Thursday, September 08, 2005

Here's an odd little anecdote and a telling window on Prague-to-Dublin culture shock.

I'm walking down Westmoreland St. (one of the main thoroughfares through the center of Dublin, going from the Trinity gate to O'Connell Bridge) when I find myself approaching a group of people all holding clipboards. You know, those well-meaning, guilt-inducing types that ask you if you'd like to help children or join Amnesty.

Nothing too remarkable here, except that from about 10 feet away, one nice looking young lady spots me coming, says "Hello!" and extends her hand to mind as if to shake it.

So put off am I by this obscenely non-Czech behavior - greeting and shaking hands with a total stranger? - and so uncomfortable am I with the idea of actually walking past her outstretched hand, that I naturally take it and shake it. The pleasantries commence.

"How are you?" she says.

"Um, I'm ... fine," I say, glancing at her clipboard. It says UNICEF.

"So where are you from?"

"I'm American," I say. I think I'm making funny faces at her, waiting for her to hit me with the UNICEF pitch.

"Are you here on holiday?" she asks.

"Well, actually I'm here for a month, visiting my girlfriend*. She studies here."

"Oh, that's wonderful! Well, I hope you enjoy the rest of your stay."


"It was nice to meet you. Have a nice day!"

"You too!"

The end.

I later learned that they're looking for people with Irish bank accounts so they can sign them up to give money on a regular basis. Still. Strange.

* I didn't use the word fiance, although I might as well take this opporunity to announce that Alex and I are officially engaged. I'm opposed merely on the grounds that it's not a proper English word. In fact, I find it to be a bit of a cliche...


In case you're wondering what I'm doing here, the answer is not too much. I have a bit of work for a UK-based energy and telecoms newsletter covering news in those sectors in Poland and Slovakia. Owing to the glory of Skype, I can do this work from anywhere with an Internet connection. So life has not actually changed all that much.


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