Across cultures

Some things I found strange the first time I went to Italy

Last week Caterina, PocketCultures contributor from Italy, wrote about some things she found strange when she lived in England. As an English person who has spent a lot of time in Italy (I am married to an Italian!) I thought it would be fun to look at it the other way round – things I did not expect when I visited Italy.

Italian food is famous in many countries around the world, and one of the most famous Italian dishes in Britain is Spaghetti Bolognese. Or so I thought. It turns out in Italy each sauce is normally combined with a particular shape of pasta – spaghetti with clams, penne with arrabiata (spicy tomato), … Bolognese sauce, or ragu as it’s usually called in Italy, is rarely served with spaghetti.

Italian breakfast

And whilst we’re on the topic of food, let’s talk about breakfast. The typical Italian breakfast in a bar is a cappuccino with a ‘pasta’ – a croissant, doughnut or other pastry. As Caterina wrote, it’s very different to the traditional breakfast served in British cafes. At home Italians might eat biscuits, or even a piece of cake, to go with their coffee. I have to admit I was surprised – In England we might eat a couple of biscuits mid-afternoon, but only as a treat, and definitely not as a meal.


January 30, 2013 Comments disabled

Nominate an expat or international blogger for’s competition

Online dictionary runs an annual competition for bloggers writing about their international experiences, and this year’s competition is about to start.

Who is eligible? Bloggers who write about their high school or student exchange, au-pair experience, around-the-world travellers and expats – anyone who is living another culture and blogging about it.

You have until 31st January to nominate your favourite blogger – for more details see this post on’s language blog Lexiophiles.

January 24, 2013 Comments disabled

Childhood memories of the holiday season

Our contributors share their childhood memories of the holidays. Some feelings and experiences transcend borders and nationalities: families gathered around long tables laden with food, chatter and laughter.

Traditional English Christmas dinner

Sean, contributor from the United Sates.

My mom is the oldest of 11 brothers and sisters, and almost all of them have multiple children.  It’s a big German-American, Catholic farm family. Almost the entire mom’s side of my family goes out to her parents’ farm house, for a family dinner and to open presents afterwards.  Once the cousins started being born (20+ of them), the gifts under the tree began to take up as much as 1/3 of the entire living room!

My grandma, with the help of my aunts, would prepare the Christmas feast, which always included: a whole roast turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy (with and without giblets), stuffing (with and without oysters), green bean casserole, ham, various salads, occasionally sweet potatoes, pumpkin pie, pecan pie, apple pie, cherry pie, “buckeye” candies, and lots of whip cream to go with.  My uncles provide homebrewed wine to drink, along with more common domestic American beers (and sometimes whisky).

It’s been fun to watch everyone grow up over the years; 15 of my cousins are within about 7 years of each other in age, so when I was in my early teens and the other cousins were getting to be around 9-10, they were a rambunctious group!  We’d occasionally take shotguns out back and target shoot, though usually it was just a lot of eating and talking.

In the US, at holiday dinners there is commonly a “kids’ table”, where the children would sit and eat with one or two adults watching them. I remember being really happy to graduate to the adults’ table.  My grandparents have been living in the same house, on the same farm, since the 1930’s and 40’s.  My grandma finally said “no” to hosting Thanksgiving this year. It’s going to be strange when this tradition is over, and we all separate and start our own Christmas traditions.

DeeBee, contributor from France

My most cherished memory of Christmas is waiting for Father Christmas or the Père Noël as we call him in France to come down the chimney!

Every year I would place a glass of milk for him and a carrot for his reindeer under the Christmas tree and would settle on the sofa with my teddy bear, both tucked under a duvet, by the fireplace, ready for him…

And every year I would be determined to surprise him, but would struggle to keep my eyes open, would fall asleep… and wake up the following morning in my bed!

My disappointment at not catching him was quickly replaced, though, by my excitement at discovering the pile of presents he had left for me!

All I knew is that he and his reindeer must have enjoyed the little presents I had left for them as the glass was empty and the carrot was gone!

