Painful it may be but at least itÂ’s refreshing to point out afterwards that Australia is, per capita, officially the Â‘largestÂ’ country now and that if youÂ’re stupid enough to hold prejudice against a country for itÂ’s government then you best catch the train to Europe, as things arenÂ’t much better here with Gordon Â‘ItÂ’s only moneyÂ’ Brown!
This inaugural column is heavy on America, and for that I apologise, as itÂ’s been written on the train to Boston on the final leg of my East coast trip; but, for the record, IÂ’ve always liked America, Americans and many things produced by the land of the free. The skiing is better, the beerÂ’s cheaper and the people are, generally, much more personable. As one person put it, itÂ’s as cheap as Mexico but with cleaner water. It really is.
Sadly, as with Mexico, there is a plethora of jokes that have been stretched and whored by those previously mentioned fools at the expense of a country that they, most likely, have yet to visit. Stephen Fry recently took a big stand on the whole mess of it all and IÂ’m not trying to emulate anything of his exceptional calibre but it is important when your new environment is a melting pot of culture and there are still some who believe that there is a lack of subtle humour in their culture or that we, as the British, are a superior country when it comes to comedy but that is an egotistical misunderstanding itself. Be it the cyclists in Philadelphia who shout Â‘Are you trying to die today?Â’ to an in-the-way pedestrian while hurtling into traffic at a rate of knots with no helmet, or the New Yorkers who stop in the middle of the road to inform the turning taxi Â‘Hey! IÂ’m walking here!Â’ itÂ’s refreshing to hear some emotion on the street, injected with some stealth humour. If nothing else it beats the frequently mocked British reservedness of the Bertie Wooster wannabes (for the record I love Jeeves and Wooster) and itÂ’s far more preferable to the loutish, local football fan who pings a can of Stella at your head and then seems so perplexed when looked upon by said victim that the only words that can be produced in some hybrid of the English language are Â‘what are you looking at?Â’ Whatever it is, itÂ’s not pretty.
See how easy it is to stereotype? Too easy I believe and even though it can produce a soupcon of enjoyment itÂ’s too mediocre for good comedy; so, as itÂ’s the first week for some, I share this patronising sentiment. DonÂ’t endorse these stereotypes in this hallowed week that is FresherÂ’s week. You shall be meeting volumes of people and if you are to judge someone on the first comment to be spoken then there is the chance that the same shall be done to you. Let go of the public vs. state school feud, get involved in a club or society (lacrosse is superb I hear) without reducing all sports for meatheads and fitness freaks or all societies for Arts students. Even if you think that your flatmateÂ’s course of English with theatre studies sounds like a coaster course they probably canÂ’t fathom anything more soul destroying than physics other than flossing with razor wire whilst battling a hangover that would make Bacchus weep.
To tie it up, just help those exchange students who are settling in, as much as you would the local ones. Trust me. You wouldnÂ’t believe how handy it is to have a friend at Tulane university when Mardi Gras comes around or a buddy who lives on Bondi beach when you finally get round to travelling to the new Big Country.