Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Same sky: As easy as 1, 2, 3

Can you remember learning to count? I can't. It's one of those basic skills that you learn before any long term memory kicks in. So how come when I landed in Bratislava, I kept getting three hot dogs when I'd only ordered two?

Simple, really. It took me a while to discover this fact, but people in different countries hold up different fingers when they're counting from 1 to 5. Try it now, imagine you want to order two hot dogs (and can't speak Slovak) and see which fingers you hold up. If you're like me, it'll be your index finger and your middle finger. But if you're a Slovak hot dog vendor on Obchodna Street, Bratislava, it'll be your thumb and index finger. See the difference? She saw my fingers and assumed that meant three. Who would've thought?

Unfortunately, the hot dogs weren't really delicious enough to warrant having an extra one. I learnt to adapt, and discussed the issue with my Slovak students, too. They laughed a lot, but agreed that the hot dog vendor's counting method was perfectly correct. So watch your fingers when you're travelling or you'll get more (or less) than you're after.

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