Happy New Year! Whether you’re already there, or have a few more hours to wait, we hope that 2015 will be a fantastic year and bring you everything you hope for.
As the celebrations get underway, here are a few interesting New Year traditions from around the world…
In Spain, eat a grape for each strike of the clock at midnight; if you manage to eat all twelve during the chimes, you’ll have twelve months of good luck.
This is the tradition of being first into a house after midnight, in Scotland and Northern England. The first-foot should bring gifts of a coin, bread, salt, coal, or whisky, which represent financial prosperity, food, flavour, warmth and good cheer. The best kind of first-foot is believed to be a tall, dark-haired man.
A tradition from German and English folklore says that you must kiss someone at midnight, and that that person will be significant in your future. If you don’t kiss anyone, it means you’re doomed to a year of loneliness. Apparently.
In Chile, if you want good luck and prosperity in the new year, wear yellow underwear – inside out – and then turn it the right way after midnight.
Making a lot of noise
In the Phillippines, the New Year’s custom is to make a lot of noise at midnight, to frighten away evil spirits. People buy small horns called torotots and also use paputok (firecrackers) as well as banging pots and pans and revving their vehicle engines.
Burning ‘Mr Old Year’
In Colombia, the previous year is seen out by families as they build large stuffed male dolls filled with different materials, and items that they no longer want or that have sad memories attached to them. Then they burn the doll at midnight, which represents burning the past and looking to the future.
The first thing you should eat after midnight in Hungary is lentil soup, because it’s believed that lentils will bring you riches in the new year – and the more lentils you eat, the richer you’ll be.
New Year Dip
In various towns on the Welsh coast, brave swimmers take a dip in the freezing sea on New Year’s Day. Some people do it in fancy dress – and no, we don’t know why.
How will you be celebrating the New Year? Whatever you’re doing we hope you have a great time!
Today, we’re excited to introduce Amy, our new sales and marketing assistant. Amy’s going to be with us for the next twelve months while on her placement year from university, and she’s written today’s blog post, about why learning a language is one of the most important things you can do.
When you ask people if they can speak another language or if they would like to learn one, the response is often, ‘Why? What’s the point, everyone speaks English?’ Here at EuroTalk we want to change this perception and to show you why learning a language can be rewarding, enlightening and open up so many more opportunities.
Yes, it may be easier when visiting another country to assume they will speak English, and very often they do in the main cities and tourist areas, but what if you want to explore off the beaten track and find the soul of a country? Do you want to feel apprehensive, excluded and unable to participate, or do you want to be able to jump in with both feet, get to know local people, their customs and truly the best places to visit and eat, not just the latest Top 10! Without the ability to speak the language it is difficult to get to the heart of a country and to appreciate its people or culture in any depth, you can end up merely skimming a clichéd surface.
If you know the language, you will enjoy meeting people rather than feeling awkward and are likely to make some good friends as well, an even greater benefit if travelling alone. In life, isn’t it as much about the people you meet and the experiences you share, as where you were at the time?
Maybe you’re worried that learning a language is a bit boring? Not any more. With our app, uTalk, you learn in a fun and exciting way, no more sitting at a desk for hours at a time, dreading being asked to read out loud! No time? You can learn on your commute, whilst standing in a queue for your lunch or simply sitting on your sofa at home. Learning a language has never been easier and more accessible. No matter where your next adventure may be, make the most of it by learning the language. Remember, you never look back and regret the things you did do, just the things you didn’t. So what are you waiting for?
In June 2010, I began a six-month journey through Asia, and my first day saw me crashing into Chinese culture.
I arrived in the hutongs of Beijing (traditional closely grouped houses) where I was met with the foreign smell of uncovered meats being cooked on narrow streets, the noisy chatting of families sat on the brick steps of their homes and the overpowering forty degree heat and ninety percent humidity. It is needless to say China was a cultural shock but the exact one I was looking for.
My first venture onto Beijing’s streets was with a French roommate and we were in search of a real Chinese meal. As I wandered down the cobbled streets, only now slightly cooling as the sun set behind the skyscrapers of Beijing’s far away business district, we picked a restaurant that seemed to be thronged with locals and came with an almost essential picture menu. Having a weighty twenty hours of basic Mandarin lessons under my belt I was able to get a table for two, order a beer, and some water for the table. I felt newly alive as we sat chatting in the busy restaurant, watching locals devour their various feasts. The smell of the Mongolian lamb I had ordered, a specialty I had been told about before my trip, was enticing and the sight of it was even better. I remembered all I had learned about Chinese table manners and customs; that turning over a fish was bad luck, to always leave food at the end of your meal to avoid offending the generosity of your host and to never leave chopsticks stuck in the food as this symbolises death! After a twelve-hour flight I was ravenously hungry and as the food was laid upon the table I attempted to dive in. It was then I realised that there were only chopsticks on the table… an item I had somehow never really learned how to use… In a feeble attempt I tried to pincer pieces of succulent lamb and flick them toward my mouth. Alas this was in vain, and it was only after fifteen minutes, perhaps three mouthfuls of food and with the sound of my rumbling stomach distracting other diners, that the waitress quietly slid a fork on to my table with a beaming smile. This experience not only demonstrated the kindness shown towards me by the vast majority of locals that I would meet throughout China, but also showed me that as much as you can practise a language and learn about a culture, sometimes you just have to go somewhere to get a true idea of a country and its people. Needless to say the food disappeared in seconds and that Mongolian lamb is still perhaps the best tasting meal I have ever eaten!
If anyone else has had an experience as embarrassing, or has been touched by another culture, feel free to tell us about your experience wherever you have been in the world.