I have always associated the magic of Christmas to this moment along with the unique fragrance of the fir tree and the warmth and cozy sitting room of my childhood.

Each of my Christmas has been Merry!

Ana, contributing editor from Argentina

My memories of Christmas are all about family around the dinner table. We celebrate Christmas Eve with a big dinner and open the presents at the stroke of midnight. When we were little and still believed in Santa, an adult would suggest all the kids went outside to gaze at the stars and try to spot Santa. Meanwhile, somebody would frantically get the presents and put them under the tree. Then, we would be herded back inside to open the presents that sneaky Santa left while we were outside looking for him! It was great fun.

Read more

Christmas around the world

Christmas in Costa Rica: a delightful tome of traditions

Rangoli – colourful Indian chalk paintings 


December 26, 2012 1 comment

Secrets of an intercultural supermom

How many people get to spend Thanksgiving weekend at an Indian wedding in Florida? Dressing up in a sari is all part of the fun in Sheryl’s intercultural marriage.

Sheryl and her husband Dharmesh have been married for twenty years and have five children. Read on to find out how they made it work.

Where are you from? Where is your husband from?

I have lived in nine states in my life, so I never know what to say when people ask me where I am originally from. My father climbed the corporate ladder during my childhood, and we moved a lot for his work. My entire family is rooted in Kentucky, so I was raised with very southern values. I have lived in southern states since I was 9, and have called Georgia my home for the last 18 years.

My husband was born and raised in Johannesburg, South Africa. He is Indian and lived in an exclusively South Asian community there. When he immigrated to the U.S., he settled in Memphis, Tennessee to study. Memphis is where me met.

How did you meet?

I was 16 and he was 19 when we met. I worked in the ice cream shop that was owned by his best friend’s family. He walked into the shop one night to borrow cups and bowls for his own family’s ice cream shop, and I melted when I laid eyes on him. Over the next couple of days, his best friend played matchmaker and got us together on a date. But it was all hush hush. Dharmesh was part of an Indian community that frowned upon intercultural dating. Actually, they frowned on dating at all. Back then, arranged marriages were still common for the young people in his community, so we dated on the “down low” for a long time.


November 29, 2012 5 comments

The Fête des Remparts in Dinan – Brittany

The Fête des Remparts is a medieval festival that takes place every other year in Dinan, the home town of Bertrand Duguesclin, one of the most famous medieval characters in French history.

This year’s festival was held on 21-22 July.

Fete des Remparts in Dinan - One is never too young to participate...

It was created in 1983 by the Society of Friends of the Museum and Library of Dinan, with the help of the Tourist Office and the support of the municipality of Dinan.

Fete des Remparts - Place des Merciers in Dinan

The festival has a different theme each time: 2012 was “Réjouissances princières et liesse populaire – Princely festivities and jubilant crowds”.

The theme of the next festival which will take place on 19-20 July 2014 will be “Inventions and Discoveries”.

Fete des Remparts in Dinan - one of the many outstanding costumes seen in the streets

People are encouraged to dress up with medieval costumes for the occasion.

Hiring a costume allows free access to the many shows organized on that weekend such as jousting, medieval markets, open-air dances. The festival ends up with a great parade.

Fete des Remparts in Dinan - a cute little dog...

The Fête des Remparts de Dinan takes the visitors back in time and the century old timber framed houses are a perfect settings for it. We are back in the Middle-Ages.

The spectacle is also in the streets, and it is really difficult to chose the best costume! I let you judge…


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April Frost and Three Saints known as Lune Rousse and Saints de Glace in France

Summer Solstice celebrations in France

About French Wooden Clogs


August 17, 2012 2 comments

Tour de France 2012 in Souillac in south-west France

Souillac is situated between Sarlat and Rocamadour in the department of Lot in south-west France and was one of the towns traversed by the riders of the 99th edition of the Tour de France on July 20 during Stage 18.

