In travels where you meet people from other cultures, there will always been American references you make that require extensive explanation, which eventually ruins the joke because said people still just don’t understand. And then, because just ruining jokes isn’t enough, there are subjects that are insanely difficult to explain (especially in a foreign language) to the point where they’re not even worth it anymore. By the time understanding is achieved, all of the magic of the reference is completely lost and instead of getting the correct reaction of “Golly! Gee whiz! Sounds cool!” (or whatever equivalent the cool kids say these days, I don’t know), you end up with something more along the lines of “Oh… okay. And?” Like when you try to explain things such as…
I know that I’ve talked about my very American obsession before, but try as you might, explaining the beautiful concept of Chipotle to people who don’t even understand what burritos are (looking at you, Germany) is a task that requires so much description that you end up just frustrated and really unbelievably hungry.
“No, it’s a burrito, but it’s not, because it’s different, but it has all of the same ingredients… why don’t you just understand this,” and then the conversation turns into a weird form of charades where you just try and Google images that explain your concept for you.
That is a burrito, this is Chipotle. See the difference? No? Well now I want them both, thank you so much.
As a non-Greek member myself (and no, do not call me a Geed — I will start spreading bad rumors about you in Europe if you do) it’s not really all that important for me to explain Greek life to people I meet abroad. Because, like, I don’t care even in America, why on this good green earth would I care in Germany?
But occasionally it has come up, and from my struggles in explaining the system to foreigners, I have come to this simple conclusion: the system is stupid.
“No, they don’t actually speak Greek, they just really like glitter and crafting.”
Honestly, the more you try to explain it, the more you will realize that it just really, truly, doesn’t make sense. With all of the weird little rules and pledges and bidding and rushing, trying to explain Greek life to a European is like trying to show someone a circus and then telling them they have to take it seriously. It just doesn’t work.
Don’t get me wrong, they’re interested, but when the best explanation you can come up with is “it’s like any American college movie you’ve ever seen, but with more rules” you know it’s just a lost cause.
“Just think of it as toga parties, all the time.”
Nothing takes the wind out of my sails like when I try to insult someone and get a laugh at the same time than when instead I get neither because they don’t get my sarcasm. And since one of my favorite forms of mockery is the form that I used as a child in elementary school, nothing was more disappointing than learning that apparently they don’t taunt each other the same way in Germany that we do in America.
For instance, in response to the phrase “Yeah, I bet your mommy says you’re special,” you’ll get more of a passing nod and an “I suppose she may have said that once or twice” rather than offense.
And because childish mockery doesn’t make sense to begin with (what’s supposed to be so insulting about my mom? That’s completely irrelevant), it’s not even worth it to try and explain.
Even this one doesn’t work, because the word for “loser” doesn’t start with an L in all languages. Damn you, cultural differences. You’re ruining all my best jokes.
The other classics I’ve already talked about in previous articles, such as the inability of Germans to understand the glory that is a nice pair of yoga pants or their lack of understanding that there is layer-appropriate weather and single-layer-only weather (though winter has begun and those days are officially over). They also just don’t understand the concept of yoga in general, or the fact that hoodies are both comfortable and an acceptable fashion choice for girls too, not only the dudes. But that’s a whole different can of worms — at least I’ve never seen that in a store here.
And the door swings both ways of course, with concepts that are normal here soaring right over my head and needing to be explained quite frequently. But hey, I know the difference between a true burrito and Chipotle, so that’s what really counts.