culture confusion

You know, Europe is quite a mosaic of different cultures, languages, traditions, etc., and these variations often mix together as even the most remote corners of the globe become esasily accessible, connected to the internet, and assimilated into Western/popular/European/capitalist culture.

This can be seen, if nowhere else, in the grocery store. In Spain, packaged goods in supermarkets were always printed in the four languages of the country -Spanish, Catalan, Euskera, and Gallego- if not more. In one store, products were printed with Spanish and Portuguese titles, although sometimes Danish or something else weird would slip in there.

Here in Berlin, we recently bought a box of cereal called FAMILI Fruit Flakes. FAMILI was the brand, so I’ll let the weird spelling slide (even though it’s not the correct spelling in German, either). Okay, so the cereal was called “Fruit Flakes” and underneath, it had a description in English, something like “crunchy whole wheat flakes with fruit,” something along those lines. It also had a badge announcing that it was “the balanced breakfast.” This was all that appeared on the front. On the rest of the box, in the ingredient list, nutrition facts, etc. English was nowhere to be found. Instead, there were eight different languages, including German, Russian, Polish, Czech, Swedish, and some others (even Portuguese, which is exceedingly strange). None of this information appeared in English anywhere on the box. So basically, you could buy something called Fruit Flakes, although you have no idea what’s really in it, OR you can buy some funny-name cereal you don’t understand, but at least you’ll know exactly how many calories are in a serving. WEIRD.

THEN, to add to the strangeness, I was looking for jobs on a European website today. The website is designed for Europeans looking for jobs in other European countries, so needless to say, there were a lot of different languages represented. There were tons of ads for jobs in Germany…in French. Or Finnish, which is definitely one of the weirdest languages I’ve ever seen, and looks something like this: jjkkkkäääkkyyyykk. Yep.

Well, there was one ad that caught my eye for the sheer weirdness: this job’s duties included “clearance of First and Second World War ammunition and explosives, ashore and underwater.” They were looking for people to dive into the water and disarm/remove unexploded submarine missiles, etc.etc. Whoa. Actually, I recently read that one study estimates that in Berlin alone, there are something around 15,000 unexploded mines, bombs, etc. I’m not sure how reliable that number is, but I’m sure there are quite a few.

But the next ad was even weirder. It was sponsored by a UK company, was an opening for a job somewhere in Germany, and included maintenance and repair of US military vehicles. ?! Yes, apparently, we have British workers, in Germany, repairing our military vehicles, which probably shouldn’t be anywhere near Germany anyway. And, it said “pension available.” Where? Guantanamo Bay?

Wow. It’s a small, very strange, multi-lingual (in Finnish:mkkkyyyää-liiiäkkyyj) world.


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