Now, I usually have a dislike for the pretentious uber-traveller. You know the kind:
"Well I lived rough in the jungle for six months, living on nothing but bark and jaguar's tears "
"Oh really, because I was made Chief of an Incan tribe after I introduced them to fire. Amazing what you kind find in the back of Lonely Planet"
"That's nothing. I was in the Arctic Tundra for two years in just flip-flops and a tie-dye T-shirt and nursed a family of sub-Arctic Grouse back to health"
Tossers. Sometimes it can all be a bit of competition.
However, I'm a bit of a hypocrite because the other day I found myself pondering over everything I had seen and the all people I had met, and what I'd learnt. And it was eye-opening.
Here is a quick list of some things I found out, or conversations I've had as a result of being in The Pink House. They may seem inconsequential, but I think they're quite interesting. Think of them of as "International Titbits". Actually, I think I have a DVD from Amsterdam with the same title.
* Swedish jokes centre around the Norwegians being thick. Norwegian jokes centre around the Swedish being thick
* In Chinese and Japanese, because there are 12,000 characters in their language, crosswords are impossible. They tend to stick to Sudoku
* In Thailand you can get all your clothes washed, dried, ironed and bagged up all for 50p. Even my Mum charges more than that. Mum, you're sacked!
* Italians think Southeners are lazy bastards. Southerners think Northeners are stuck up twats. Kind of like England, except vice versa
* Listened to a Quebecois and a Belgian discuss differences in their accent. Apparently, Quebecois sound like they are from Revolutionary France and speak as if they have been released from the Bastille straight into the 21st Century. Sacre Bleu!
* Mein Kampf is banned in Germany. It is exists elsewhere in the world but only in English. Christian, from Ulm, says he suspects the meaning will be lost in translation. He is not a Nazi, but he is keen to get hold of a copy in Oz
* Finnish learn Swedish, but the Swedish usually can't be bothered to learn Finnish.
* Compulsory national service is still in force in many countries. Met an Israeli Tank Commander (aged 23) and a Iranian Tank Driver (24). Matin, from Tehran, described National Service as "bullshit" and the went on to detail how he totalled two tanks when the brakes on the one he was driving failed. Well, if we go to war, that's two less tanks we have to worry about.
* Handwriting in Hebrew is entirely different from official typescript that appears on for example TV, road signs or 2-for-1 vouchers at KFC. Hebrew handwriting is curly, Hebrew typescript is blocky and square. I told him I only see the square stuff on TV because it is on ambulances, army vehicles and police baracades. He said it was a shame that I only ever see that side of Israel.
OK. So it's not a particularly serious list but there is a serious point here. That you really do learn from travelling, and you really do expose yourself to things you ordinarily wouldn't.
And that can only be a good thing.