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Category: CULTULE

The Nod

The Nod

CROSS-CULTURAL DIFFERENCES: NODDING
Cultural differences are not only manifested in traditions or in spoken language, but also in our body language. A very simple gesture is the nod. For most of the world, including China, Western Europe, the U.S., and Africa, the nod is strictly defined to mean yes (head goes up and down once or twice) and the sideways nod or shake of the head from left to right usually means no. There is also a general acceptation that the frequency of the nod is used to make a point and emphasize the individual’s belief: a more frequent nod left-right places more emphasizes on
negation.

THE REVERSE NOD
Against the logic of all “nodding” countries, there are people in this world who decided to reverse the nods and their meaning. It is the Bulgarians who do so, as well as their neighbors from Macedonia and Albania: to them nodding up and down means no. Reverse nodding have been observed with the Greeks and Turks as well and even in places with similar Mediterranean culture, like Naples in Italy. In Turkey a sharp upwards nod of the head is actually considered a very rude “no”, as in “No way, what are you thinking, you silly tourist?!” and is often accompanied by a “tsk” sound made with the tongue.

No matter how hard you try, you will most likely never be able to change the way you nod, as it is something so etched in our brains it is second nature. So, if you are in any of these countries, try to   say yes or no instead of the nod or you might find yourself agreeing to something you really don’t want, like the traveler in Sofia Bulgaria who, when asked if he wanted corn on his cheese pizza shook his head from side to side, which of course was translated as a yes, and he had to learn to like corn pizza that night.

NODS AND SHAKES
If you think reverse nodding isn’t enough, the Indians have a mixture of nod and shake that translates into something that is neither. The head goes right-left and front-back with a seemingly chaotic movement that makes one wonder whether the interlocutor is trying to tell you something or simply alert you that he is in great pain and not feeling well. It is neither, but it is also difficult to explain, since the meaning varies. It usually means yes, but it can also mean thank you, as well as the fact that your interlocutor is really getting what you are saying. Bottom line: the wobble is usually a good thing, so don’t worry about what else it might mean.

STIFF NODS
The nod is sometimes a very stiff and polite form of greeting, especially in Japan. The Japanese are very particular about their greeting, so this is always done depending on the relationship between the two persons. The general rule is that the greater the bow, the greater the respect, so, if you are old or have a better position in the company, a short nod of the head suffices, even if you can no longer see your conversation.

The Stave Churches of Norway

The Stave Churches of Norway

Stave churches are wooden churches from the Middle Ages, located in Scandinavia (mostly in Norway). Ok, we’ve cleared that up; so, what is so unique about stave churches and why should you see them? There is more than one thing. First, they are entirely built out of wood and built in the 12th and 13th centuries, making them an amazing feat of survival in and of themselves. Second, the stave churches are a unique combination of local architecture, with singularly their Norwegian decorations and framework, Christian and Viking designs, the fascinations of the Runic alphabet (the Viking’s alphabet) and a certain Romanesque spatial outlook to the entire construction. A final reason to see them (while you still can) is that there are not many original stave churches left in the world: from a total of around 1,000, there are only around 25-30 churches to still be enjoyed today.

The architecture of the stave church differs depending on its size. The smallest churches are simple, with one nave and a roof with wooden shingles that rests directly on the walls. As the church gets bigger, the design is more complicated as well. The Borgund Stave Church, for example, one of the best preserved and well-known, has an area in the middle with a higher ceiling and an aisle that surrounds this part. The roof is supported by pillars around this central area. The Borgund Stave Church should be one of your stops on the tour: other than the intricate design of the roof and the fact that it is very well preserved (it still stands in its original form    though it was built around 1150), it is a great example of the mixture of Christianity and Paganism in these parts. Several rune inscriptions, a reminder of Pagan times, read “Ave Maria” or “Tor wrote these runes in the evening at the St. Olav’s Mass”.

The largest stave church is in Heddal. So large it looks like a castle. Built in 1250, it was restored several times throughout history, including once in the 20th century, which makes it a very well conserved construction. The legend has it the church was built in three days by five brothers (quite a feat, if you think of it). Even some of the new stave churches, like the Church of St. Oluf, are worth a visit, at least to see how the modern architects were able to continue medieval traditions.The stave church of Urnes is also an interesting stop in your stave churches tour, if only because it is the oldest stave church in Norway. Not as architecturally impressive as the Borgund Church, it compensates with some unique architectural innovations for the time, such as the use of semicircular arches (trust us: it is really more difficult to make these out of a solid piece of wood) and impressive capital structures with cubical terminations. Viking and Pagan traditions are obvious here as well, notably in the sculptural work on the outside of the church. Don’t miss the view of the entire surrounding landscape, taking you back to medieval times in its simplicity and beauty.

