Babel

30
Aug
2012

I haven’t been to a European vacation destination in quite some time. It isn’t that I haven’t been to Europe in a while, or even that I haven’t been on vacation in Europe, but those others were not places that masses of people from different countries were on vacation themselves, as it is here in Mykonos. And so I had forgotten some of the cultural adaptations people make to get by. Chief among them is the use of English as the lingua franca. Somehow it tickles my funny bone to hear everyone chattering away in their own languages until they meet others from a different place or need to order a beer or pay for a sunbed. This “English” is transactional and simplified, more of a pidgin really, and I even find myself speaking it when dealing with anything service related. After the transaction is complete, you can see people switching back to their primary language to drop some offhanded insult or complaint or complimentary but semi-lewd reflection about an admired body part. The risk of people understanding that second language here is quite great, so I think it is more about providing a fig leaf for otherwise socially unacceptable remarks. I notice even Arnaud and I adjust our language choice to who is around us (French or English) and thin layer of desire to be understood or not, or subconsciously to be perceived as from one place or another I suppose, which can have its own uses. If there are a bunch of embarrassingly loud Americans or an annoying French couple behind us, for example, we will choose the opposing language to communicate in ourselves. And this is another feature of this type of vacation that I find hysterical; No matter the country of origin, everyone has notions of what the “others” are like, and look for people to fit the stereotype they hold in their head or to break it. And given the various proportions of nationalities represented here, the fixed assumptions are greatest for those groups (such as the Italians who seem to outnumber other groups). Still, one of the chief motivations for people to come here is precisely to meet and interact with (and potentially bed in some cases) a variety of people from a variety of places, and to feel more connected to each other and our common humanity. And that is kind of sweet.