Sticky Notes of Thoughts

…because some thoughts are worth remembering

On Assumptions: A Traveler’s Thought


We all make assumptions to go about our lives, so variables can be fixed, the unknown to be known, speculation to be fact. One of the jewels of travel and living abroad is to remind you that they really are assumptions only valid in a special circumstance of your surroundings. When the surroundings change, those assumptions do not hold.

Coming from Hawaii, I assumed that a restaurant serving “oriental cuisine” in Denmark served some combination of Japanese, Chinese and perhaps Thai food. Wrong. It was a Turkish restaurant. Right, as in oriental rugs.

There are more rugs to be pulled from underneath. Because English is a popular second language, I often hear Europeans communicating with each other in English, which has become their lingua franca. But when you buy packaged products in Europe, unless the products are meant to be exported to the United Kingdom and/or Ireland, English is absent on the packaging, even if you find 10 other languages on there. It makes sense that EU food packaging regulations call for official languages of the importing countries to be used, even if English was the most common language among them.

In Korea, where English is taught as a second language, there were more and better tourist maps in Japanese than in English. Presumably, it isn’t because of the Japanese occupation long ago, but because of the large number of Japanese tourists who enjoy shopping and dining out. Today, I helped Robert pick the right hotteok, a Korean fried pancake made of mochi type batter filled with brown syrup, because the sign was in Korean and Japanese only. There are specialised maps in Japanese of markets not available in English. Those maps also locate major restaurants, ads in Japanese, and other details not found in English maps. Capitalism is hard at work.

Our assumptions are challenged not only by locations but also by time. The Danes, like other European countries, represent the English language/version on brochures and websites by the British flag, the Union Jack, and are taught British English (e.g., colour, not color; centre, not center). The older generation seems to still speak with a British accent but when the younger ones speak, their accent and expressions are American, thanks to Hollywood. Will the American flag replace the Union Jack in representing the English language? That’s an assumption for the future generations to make.


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This entry was posted on April 23, 2015 by in Culture, Denmark, language and tagged .
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