black holes and gray matter. in one thousand tangos.

             
“When I first travelled, I was naive, sloppy, wide-eyed, and nothing happened to me. That’s probably where the dumb luck came in. Then I began to read the guidebooks, the State Department warnings, the endless elucidation of national norms, cultural cues and insults and regional dangers, and I became wary, careful, savvy. I kept my money taped inside my shoe, or strapped to my stomach. I took any kind of precaution, believing that the people of this area did this, and the people of that province did that. But then, finally, I realised no one of any region did anything I have ever expected them to do, much less anything the guidebooks said they would. Instead, they behaved as everyone behaves, which is to say they behave as individuals of damnably infinite possibility. Anyone could do anything, in theory, but most of the time everyone everywhere acts with plain bedrock decency, helping where help is needed, guiding where guidance is necessary. It’s almost weird.”

11 French Travel Tips for Visiting America (via Google Translate)

Our custom is to kiss before, during, and after each social encounter, with 1, 2, 3, or 4 kisses. This is not the custom in the United States. For a friend, we will hug, with a great tapping on the back and a big smile. For colleagues, greet with a good handshake. Americans have a firm handshake, so do not hesitate to grind their knuckles. It is also a sign you have confidence in yourself.

Be prepared for an onslaught of friendliness. You may be approached by a stranger on the street asking you where you got your coat. Passersby greet each other cheerfully in the street. Your neighbor may compliment you on the curve of your muscles, and the cashier at the supermarket may ask you what you are doing with this beautiful weekend (and the three cases of rosé you’ve purchased).” 

A passerby stumbles and sprawls in the street, an old lady can barely control Brutus at the end of a leash, a small tricycle driver loses control of his vehicle. Politeness means, of course, that you come and help all these people. American culture wants you to quit all your activities and rescue the unfortunate. In America, you cannot pretend to not have noticed all these little quirks. You must rush to provide assistance to all who need it.” 

Americans eat and drink anything and at any time of the day: in the street, in a meeting at work, in the car, on the subway, in the elevator, the movies … So, there are drink rests everywhere: cinema seats, baby strollers, shopping carts at the supermarket, in cars, some bike handlebars.”

Rejoicing in the presence of children or pets. This is the correlate of “smile to strangers,” it is mandatory to have a smile or a little “how cute” tilt to your head if you come across a child or pet. Even if they are ugly.” 

Crossing the road as a pedestrian is not always easy, you often have to wait for ages. When the white man is on, you can cross. And then a stressful countdown shows the time remaining for you to cross, sometimes only a few seconds to cross large avenues.”

“‘Inspiring’ became a word I heard every day: everything must be ‘inspiring’ and push transcendence. We go to the movies, there is a choice between the biopic Lincoln, the Avengers or Misérables, each so inspiring in their own way. The books are inspiring, everyday people are inspiring (such as all the people with children and a job at the same time, teachers, etc…). I confess that I have a little trouble with this cult of everyday heroes.”

If you want privacy (in a public restroom), no chance. There are no real walls, only partitions that do not even go to the ground. So you can see the shoes of your colleagues, hear all the noises … And even the doors do not help much. You can see the faces of the occupants through the slits in the doorway.”

Read on: Mental Floss

The craziest OkCupid date ever

Jeff and I traveled to eight countries in 21 days without changing clothes. It sure beat meeting for coffee.

"On the surface, we appeared to be sure candidates for “World’s Most Unlikely Pair.” He’s a wildly energetic university professor who is always on the move. I’m a reclusive writer who spends hours identifying new constellations in the ceiling paint. He can strike an insta-friendship with any human not in a coma. I often pretend I don’t recognize people at the grocery store. Somehow our personality differences are offset by the fact that the same mad scientist blood flows through both of our veins. We live for the unexpected, the experimental and the subtly disruptive.

Never one to waste time, Jeff set an experimental trap weeks before he knew my real last name or whether I actually looked like the pictures in my OkCupid account.”

Read on.

The craziest OkCupid date ever

Jeff and I traveled to eight countries in 21 days without changing clothes. It sure beat meeting for coffee.

"On the surface, we appeared to be sure candidates for “World’s Most Unlikely Pair.” He’s a wildly energetic university professor who is always on the move. I’m a reclusive writer who spends hours identifying new constellations in the ceiling paint. He can strike an insta-friendship with any human not in a coma. I often pretend I don’t recognize people at the grocery store. Somehow our personality differences are offset by the fact that the same mad scientist blood flows through both of our veins. We live for the unexpected, the experimental and the subtly disruptive.

Never one to waste time, Jeff set an experimental trap weeks before he knew my real last name or whether I actually looked like the pictures in my OkCupid account.”

Read on.

©2011 Kateoplis