Guest Commentary

The problems with foreigners ...

Nobody likes Americans. I don't even have to argue the point. We're too pushy, too aggressive, too entitled and have too many weapons of mass destruction. We scare the shit out of almost everybody and offend the rest.

But I don't think other countries are anything to crow about, either. The following is a short list of annoying nationalities and the reasons why they're annoying, in no particular order.

1) The Germans. I have a German friend who bakes me cakes, and doesn't read English well enough to get through this. I'm thoroughly convinced that the reason the Germans invaded France in 1940 was, contrary to popular belief, so that they could get hold of palatable baked goods. Cakes are supposed to be light and fluffy and sweet! Four pounds of ground wheat husks, a cup full of suet, two liters of molasses and a handful of raisins does not a delectable pastry make. A reasonable horse-feed maybe, but not a dessert.

2) The English. If it wasn't for the massive and relatively recent influx of Pakistani and Indian immigrants, the English would be neck-and-neck with the Germans in the worst-food competition. But the Southern Asians have done for English cuisine (if that's not an oxymoron) what the Mexicans have done for us, only different. The Southern Asians have saved them from choking to death on boiled sprouts and animal innards and given them tandoori chicken.

What bugs me about the English is the way they swear. Regular people use "shit," "damn" or even "fuck." The English use those, too, but they also use "sodding," and their favorite all-time swear word is "bloody." "Bloody" evokes all kinds of violent imagery, and while my spouse tells me British kids used to get yelled at for using it, these days the average English housewife says it 20 times a day. "The bloody Hoover's on the fritz"; "the bloody loo's buggered"; "the bloody youghurt's gone off" (note obnoxious quirky spelling). If a culture's swear words are any indication of a deeper mass psychology, well then, the English sound pretty fucking violent to me.

3) The Scots. Contrary to what most Americans believe, the Scottish are not the same as the English. Scots are mostly Celts, while the English are more Anglo-Saxony, and basically they can't stand each other. You want to get a Scotsman mad? Mistake him for an Englishman. I think your average Scot would rather be mistaken for anything, even an Australian. The thing about the Scots is they drink way too much. I've been to Edinburgh three times and never met a group so persistent about punctuating its days with booze breaks. They have lager at lunch, bitters in the afternoon, whisky in the evening, wine during dinner and whatever they can get their trembling hands on for a nightcap. I've been reading Ian Rankin's latest mystery, and just realized that the book would only be about 20 pages long if the detectives and crooks would stop going into the pub every 10 minutes and just do their jobs.

4) The Irish. The Irish, except for the northerners, are really nice, but you can't understand a fookin' word they say. I was walking down a lovely little country lane in County Kerry when a pink-cheeked old man standing by a gate stopped me. He had a pipe in his mouth, six or seven teeth along with it, and said "oot erd not boot ethr?" It took me 10 minutes to realize that what he was after was a weather report. He'd said, "You've heard naught about the weather?" Swear to God.

As far as the Northern Irish go, they're all so suspicious of each other and hold so many grudges that it's a pretty gloomy place. I went for a run near the border and was followed by a military helicopter the whole way. I suppose my activity was suspicious. Nobody runs in Northern Ireland unless they've just thrown a pipe bomb through a pub window.

That's all for now. I could go on, but my editor only gives me 700 words, and I think I'm already over. Look forward to the next installment, "Southern Europe," or, "If You Don't Stop Strumming That Bloody Bouzouki, I'm Gonna Put It Through Your Head."

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