialize everyone was on the same hall as me. They pretty much grouped everyone in the building by nationality, or so it seemed, except for Brandon who was stuck on a different floor. Diana was at first too but she got out of it. We all ate lunch and dinner, grocery shopped, watched Glee, and partied together every day because of the dorms. It definitely brought us all together and made us a big old happy fam. But, even if you have a host family you can still go chill with the students living the dorms. Jennifer and Madeline were over all the time!

Me, Diana & Madeline

The only real con I can think of about the dorms is having to cook for yourself. I'm really lazy and since I have yet to live in an apartment, I've never had to really cook. Oh, and being in Europe didn't change that if that's what you were thinking. I can recall an entire week where I ate yogurt and Pringles for breakfast. Actually, I kind of miss it. So if you're too much of a baby to live off dairy products and chips every now and then, then don't live in the dorms...or learn to cook. We did have kitchenettes in our rooms, so I mean it was always an option. Diana whipped up freaking 5 star meals in her room everyday. The hallway always smelled lovely at mealtimes because of her. She even fed the rest of us sometimes because she's a fab mother goose like that.

one of D's delicious meals!

Basically pick the dorm option if you: like your space, hate being around people all the time, want to speak English in the evenings after class, don't like following other people's rules, don't like having a curfew.

Pick the host family if you: are really social, don't mind speaking another language all day, want home cooked meals at all times, want to see the daily family interactions of that culture.

You may wonder why I titled this "Livin in the Hood." Well, another thing OU study abroad failed to mention was the fact that we would be living in the ghetto. And by ghetto I just mean the "poor" part of town, which was still really nice and pretty. I mean it wasn't that big of a deal, but it would have been nice to know we weren't in the best part of town. It's always a good idea to know where you're living. Good thing I have crazy street cred....not.

That is my wisdom for the day. Choose your living situation wisely, my children.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Lesson 4: Just because they speak English...

Doesn't mean you'll understand them.

As Americans, most of us are obsessed with England. I mean how could we not love our itty bitty mother country? These are the people thought brought us Harry Potter, Burberry, The Beatles, The Spice Girls, David Beckham, Rob Pattinson, Princess Diana, Jude Law, and get my point. They're hot and they have those snobby, yet extremely sexy, accents. Well, off the coast of England is another itty bitty country called Ireland. You may have heard of it?

When you're stuck in a class full of people that can't speak English, you kind of freak out. You know that you have no option but to speak in French, and you better damn well be able to explain things because they will ask you questions about America. Millions of questions. Try explaining the concept of sororities and fraternities in a foreign language. Yea, not possible. It's barely even possible to explain it in English without telling someone to "just Google it" or go watch "Sorority Row."

Anyway, at the school that I was taking my classes at new students just showed up every week. My first week there I had an Irish guy named Bernard in my class. I about died from sheer happiness when he said he was from Dublin, and I'm pretty sure he felt the same way when I said I was from the U.S.  Bernard and I sat near each other every class so we could whisper in English when our teacher wasn't listening. After a week though he had to leave and go back to work in Ireland. He had a real job because he was probably 30. Old people like to learn French too. Yet again, I was the only Anglophone in my class and I was slightly annoyed.

The second week a pretty red head (or shall I say "ginger") named Amy showed up. She was from Dublin too, and I was so happy because she wasn't 10 years older than me. Since she was a badass I invited her to eat lunch with me and the rest of the OU people.

me and Amy

We all met up in the same building everyday so we could go eat together. That day there were three other people I hadn't seen before: Sophie, Stephan and Rory. Sophie and Stephan were both German, but they could speak English so they got to be in our clique. Rory was another Irish guy that Madeline made friends with in her class. It was very hard to contain my laughter when he introduced himself because I immediately thought of Gilmore Girls. He was really hot though so I suppose it's okay that he has a girl's name.

Jon, Madeline, Sophie, Stephan, Amy, Jennifer, me and Rory
You know I thought having seen/read everything pertaining to Harry Potter that I pretty much knew British slang. Then again, Ireland isn't really part of Great Britain except for the northern part. There were some times that I didn't have a damn clue what Rory or our other Irish friend Aidan were talking about. Amy on the other hand, was born in Jersey and could recite Mean Girls. Aside from the fabulous accent, she could have totally passed for an American.

Jennifer, me, Amy and Madeline in Marseilles
Now without further ado, here is my list of random Irish phrases you might want to know.

1. footpath - sidewalk
2. jumper - jacket
3. seched - drunk, wasted, smashed. "I'm so seched right now"
4. crisps - chips
5. bobbin - hair tie, ponytail holder
6. scoops - drinks, as in "want to go back for some more scoops?"  Don't reply with "scoops of what you douche?"
7. jellies - gummy bears/worms, etc.
8. rubbish bin - trash can
9. surname - yea, we all know it means last name but when you hear it in a conversation it throws you off
10. chips - french fries
11. biscuit - cookie
12. to score - to make out with someone (not what it means in America!)
13. your man - your friend, I guess? as in "what happened to your man's leg?"
14. grand - everything is grand to the Irish, not cool. It's grand, just grand!
15. fringe - bangs. "Your fringe is lovely"

And now, my short list of things Irish people won't understand/will sass you about.

1. badass - apparently it's not a universal term
2. totally
3. douche, douchebag, douchelord
4. the goods
5. Ireland - no, it's not IREland, it's arrrland!
6. back up off me!
7. your guys's - as in "I like your guys's accents."  Yes, I know it's not grammatically correct. It's a southern thing, and it's better than saying y'alls.

Another thing I thought was strange is the difference in the Irish accent. Aidan and Bernard sounded like the stereotypical Lucky Charms leprechaun.

Amy and Rory sounded like Harry Potter to me, though they insist there's a difference between their accent and the British.

So while you may all speak the same language, the slang will get you every time. There is only so much that JK Rowling can prepare you for.

WARNING: you will never build up an immunity to the extreme hotness that is the British/Irish accent. Don't get drunk around the attractive ones, my friends. That is all.