The Olympics are here, clattering into town like a graffiti-cleansed runaway train full of corrupt bankers choosing from limited buffet car options due to sponsorship restrictions. But there are no corrupt bankers in the train, because they all travel by zeppelin and that was a simile. So what is in the train? A bunch of people from a place we like to call “Foreign”.
This needn’t be the end of the world, though. Sometimes, people from outside our small island can tell us wondrous tales, tales in which cars are driven on the wrong side of the road and food we eat as a main course is eaten as a starter! With that in mind, here’s some advice on dealing with situations you might find yourself in over the Olympic period, as well as some of the exotic people you might be forced to interact with.
AT THE BUS STOP
You’re rain-sodden and they’re confused. Some of the buses have letters in their name. Where is Hainault, they ask you? You tell them not to worry about it, it's the end of the line and they're not going there, anyway. Don’t fly into a rage when they inevitably spend minutes engaging the bus driver in conversation about directions whilst emptying notes into his hand.
Given that these are the handful of US citizens who've bothered to leave their home country, by default they are all self-loathing East Coast liberal wets who secretly long to be punished for their nation's foreign policy by snooty Europeans who don't make mistakes, such as yourself. Subject them to a rant about the United Fruit Company, Allende and the Bay Of Pigs and they'll be purring like a fridge. Get the happy ending you both crave by reminding them that “our Conservatives are actually as left-wing as your Democrats” before mocking their belief in such places as "Piccadilly Circle", "Ly-cess-ter Square" and Ealing Broadway, home to London's finest musical theatres.
Do not remind them that their president lied about having cancer. That would be like if they set David Blunkett's dog on fire: you wouldn't like it, no one enjoys dwelling on the disabilities of their elected representatives. Be sure to bond over a shared love of female leaders.
AT THE FAST FOOD RESTAURANT
If it’s the enormous McDonald’s, don’t worry. Maccy Ds is a universal experience. Everyone knows what to do here which means that everyone feels profoundly alienated. If you have the misfortune to find yourself in one of the less corporate takeaway joints that have been criminalised in the last week, don't get envious when the tourists have more banter than you with the staff. To the Foreigns, eating dinner is a profoundly social experience, while in Britain we all go straight from work to pub and don't leave until we're drunk enough to enjoy the ready meal we will inevitably buy from a supermarket in a train station.
THE SOUTH AFRICANS
The problem with South Africans is that after so many years of international isolation, they have the social skills of children raised by very unpopular wolves. These people didn't have television until 1978, so they only arrived at the goggle-box 20 years after everyone else did. This means that, right now, they are only up to 1992. Culturally, things like the mockumentary, and even the relaxed shooting style of, say, Malcolm In The Middle, still elude their ken. So remember never to break the fourth wall in the presence of a South African. They just can't deal with it and will think you have been possessed by "animal spirits".
THE OTHER AFRICANS
As you may have heard, Africa is a country. It is a truth universally acknowledged that all Africans just want to be a part of your country, so to win their favour, imply that you can get them asylum status and a job working in your dad's meat-packing plant outside Wakefield. When they ask for your email address, laugh and say “But why would you want my email address? You’re African, you don’t have email, silly!”
As well as the important matter of finding out which country on Earth breeds the fastest runners, swimmers and people who can ski across vast expanses of land pausing occasionally to shoot fairground pop guns, the Olympics is also about cultural exchange. Using the fashion savvy hardwired into your British DNA, you'll quickly realise that Canadians dress very badly. They like to buy clothes in only two colours: the colour of wet dog, and the colour of banana bread. To Canadians, this is a radical colour scheme with so many vibrant permutations. They also wear things in only two shapes: overweight backpacker, and comp sci undergrad on a date. Try the Oxford Street branch of Madhouse for a sartorial step up.
AT THE DISCO
Abroad, British men are thought of as either creepy aristocratic perverts or boorish drunks and our women are universally regarded as Lambrini-breathed slagettes. If you can get away from those visions of Britannia’s children then you’ll be going home with a sexy lover from Planet Bedroom Eyes. (Have you heard people from other countries talk? It's like playing The Sims in reverse.) Or, you could just ask them if they want to stay somewhere that won’t cost them their life savings (but will cost them their anal virginity!).
Dutchmen think that they are the only people on Earth that are allowed to be sexually liberated. They scoff at nudist Germans and sex-pest Italians. When you end up at a lap-dancing club with one (don't try to fight it, it's gonna happen), always allow him to put his head between those puppies and go blubble-blubble-blubble before you do, or else you will fatally wound his sexual pride. The sad fact is that for all their XXX big talk, Dutchmen are very bad lovers because all that pornography has left them anatomical thrust-muppets. A Dutchman has intercourse like there are a series of cameras positioned around his anus, whether there are or are not.
AT THE GENTLEMAN'S CLUB
At the bar, avoid gin and tonic for the period of the Games. Owing to its colonial connections, nothing says "bull-whipping a native in a dusty market square outside Khartoum" quite like an Englishman drinking a gin and tonic. This is exactly the kind of stuff we're trying to get away from. Nothing kills bonhomie like being reminded of your relatives that died in an explosion at the Bombay Sapphire factory.
AT THE FOOTBALL
Tell gory tales from Bill Buford’s book about football hooligans, Among the Thugs. The best one involved a thug sucking the eyeball out a policeman’s eye socket and then going to eat KFC with his wife whilst covered in blood. Tell them that story, with the implication that it happens all the time, and your guest will believe that getting from his seat inside the soulless arena sponsored by an international airline to the £9 hot dog seller and back again is a remarkable feat of bravery.
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