BOTTOM LINE
The stave churches are unique in their architecture and their capacity to withstand centuries. Because they are so amazingly well preserved, visiting a number of stave churches is like stepping back into medieval times – you can almost see the knights and fair maidens walking through the doors and hear the lyricist play.

WATCH IT!
Max Manus is a famous Norwegian resistance fi ghter from World War II. So famous that a movie with the same name was made after his experiences in the war. A living James Bond…

Marriage proposals

Marriage proposals

In Great Britain and some of the Nordic countries, the woman can actually do the proposing as well, but only on February 29, so once every four years. In Finland, when this happens, if the man does not accept the proposal (talk about miscommunication), he needs to provide enough cloth for the woman to make a dress (this seems like a thing right out of the Middle Ages, can you hear the troubadours?)

As mentioned, the size of the stone seems to be an important issue for the parties involved in the marriage proposal. This is not necessarily something to do with the superficiality of modern times: even in Ancient Egypt, diamonds were an important part of the marriage proposal, because they were thought to protect the woman. Placing the ring on the fourth fingers of the hand also goes back to that time and place: apparently, there was a belief about a direct line going from the finger to the heart. The Romans, always the pragmatists, went with a simple iron ring (if they had lived in the 21st century, studies would surely have been done to see if marriage actually works out if you only have an iron ring – maybe yes, maybe no).

In many cultures, even today, it is inappropriate to do the actual proposal yourself, be you man or woman. There is an entire ritual related to the marriage proposal and it is usually the custom to hire a specialized person to do it as a go-between. This obviously makes a lot of sense in some of the cultures where the young ones don’t have any say whatsoever in the decision about who to marry (they call it “arranged marriage” for a reason).

Superstitions about marriage proposals are numerous and listing them will not help the timing of your perfect proposal. Keep this in mind, however: June is a good month, because the name comes from the Roman goddess of love (Juno). Wednesday is a good day for a proposal, but stay away from Saturday (bad day, not in the least because you might be drunk at the end an evening on the town, so the proposal will lose its meaning). And don’t you think about marrying someone whose name starts with the same letter as yours.

The hand on which the ring is worn varies around the world as widely as proposals do. Orthodox Christians and Eastern Europeans, as well as people in Germany, Austria, Greece, Russia, Spain, Slovakia, India, Colombia, Venezuela, and Poland wear the ring on the right hand. Jewish couples wear the wedding ring on the left hand, though it is placed on the right hand during the marriage ceremony. In The Netherlands, Catholics wear it on the left, all others on the right, while in Belgium the choice of hand depends on the region of the country. A traditional reason to wear the wedding ring on the right hand stems from Roman custom. The Latin word for left is “sinister”, which has evolved into the negative meaning of today, while the Latin word for right is “dexter”, a word now evolved into “dexterity”. The left hand’s negative connotation and the right hand’s good one (even then) made the right hand the obvious choice. Except in the United States, where the ring is still worn on the left hand based on historical legend that says the left hand is closer to the heart.

We all know the basics about marriage proposals: man loves woman, man hopes woman loves man. Man buys very, very expensive engagement ring (a tradition especially important in the United States ) and keeps hoping. Then, man proposes. Yes, this is basically all there is to it, except that traditions on marriage proposals do vary from culture to culture.

The Stave Churches of Norway

The Stave Churches of Norway

Stave churches are wooden churches from the Middle Ages, located in Scandinavia (mostly in Norway). Ok, we’ve cleared that up; so, what is so unique about stave churches and why should you see them? There is more than one thing. First, they are entirely built out of wood and built in the 12th and 13th centuries, making them an amazing feat of survival in and of themselves. Second, the stave churches are a unique combination of local architecture, with singularly their Norwegian decorations and framework, Christian and Viking designs, the fascinations of the Runic alphabet (the Viking’s alphabet) and a certain Romanesque spatial outlook to the entire construction. A final reason to see them (while you still can) is that there are not many original stave churches left in the world: from a total of around 1,000, there are only around 25-30 churches to still be enjoyed today.

