Culture shock on the runway

Could 28,000 jobs be created by Gatwick?
Could 28,000 jobs be created by Gatwick?

THOUGHTS OF A FRUITCAKE: By Carolyn Aldis

So, in the last few days I have been an observer of different cultures. I travelled to Valencia with my eldest daughter, to see what it’s like, as she wants to live there. Our culture experience started before we had even left British soil.

We were seated on the plane, my daughter by the window, me in the middle and an empty seat next to me. Suddenly a huge guy, with a shaved head, big beard and bandaged arm, plumped himself down in the seat, shouting in another language to his friends who, strangely enough, had decided to sit together, away from him.

The stench of alcohol hit me and a feeling of dread nestled its way into my chest; as we took off, he was shouting, obviously fearful. I know the culture in European countries can be more emotionally led, voices are louder, gestures exaggerated… but the binge drinking culture reduces many from any nationality to start behaving in an obnoxious way, as was evidenced by this man.

As he ordered two more beers, I did what I often do when I am feeling fearful: I closed my eyes and prayed and listened to music to relax. I noticed he had flopped forward and fallen asleep, a beer in each hand, and I began to feel sorry for him, obviously so terrified by flying that he needed to drink himself to sleep at 7.30 in the morning. I didn’t feel quite so sorry for him when he suddenly woke and inadvertently punched me in the chest.

When we finally got to Valencia, we were struck by how lovely their culture is…children were out until 9 in the evening, spending time with their parents, all looking happy and relaxed. In the shops, the security guards were fit and healthy, patrolling the aisles armed with a truncheon and handcuffs…there was no question that anybody would dare to shoplift and, as my daughter said, she felt safe, that if anything ever happened to her on the street, she could always run to the sanctuary of a shop.

Back in England, I went out in the evening with her through our town centre and the contrast was stark – groups of just men hanging around, drinking alcohol and being loud; the only similarity being that I couldn’t understand what they were saying…

We had to explain to the Eastern European man peeing up our wall that in our culture, this is considered very rude, regardless of what medicine you are on and no, we don’t need to see the packet, can you just go away?

Sociologists define culture as a way of life and so it seems it is down to us to determine what type of culture we have in our homes, workplaces and town.

Only yesterday, my Polish friend reminded me of how different our cultures can be, when, having met her in the street and chatted about the usual stuff, she suddenly went serious and said: “Can I ask you personal question?”

I nodded and she went on: “How you get such big boobies?”

Cultures…the good, the bad and the quirky…