Two of the things which turn me off about someone I have just met is if they are rude to waiters, or if they are geographically ignorant. While the first is pretty self-explanatory, the second I need to clarify a bit more. By ‘geographically ignorant’, I don’t mean to say someone who has travelled to millions of countries or gone on a Gap Yah to South East Asia, I mean the people who are unwilling to acknowledge a country outside their own.
In the UK a lot is taken for granted. We have a free health care system which people chastise, without realising it’s one of the best things we could ever have, and a generally safe and good quality of life compared to other countries. What annoys me is when people don’t realise there is a life outside of the UK and America. I overheard people on the bus laughing that there was a country called Djibouti, and I almost wanted to burst into tears. I don’t expect people to know every country of the world, and when I was 13 I was equally ignorant, but surely there should reach a time by the time we’re say, 15, where we start actually realising there is a whole lot of world out there?
When I learn about tribes in, for example, Africa or Oceanic islands, in newspaper articles which explain their culture, I see so many comments saying that these people are “barbaric” or “uncultured”. Who is to say that a culture that is not your own is “uncultured”?! How is a culture which has continued for thousands of years more barbaric than our western society which constantly changes? What is our obsession with westernisation? Why do some people see colonialisation as a good thing? Colonial England/France/Netherlands/Belgium destroyed the structure of many countries, native people and native cultures. The Berlin Conference in 1844 actually divided up Africa into geographical areas, as if it was their own to cut and chop up. They told these countries that their languages were inferior or simply dialects. Calling a language a dialect reduces it to a state of it not being ‘proper’, that it’s simply an off-shot of something more “important”. Who were we to claim what was important?
Is it a lack of ambition too? It seems to me that although people complain about their own bubble (The amount of people who complain in England becomes more and more apparent to me every day I am abroad), they are perfectly happy to just sit in it. Isn’t it actually quite embarrassing that the West (especially, it has to be said, the US) are supposed to be the ‘cultured’ and ‘civilised’ ones, and yet fail to recognise the most famous basic countries in Europe and the World? I mean I don’t expect the Average Joe to point out exactly where Equatorial Guinea or Turkmenistan are on a map, but is it really that hilarious to not know where China is or what language they speak in Germany?