The architecture of the stave church differs depending on its size. The smallest churches are simple, with one nave and a roof with wooden shingles that rests directly on the walls. As the church gets bigger, the design is more complicated as well. The Borgund Stave Church, for example, one of the best preserved and well-known, has an area in the middle with a higher ceiling and an aisle that surrounds this part. The roof is supported by pillars around this central area. The Borgund Stave Church should be one of your stops on the tour: other than the intricate design of the roof and the fact that it is very well preserved (it still stands in its original form    though it was built around 1150), it is a great example of the mixture of Christianity and Paganism in these parts. Several rune inscriptions, a reminder of Pagan times, read “Ave Maria” or “Tor wrote these runes in the evening at the St. Olav’s Mass”.

The largest stave church is in Heddal. So large it looks like a castle. Built in 1250, it was restored several times throughout history, including once in the 20th century, which makes it a very well conserved construction. The legend has it the church was built in three days by five brothers (quite a feat, if you think of it). Even some of the new stave churches, like the Church of St. Oluf, are worth a visit, at least to see how the modern architects were able to continue medieval traditions.The stave church of Urnes is also an interesting stop in your stave churches tour, if only because it is the oldest stave church in Norway. Not as architecturally impressive as the Borgund Church, it compensates with some unique architectural innovations for the time, such as the use of semicircular arches (trust us: it is really more difficult to make these out of a solid piece of wood) and impressive capital structures with cubical terminations. Viking and Pagan traditions are obvious here as well, notably in the sculptural work on the outside of the church. Don’t miss the view of the entire surrounding landscape, taking you back to medieval times in its simplicity and beauty.

BOTTOM LINE
The stave churches are unique in their architecture and their capacity to withstand centuries. Because they are so amazingly well preserved, visiting a number of stave churches is like stepping back into medieval times – you can almost see the knights and fair maidens walking through the doors and hear the lyricist play.

WATCH IT!
Max Manus is a famous Norwegian resistance fi ghter from World War II. So famous that a movie with the same name was made after his experiences in the war. A living James Bond…

Taking the photo of your lifetime

Taking the photo of your lifetime

The Taj Mahal is unarguably of the most recognized buildings in the world and its beauty has attracted many photographers who try to CAPTURE in an image everything they see before their eyes. THEREFORE, OUR first advice: don’t aim for the MOST unique photograph! The photo will be unique for yo u and your experience as a photographer however yo u do it, so don’t expect NO ONE ELSE WILL HAVE EVER TAKEN the same photo , from the exact same position. Remember that there are so many things that make up a photo that yo u will have every chance to make it unique.

Some very interesting photos can also be taken outside the actual complex. The Mahtab Bagh (or the Moonlight Garden) is a great spot across the Yamuna River that was created with the purpose of reflecting the Taj Mahal in its pools, thus amplifying the effect. It is a good spot for a peaceful photo (tripod included), although it is somewhat decrepit. Another interesting choice is to go by primitive boat on the river and take your photo there. Great advantage: you can almost not see the crowds from there! Enjoy taking these photos and don’t forget to share the result with us at https://www.destinationsuncovered.net/talkback.phpIt’s always a good idea to frame your main object of a photo with or within something. With the Taj Mahal, you get two choices: the south offer lawns and pools, while the east and west have the Jawab and the Mosque, wonderful architectonic ways to frame your photo. Both are a great choice, but a personal pick would go for the latter: after all, the Taj Mahal is a monument to humanity and it is only natural that it should be framed by such grandiose structures as well.Some of the usual advice you get when making photos of monuments applies here as well. “Go early” is something you hear a lot and the less familiar with realities of travel believe this is because you want to get the excellent light that is only at dawn. At least in this case, that is not the reason: the light at dusk is just as compelling for an amazing photo opportunity. The “go early” advice is more linked to the fact that there are (hopefully) fewer visitors at that moment of the day. Obviously your best photo of the Taj Mahal is one where you don’t have a Japanese couple holding the tip of the Taj in their hands (the cheesiest photo ever, almost as cheesy as holding up the Tower of Pisa). So, if the jet lag makes it hard for you to sleep, just get up, take your camera and go.

Tips on equipment
Organizationally, it is always best to travel light and this is no exception. Pick one type of lens: in this case, the best choice is a wide lens, because the Taj Mahal is nothing if not enormous and you want to get as much as possible in your shot. Don’t bring a tripod: you aren’t allowed inside with it and the bottle of water you can take instead will be more valuable. You are also not allowed with bags inside, so leave out any additional instruments you normally use.