Rasha al Raisi – If I ever had to choose my favourite nation in this world, the Scots will be my number one. Beside their kindness and frankness, the Scots seems to have inherited a humour gene that I’ve rarely seen in other nations. Having lived in Scotland as a student for five years, I don’t remember a time when I didn’t laugh or smile at something that someone said, be it a teacher or a colleague.
In the Arab world, the Egyptians are known too for their unbeatable sense of humour. But theirs is different, as it’s more based on the Egyptian culture. They could quote phrases from their movies and songs (old and new), manipulate certain words and phrases in ways that you’d never thought about and that’s what draws a sudden laughter from the listeners. Egyptians would argue that if they didn’t make fun of their daily struggle, they’d die of sorrow.
Now the second people on my list would be the Andalusians. What I like about them is their openness that’s not only reflected on their ample language use, but also through their body language. People will always have their palms facing up, with clear arm movements and shoulder shrugs (accompanied with loud speech. I live on the fourth floor here and can hear clearly the conversations in the café nearby.)
Europeans get intimidated by the Andalusians loud speech and friendly gestures. A German student here complained about the lack of personal space. When you ask for directions, people will stand right in front of your face, hold your arm while shouting out directions. Other students wonder about the welcoming kiss habit. Why kiss a total stranger on the cheeks to say hello? No matter how much the teachers try to explain, it’s only after spending some time here that the culture starts sinking in.
The Andalusians have a blind respect to queuing. In a bus stop, people would stand waiting randomly. But when the bus arrives, everyone knows when is their turn to embark. Once a fight erupted between two gypsy girls and an old couple for my sake. The gypsy girls took my turn and to my own surprise, the old couple told them off. The gypsies started shouting back and I stood in the middle trying to calm both parties with my: No pasa nada! But being gypsies of course, they carried on insulting the poor couple while insisting that they didn’t see me.
Another interesting queuing experience is in supermarkets. In my local supermarket, Carmen the cashier — to the delight of the customers — wears many hats while scanning the products. She’s the news anchor discussing what she heard on news (usually heinous murders. She’d shout it out later to the baker at the end of the shop, so no gore is missed out). She’s the child psychologist advising parents on how to deal with tantrums. She’s the decorator who’d open chocolate boxes for the grannies to suggest different displays on a party platter. Not to mention a master chef sharing free recipes of products she’d used before. Of course, everyone in the queue is welcomed to take part in any of the conversations above (I enjoy playing the extra in these lively scenes — either smiling, gasping in shock or nodding my head in agreement while mumbling: Claro!)
A funny situation that occurred once was of a couple who got lost in this relatively small shop and started calling each other out. The wife being so practical, started shouting out what was missing in her trolley for the husband to bring on his way back. Can’t beat that!
Rasha al Raisi is a certified skills trainer and the author of: The World According to Bahja. email@example.com