Friday, October 2, 2009

Culture Shock!

Getting used to living in the USA is kind of similar to my experience of living in Minsk for a few months back in 2001. When I decided to take a job in Belarus after a couple of years in Prague, I thought that my somewhat feeble Czech skills at the time would be pretty useless. However, given that Russian and Czech are in the same language family, certain important things were the same; "pivo" will get you beer from the Baltic to the Balkans (other than Hungary and Romania though) and "chleb" will get you some bread. There were times in Minsk when I could understand great chunks of what was being spoken about, and then in a flash I was baffled.

Admittedly I haven't experienced much culture shock since moving over here, but last night it hit with abundance when Mrs Velkyal and I went to see U2 live in Charlottesville. Imagine then, if you will, a fairly normal routine for going to a concert in Prague, such as when I went to see REM at the O2 Arena. Basically it is this; get home from work, quick change, grab a bite to eat and then head for the pub. Several pints later, jump on the tram to the venue, maybe another couple of pints before heading into the venue itself. Once inside, grab a pint from the bar, find seat, enjoy concert with occassional wanderings to the bar for more beer. Now consider last night's gig; meet wife at work to beat traffic and get parked up early; have a packed dinner in the back of the car whilst marvelling at people who bring barbecues and stuff despite the big bold notice on the parking pass that tailgating is prohibited, walk to the venue, buy a bottle of water and some popcorn all the while wondering: why so many kids, everyone is kind of overdressed, where is the bar?

Scott Stadium has no bar, sure it has snack stands selling crap of all kinds - sorry guys but I will never in a million years get into popcorn and funnel cakes. This being a U2 gig, we are positively encouraged to sign up for all manner of activist programs - which is fine, at least they are out there trying to make a difference. In the mean time I am thinking, surely there has to be a bar somewhere round here - it's a concert for crying out loud, an adult event, and still thinking, shouldn't all these kids be in bed? It is a school night after all. Having been forewarned that there would be checks, I didn't bother to bring a hip flask or similar, had I known had flimsy the checks were I would have stuffed a keg up my jumper and blended in with the crowd.

I don't think I have ever gone to a concert where I have consumed precisely zero alcohol. I am grown adult, I am responsible and I would like the opportunity to have a couple of pints whilst watching one of the world's great evangelists, sorry, bands. Now, I am no right winger by any stretch of even the most deraged imagination, but I am starting to have a grudging respect for people who bang on about their 2nd amendment right to bear and keep arms (quite though why anyone would bare arms with the cold as it was last night is beyond me); at least those people actively campaign for something they believe in. In prohibiting alcohol within the stadium, people's 21st amendment right to have a drink was walked all over - though of course I am sure it is in the interests of public safety, usually a euphemism for "we don't want to deal with the few who abuse that right".

U2 though were brilliant.


  1. Sadly; you have come face to face with a "Southern" view of concerts. In the North or West; you might see a different scene. Also; the fact that it is at a university stadium complicates the "authorized" availability of alcohol. Oh well... (GeauxT)

  2. You have experienced the result of the liberalization of the court system where huge lawsuits are the norm. The fact is that the university probably does not want any legal implications of selling alcohol;in our day and time, sadly courts allow lawsuits not only to blame the cause of an accident but also anyone with a connection. The result: an accident where alcohol is involved, the court will allow you to sue the person causing the accident, the seller of the alcohol, the owner of the facility selling the alcohol, and probably throw in the auto manufacturer, and the person who cut your hair.


The Genius of Marketing

There was a fairly simple plan, recreate the glassware experiment that I did a decade ago, but this time with Guinness rather than Victory ...