Tour de France 2012, Stage 18 in Souillac, Sponsors

On that day the 153 remaining riders  covered 222,5km from Blagnac-Toulouse to Brive la Gaillarde.

The stage was essentially flat with only four climbs (Côte de Saint-Georges, Cahors , Souillac and Lissac-sur-Couze).

Riders had gone through three weeks of racing and 14 teams had not had a stage win, so the pressure for doing well on this stage was quite high.

The stage started fast as it took only 21 kilometres for an escape group to form, but at the 120 kilometres mark a dog ran across the road causing a crash in the peloton involving the riders Gilbert (BMC), Menchov (KAT), Farrar (GRS) and Vichot (FDJ) who fortunately were not injured and were able to ride again.

Lead group with the Green Jersey and the Polka-Dot Jersey

The first attack from the front runners came from David Millar (GRS) with 43 kilometres to go but he was caught up. The escapees had an advantage of just 1’35″ with 37km to go and Millar was credited as the rider who did the most work at the front of the escape.

All the riders gave their most but despite all their effort Cavendish (SKY), who had received a perfect lead-out from Bradley Wiggins and his other teammates, started an amazing sprint 300 metres from the line and gave his team a 4th stage win in the Tour de France 2012.

Wiggins ended 19th.

Tour de France, parade of the sponsors known as Caravane du Tour de France

Tour de France, parade of the sponsors known as Caravane du Tour de France

The Tour de France always has the same magic, no matter if you are interested or not in biking as it is not only a major sport event but a cultural one.

Its popularity seems to cross the borders as more and more foreign riders win it. Locals and holiday makers arrive hours in advance to get the best place along the roads and patiently wait for hours to see their champion and the other riders run past like rockets!

The attention goes up one notch or two as soon as the helicopter that follows the riders is heard and seen in the sky…they are just round the corner…

Cameras are ready and everyone starts shooting or recording.

The spectacle lasts only a few minutes then it is all over…but it is worth every minute!
The show is not only with the riders but also with the Sponsors’ Caravane which precedes the riders by about an hour.

It seems to improve year by year as the sponsors compete for ideas and ingenuity to produce the finest decoration for their cars.

The crowds eagerly await the distribution of gadgets and gifts that are thrown from the cars.

Caravane du Tour de France: Sponsors parading and throwing gadgets and mini gifts to the crowds

Tour de France: Sponsors parading and throwing gadgets and mini gifts to the crowds

Everyone takes to the game, children and adults, and engage in a true scuffle to grab the goodies in mid-air!

Vittel, the official water of the Tour, always parades last and traditionally sprays the spectators with water. It is great fun and everyone expects it, and it can be quite welcome on a sunny and hot day!

It is always very amusing to watch the faces of those who return home with a wealth of gifts!

2012 was the 99th edition of the Tour de France, a major annual cycling event which was first staged in 1903 and which covers over 3600 kilometres in 21 days.

Parade of the sponsors...

Parade of the sponsors, PMU.FR the official sponsor of the Green Jersey

This year event It started with the Prologue on Saturday, June 30 – 6.4 kilometres Liège-Liège.

The riders started Stage 1 on Sunday, July 1 – 198 kilometres from Liège to Seraing and ended with Stage 20 on Sunday, July 22 – 120 kilometres from Rambouillet to Paris Champs-Élysées.

Stage 18 day’s winner was Cavendish (SKY) , the Yellow Jersey Braddley Wiggins (SKY), Green Jersey Sagan (LIQ), Polka-Dot Jersey Voeckler (EUC) and White Jersey Van Garde (BMC).

The overall individual winner of the Tour de France 2012 was Bradley Wiggins (SKY), the first ever British winner of the event, and Cavendish won his fourth successive victory in Paris!

The first French was Thibaut Pinot (FDJ), the youngest rider in the Tour 2012 -20 year old- who qualified for the 10th place in the general classification. A young rider to follow closely next year…during the 100th edition!


Read more

Catching the Tour de France in Brittany

Mardi Gras – Carnival Season

Wind energy industry in France

August 10, 2012 2 comments