If, like me, you are a translator, you’ll understand when I say that we look at the things around us in a different way to others. It’s as if we see the world through a special type of lens, which is why a translator is often recognised as someone with a sharpened cultural perception, which goes beyond the realms of their own profession and starts to invade their personal lives in everything they do.
If, however, you are not a translator, don’t be scared off; we’re still normal people! We’re just addicted to noticing the nuanced cultural aspect of our surroundings, which is yet another reason why we love travelling (as if travelling alone weren’t reason enough).
In May this year, I had the chance to travel back across the Atlantic, not returning to my home country of Brazil, but rather to bask in the sun of California!
Hollywood Walk of Fame
After a relatively long flight (18 hours, to be precise), we landed in the City of Angels, Los Angeles, the first of many amazing cities to come. We were travelling in a group of five, so decided that renting a car would be the best idea as public transport is perhaps not as ‘rich’ in the States as in the UK.
Exploring Beverly Gardens Park
I didn’t believe my brother, who lives and studies in Azusa (half an hour away from LA), when he told me that he never hears ‘you’re welcome’ in response to ‘thank you’, at least not in California. I was therefore surprised – and even found it amusing – when I realised we were receiving nothing more than a ‘mm-hmm’, ‘of course’, ‘yeah’, or simply a nod anywhere we went, be it in shopping centres, restaurants, or even from passers-by we had stopped for information. Only once did we hear a ‘you’re welcome’ from a shop assistant, which my brother noted sounded extremely polite. This does not mean, however, that they were rude in any way; quite the contrary, as many times we were overwhelmed by their good manners!
The iconic Hollywood sign speaks for itself
Speaking of politeness, another point over which the English and the Americans have agreed to differ is the use and meaning of ‘sorry’ and ‘excuse me’. Since moving to London in 2015, I can count on one hand how many times I’ve heard ‘excuse me’, as it is not particularly used unless absolutely necessary. In the US on the other hand, the expression assumes its original function, whereas ‘sorry’ is not heard unless you are truly apologetic about something. Moreover, the British habit of saying sorry even when someone else is the one to actively bump into us doesn’t seem to exist in America. Ah, la politesse!
Walt Disney and Mickey Mouse wave us off at Disneyland
After six days, we said goodbye to LA and started our journey towards San Francisco, stopping at a few strategically chosen cities on our way, among which were San Diego, Santa Barbara, Monterey, Carmel-by-the-Sea, Big Sur and San Luis Obispo to name a few! It was always a struggle returning to the car to continue our journey and leaving so many things undiscovered behind us in each city, but time is short and with our hotels already booked ahead of us, we needed to stick to the itinerary.
One of the many unforgettable places we passed was Solvang, an intriguingly peculiar city founded by the Danes back in the 1910’s (not so long ago, really!):
And I don’t think this sunset at the San Diego Sunset Cliffs can easily be forgotten, either:
Although I cannot expect to have much of an authentic English accent, due to the fact that Portuguese is my first language and I lived in Brazil until I was 24, there were two awkward moments where I was not understood and had to repeat myself two or three times. One encounter was at a McDonald’s (because we had to try the local variations, of course) where the assistant simply didn’t understand me when asking ‘have you got any salt?’
The Golden Gate Bridge
On the topic of food, they really do seem to eat a lot more than us on the other side of the pond! Similar to London, apart from enjoying the local food – yes, hamburgers are amazing! – we had the chance to try a variety of international cuisines brought over by the waves of immigration the US has seen over the years, including Mexican (from both chain and local restaurants), Chinese and the amazing all-you-can-eat Korean barbecue you see in the picture below:
What about breakfast, you may ask? Well, if you order pancakes at a local UK restaurant, you might expect a moderate serving of crêpes with some maple/golden syrup on top, or perhaps some fruit or a dollop of Nutella. Well, not so in the US: