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Sean1427

The Bogeymen Beyond Our Borders

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Initially I wanted to entitle this thread "Saudi Lite," but I don't want it to be about life in Saudi Arabia for an American Christian. Liking the old cartoon strip "The Far Side" I thought of calling it "The Far Side of Living Abroad," but I wasn't sure that everyone would understand why I would use such a title. So I settled on "The Bogeymen Beyond Our Borders," which I did for a purpose. I believe that most Americans are too tightly wound and that we really need to loosen up. The media, which makes its money off the sensational, does an excellent job keeping us scared about everything. One of my favorite children's books is "There's a Nightmare in My Closet," by Mercery Meyer. Most of us are not kids anymore, but we certainly live with nightmares about all the bogeyment hiding beyond our borders. And yet many of us have traveled and lived abroad and know that the way our media portrays things often has very little to do with reality and that people on the other side of that border are really not much different than you and I. So the point of this thread is simple--I think it would nice to share experiences we've all had that show the lighter, more human side of life beyond the borders. They can be experiences which have made us laugh, which have helped us understand something we never really understood before, or something dealing with the misuse of a new language. This is not just for Americans. Many of those on the site are from countries other than America have their experiences about visiting or living among Americans. Their stories would be just as interesting, perhaps even more so. Let me share a story of my own.

Life in Saudi can be quite comical in many ways if you just learn to loosen up. This story involves what I call the bacon-smuggling technique. Like the Jews and Mormons, Muslims have a dietary code. Certain things are "haram," i.e., forbidden. (Don't confuse this word with "hammam" which is the "bathroom," which, of course, might also be haram if you walk in on someone else!) Saudi has all kinds of western compounds, many of which actually have bacon. I love to visit the branch president house because his wife has a freezer full of bacon. My reward, of course, is always a nice juicy BLT. But many of us Yanks don't live on a compound that has bacon. So we have to get our pound of forbidden flesh another way--smuggling. (Yes, I'm LDS, and I know there will be those who say I should obey the laws of the land, but many cultures don't look at law the way we do as something carved in stone, and I've seen enough to know that LDS leadership is far more flexible than are many of us, so . . .) To smuggle bacon you must do it properly, according to the rules of the game. After a visit to say nearby Bahrain and before returning to Saudi, you walk into a butcher shop and ask for a pound or two of bacon. The butcher will ask if you're going to Saudi and you say yes. He'll then slice your bacon in nice thin strips, wrap it up in white butcher paper, and slap a sticker on it that reads, "Veal, thinly sliced." You place the package on the front seat of your car, right in the middle, in plain view. Do not place it anywhere else such as the jockey box, under the seat, in the trunk or hidden in luggage. When you get to the border, you'll go through customs where your vehicle will be checked, sometimes with dogs. A good inspection requires looking in the trunk, the glove compartment, under the seats, etc. You just stand outside the car, act normal, and patiently wait. Once it's done, you're on your merry way back to Saudi. Now, as long as you've put the bacon in plain view in the middle of the front seat, you'll be taking that bacon home with you as well. For some strange reason, as long as it's in plain view, the officials with never see it. These are the rules of the game, and as long as there's no cheating, everyone wins--you have your bacon and the agents have done their job. But if you try to cheat by hiding it and they find it, then they have no choice but to confiscate it and you'll be going home empty handed.

By the way, this works for Christians and the color of your iqama will identify you as Christian or Muslim for anyone who's illiterate. If you're Muslim, I wouldn't advise playing this game. It's a Christian/Muslim game, not a Muslim/Muslim game. The rules change for Muslims and you'll have to find out what the rules to your particular game are. But relax, as a good Saudi friend once told me, once you know what the rules are in Saudi, you can do about anything you want.

I look forward to the stories of others as I find the world a fascinating place in which to live. And who knows, maybe the thread will help rid our minds of some of the bogeymen living there.

Edited by Sean1427

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I believe that most Americans are too tightly wound and that we really need to loosen up. The media, which makes its money off the sensational, does an excellent job keeping us scared about everything. One of my favorite children's books is "There's a Nightmare in My Closet," by Mercery Meyer. Most of us are not kids anymore, but we certainly live with nightmares about all the bogeyment hiding beyond our borders. And yet many of us have traveled and lived abroad and know that the way our media portrays things often has very little to do with reality and that people on the other side of that border are really not much different than you and I.

I 100% agree with you, though one thing I have observed when both visiting America and from reading certain threads on this forum (particularly related to guns), a lot of Americans seem to live in fear in their own country, let alone abroad.

So the point of this thread is simple--I think it would nice to share experiences we've all had that show the lighter, more human side of life beyond the borders. They can be experiences which have made us laugh, which have helped us understand something we never really understood before, or something dealing with the misuse of a new language. This is not just for Americans. Many of those on the site are from countries other than America have their experiences about visiting or living among Americans.

I don't think it's really worth me mentioning experiences of visiting America, as it's not that much different from the UK.

I have been to West Africa a few times though, and picked up a few of the cultural "rules" they have in place there, the most useful one being that if you have the money (or other in demand items), you can bribe yourself out of pretty much anything. It's always useful to keep a pack of Chinese gunpowder green tea on you, because this is a popular local drink and 99% of the time is an acceptable bribe for minor offenses (we got certain food which is generally disallowed through their customs by doing this). Even if you feel you haven't broken any rules, you're best off just giving them something to let you go, otherwise they'll keep you there for hours while they "check" things over.

Amusingly, all the traffic police in Gambia, West Africa wear high visibility jackets with "NHS logistics" printed on the front. They must have been donated by the NHS, but I'm pretty sure the current wearers of them have no idea what the NHS even is.

I believe there are actually two sets now, but the first time I went to The Gambia, there was only one set of traffic lights in the whole country. It was something of a novelty for them, with most of them ignoring the status of the lights anyway, as they no idea what they meant.

Also, if you call the police in The Gambia, they'll come in a reasonable time, providing you'll pay for their taxi fare, otherwise they simply won't come.

Last but not least, when flying back home from Gambias only airport, never expect to leave on time, as they'll always have run out of fuel at the airport. Every flight we've ever been on departing from that country has had half an hours delay while they flew fuel in from a neighbouring country. Getting into the country can occasionally be a hassle too, as one time on a delayed flight we had to circle the airport for a little bit while they called the air traffic controllers back - they had gotten fed up of waiting and gone home!

Edited by Mahone

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So far the only country I have been in where I could observe the culture was Germany. I was there for only a month but it was a very nice experience. One thing that I learned while there is that tipping your wait staff means something completely different than it does in the US. I went out to eat with my German tutor and when the meal was over I asked her about tipping customs in Germany.

She said that tipping is viewed as a come on. A small tip means, "I think you are cute", a medium tip means, "Would you be interested in a date", and a large tip could mean something like "Would you like to come home with me?" Now this could be a bunch of baloney as I only heard this from my tutor and don't know if what she told me was true. But it kept me from tipping while in Germany, which was odd for me as I usually tip pretty well in the US.

I had some interesting conversations with some people as well about Nazis. Often when people hear the word Germany they think of WWII and Nazis and concentration camps. On one of our first days there our group had supper at a local restaurant, at my table was a woman who became one of my good friends while out there and the family that was hosting her. The husband was an older gentleman and we all got to talking about the Nazis and how the country views them. According to him Nazis are viewed as an embarassment, and most people tend not to talk about them. He was a child when WWII happened and when it was over many of his school teachers were men who had been officers in the Nazi party. I guess they were very careful about what they said and how they taught because they were under suspicion. He said it was very interesting. It was an interesting conversation to have, especially because my husband is a history nut and one of his favorite times in history to research is WWII and Germany's involvement in it. My husband focuses mainly on their military and the tanks and such that they used. Hearing another side of things was very interesting.

Later on during my stay I got onto a bus with one of my classmates and a man began to talk to us. He spoke so fast that I couldn't keep up with what he was saying, but my friend who was much more fluent than I was had a conversation with him. I could tell he was talking about Nazis and Hitler because those words kept coming up. So after we got off the bus I asked her what he had said. Apparently he had said that all we Americans believe about Germany is that they are all abunch of Nazis and that they all love Hitler but that it just isn't true. She had tried to make him see that we liked Germany and didn't think that at all, but he kept on his tirade until we got off the bus. It really caused me to see how Germans really want their good name cleared.

I loved the country while I was there and would love to go back some time. I think I left a little bit of my heart in Germany, and I think it will always be there.

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Ditto, the only country besides USA I've lived in was Germany. Tons of rules there that were different from the USA. For example, if you tried to eat sunflower seeds in public, everybody would laugh, point, and tease you for eating "bird food".

Here, you drop food on the ground, nobody picks it up. But in Germany, I would be eating potato chips, accidently spill some on the ground, and all the kids would run over to pick them up and eat them.

Unless you were going outside town, or hauling something too heavy to carry-- you walked, rode a bike or took the strause (kind of like a cable car). Not the case over here, we would drive to the bathroom if the car would fit inside the house, lol.

Germans shop on a daily basis, REGARDLESS of the day of the week, even Sunday. Some of them even shop meal to meal, and make a walking trip to the market 3 times a day! Those little pully-carts and reusable over-the-shoulder shopping bags are common place there. You see people hauling them down the sidewalk all over the place. So to me, buying food on Sunday isn't a major uproar, like it is to the people in my USA ward, lol. Even the LDS Germans over there in the afternoon ward did it. Germans are really into FRESH stuff, they don't like a lot of canned, jarred, or frozen stuff, or foods that have been stored for a long while. That's why they have so many bakeries and little butcher shops :)

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Ah yes, I remember walking everywhere and going to the store almost everyday. I remember hearing that Germans often brought baskets or bags with them to the store because the stores there don't provide bags for free. And there is the bottle charge, where they tell you how much the bottle costs. I am guessing you could bring the bottles somewhere to get money for them. And the food, I remember also hearing that they didn't use preservatives quite to the extent we use them in the US so your produce would go bad sooner, so instead of buying in bulk like you do in the US they went shopping everyday.

I seriously miss a lot of their food. I have tried to find some of it here at specialty stores, but some of it I just can't find. It makes me sad.

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I spent three weeks in the Middle East (Turkey) about 25 years ago. I loved it, felt safe, appreciated and was quite a curiosity as many had heard of Mormons, but few if any had actually met a living Mormon. The food was a lot of lamb and vegetables. Breakfasts were the best, bread (a loaf of uncut), cheese, melon.

I didn't drink any, but their tea from what I remember was more of a medium for sugar. And, everyone smoked. (The men at least...)

I have been to Germany for 3 days and everyone was pleasant and respectful. I made an attempt to speak the language and that appeared to please them. We in the US may joke about their promptness, but I was on a bus that had an accident, and we still arrived at our destination on time.

I love the Caribbean.

In the future I would like to return to Germany, as well as hike Bulgaria, and catch the Southern Caribbean.

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I really enjoy the stories about Gambia. Believe it or not, it sounds a lot like parts of Latin America. One of the airports I'm familiar with in the Peruvian Andes had to herd the cows off out of the way for a plane to land or take off. And in Mexico today you still find places where today's train will arrive tomorrow and the one arriving today is yesterday's train.

Regarding Germany, have those of you who've been to Germany read Enzio Busche's book? He wrote:

"I always smile when I read things today from people who do not know better and who write that German boys were forced to become a member of the Hitler Youth. At birth we enrolled. That was part of the system. When we turned ten years old, we were not asked, we just became members of that organization. To us, however, it did not seem like being forced. Every boy or girl wanted to be a member. There was tremendous enthusiasm built into the idealistic vision and dream world of youth. As a nine-year od, I could not wait to become ten because then I could put on the uniform. As Hitler Youth, we became part of something bigger--even to become saviors of the decadent world, we were taugh. We were educated to believe that we were going to bring fulfillment of the dreams of mankind, that we would bring righteousness, honesty and dignity to mankind." While America doesn't have a Hitler Youth, what he writes about how they viewed their mission to help the world reminds me a lot of the attitude many Americans have.

I've never been to Germany, other than the airport, but I've spent time in Ausrtria. I remember a wonderful time I spent with a three-generation family who had a trout farm in the mountains. The patriarch had been a Luftwaffe pilot. They were great--they gathered together in the evenings, pulled out the accordians and brightened up the night. I got in trouble with the sister missionaries in Austria for greeting members in church by the common expresson in that area, Gruess Gott, roughly "greetings from God" or "God bless you." They chastised me and told me that members were taught not to use that expresson because it was using the name of God in vain. I wish I'd been quicker on my toes because later, as I thought about it, I came up with all kinds of words and expressions in other languages that incorporate the name of God and no one in the Church is advising members or investigators not to use them (e.g., adieu, adios, goodbye, etc.)

Turkey's a great place. The biggest complaint I have, however, is that everyone smokes, everyone! It's just hard for me to breahe all the smoke. Given you were there 25 years ago, Over43, you might like to know that there are LDS service couples in Turkey and have been for quite some time. Beginning in the late 1800s, there was a mission that included Turkey, and the area southwestwards. President Booth, who was from Alpine, UT, and who served as a missionary as well as a mission president, served there for about 17 years. He is buried next to one of his missionaries just outside Aleppo, Syria. (Aleppo is one of the three Christian cities in Syria, the other two being Homs and Damascus.)

My first encounter with culture shock was really in the US. I was 16 and picked pineapple for Dole on Lanai. My very first experience was our first day on the job. We ate breakfast about 4 a.m. at a huge company messhall, where they gave us our lunch in a small lunchpail for each of us. When we sat down for lunch later that morning, we were shocked to see that our lunch consisted of rice and sardines It took us a week or so to talk them into making sandwiches for us. But the entire experience was a shocker, especially with all the fighting among the various cultures. It certainly wasn't the Hawaii tourists read and dream about. By the way, Lanai was where the LDS Church first located in Hawaii. The name of the small community was something like Joseph Smith City. It's no longer there. After the troubles they had among themselves, the community faded away and later took root in Laie.

Edited by Sean1427

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