7 Nov 2010


My 2 weeks holidays in Hurghada/Egypt, were not only good for my health but also very interesting because we were a very international mixture of people in our Hotel.

For the first time in my rather long life I heard languages from countries I only knew from the map, but never had the opportunity to go to these countries and meet these people who all came from the Eastern bloc. Since the cold war is over they are now free to travel and East and West suddenly find themselves nose to nose in the same hotel.

I had never met Hungarians, Bulgarians, and Estonians and of course never had heard these languages either. To me they all sounded Russian because these were the first Eastern people I had met in Egypt. I shouldn't say Russians because all people in the ex Soviet Union speak Russian, but Russia is now a rather small country. The Soviet Union has split into so many little countries that I am lost with the names ! I really should update my geography.

In my hotel were mostly Russians (from Russia and not from the Ukraine, which is a big difference in education and behaving) and also from Poland and the above mentioned countries.

Very very few people spoke another language than their own, of course nobody spoke English except the younger generation. English was banned from schools because of the cold war. Americans spoke English and they were the worst ennemies.

So it was quiet funny to see how people tried (or not) to communicate. Especially in the elevator. Mostly we had a silent agreement and said "Good Morning", or "Hello" but some of them said these words in their language (I suppose, unless they said a bad word, anyway nobody from the Western people understood) and some others just said nothing and admired their feet.

Probably due to this communication difficulties there were two camps : East and West. The Germans, Dutchs and English spoke all English of course with the personel, the others tried to communicate in Russian. Egyptians are really very talented for languages, they have learned in a very short time to speak Russian !

The funniest thing was that all Western countries payed in Euros, but the Eastern countries all in Dollars ! Big wads of Dollar notes were especially used by the Russian speaking people ! (no roubles !) They carried all the cash proudly in their pockets and were surprised when it was stolen ! (Which of course happened in the streets, pick pockets are clever !) In a way I can understand them. They were locked in for generations and now suddenly are free to travel and spend money ! They will learn too.

The Egyptians are happy, money doesn't stink, and they don't care if the tourists are from East or West money is badly needed ! On top of that the Eastern people pay all prices, while the Western once had learned to haggle !

But in the evening when the shows were going on, we didn't need languages to laugh and have fun all together !

East and West all together for the Show !


Nessa said...

I love the challenge of trying to communicate when no one has a language in common.

Your trip sounds so interesting.

Maribeth said...

Having traveled a great deal, I have also run into this. It was especially interesting when I traveled before the end of the cold war. Mostly a smile worked when words did not.

Hootin' Anni said...

Yes, it's very difficult to keep up with Geography these days...why what I learned last year with countries' names, they've most all changed names anyway, so I say, "Why try to keep up with it all"?

Gattina, I will play the Weekend Funnies next week to be sure....it's a great way to have a bit of laughter as we visit with others. Glad to hear that you are now the proud keeper of the meme since it got to be quite confusing sometimes where to link it all.

claudie said...

It's very interesting to learn about the different comportements between the different countries.
I'm sure many french people could have some problems in the same situation. English communication isn't our tasse de thé!!!
Je vais stopper le blogging sur lazazandcruisers durant au moins deux mois. C'est à dire jusqu'à la vente définitive de notre maison. J'ai vraiment la tête ailleurs; Plus un texte de théâtre d'une heure et demi à apprendre!!! Mais surtout je viendrai visiter ton blog régulièrement ainsi que ceux des autres de ma blogroll!

Melli said...

Ohhhhh you had such a great vacation! And I'm glad you did not have the horrible behaving people to deal with this year!

Gledwood said...

If I went on holiday and took cash rather than traveller's cheques I'd want Euros not dollars. Dollars all look the same, and although both are foreign to me, having handled both, I'd imagine I'd spot a fake Euro more readily than a fake dollar. Dollars feel really greasy and weird. And as I say, every denomination is the same size and green!
Why don't you learn some Hungarian just for fun? Being Finno-Ugric/whatever it's meant to be the most difficult language in Europe, after Basque, which as you will know, is a language isolate.
Some of those former Soviet Republics speak mysterious Turkic tongues. The Caucuses Mountains are said to be a real tower of Babel. One of my best uni friends got a job with a charity that worked in Georgia. This was the time before the orange or pink, I don't remember which colour, Revolution and Mrs Shevadnaze the First Lady asked her to tea! And she turned her down because she had a prior engagement with the captain of the English football team! Who would you wanna meet? The first lady in a palace. Or some idiot who gets England to lose every World Cup in a nondescript international hotel?? If it were me, I'd be into meeting a real-life Eva Person every time!
As I happened to mention chez moi, I know exactly how you feel having people babbling over your head in mysterious tongues. I was once stuck in a Moroccan train for hours on end with 2 girls banging on in Berber which drove me nearly nuts. Unlike Eurobabble where you can at least discern the topic of conversation, esp. in Romance languages, this was totally impenetrable, like Klingon. Most frustrating. If I were you Gattina, I'd get learning Hungarian and be quick about it...
(Then you can give me online Hungarian lessons...)

Gledwood said...

O dur. I meant to say about Georgia ~ they have the most amazing writing. Not like Cyrillic at all. It looks closer to Burmese or Thai...