Tiny Ramblings From Around The World

published by Bren

Last updated: December 13, 2023

The French smoke like chimneys. They smoke almost as much as the Chinese, but they make it look classier somehow. When you see a Chinese girl smoking it’s like “No girl what are you doing!” But you see a French girl smoking and it’s like “Hey, that’s kinda sexy.” I don’t really know how that works.

The Chinese sound and look so rude to the naked foreign eye. But they’re actually really sweet. They just don’t have time to be cordial to everyone, because there’s just so many damn people there. You simply can’t care about everyone in a place that crowded. But if you’re a friend, if you’re family, they’re not only polite and respectful but they’re loyal. The Chinese are incredibly loyal when it comes to their own.

Japan is the country of extremes. The people are so shy, so humble and submissive. They’re painfully polite. While walking around the country you’ll probably be thinking, “This is the nicest place in the world.” And then you find some adult mega store in the middle of the shopping district, and it’s filled with the most fucked up stuff and you start to wonder if it’s all an act. It’s hard to understand Japan.

Africa is the most united continent in the world. There’s a community spirit there that doesn’t exist anywhere else. Say you’re in Kenya. Shops will sell Africa t-shirts and Africa necklaces. Billboards will be talking about Africa. When you meet a stranger, they will probably say “Welcome to Africa!” If you go to London nobody is going to say “Welcome to Europe.” If you go to Korea nobody will say “Welcome to Asia.” If Cameroon or Nigeria is playing a World Cup match, the rest of Africa will root for them. You’ll never see that on other continents. Other continents don’t have a sense of unity the way Africa does.

The Filipinos are the best combination of friendly and fun. For instance, the Japanese are so polite, but they’re too polite. They’re very reserved and it’s hard to get conversation out of them. The Aussies and a lot of Europeans are heaps of fun, but they’re too much fun. They’re getting drunk all the time and it’s hard to really get to know any of them. But the Filipinos are in the middle somewhere. They can have a good time but they’re not crazy either. It’s the perfect mix.

The easiest way to get a jump out of an American is to say, “Where should I go – East coast or West coast?” You’ll still be sitting there twenty minutes later listening to their impassioned plea about “West Coast is better” or “East Coast is better”. Both sides are equally passionate. “East Coast has way more shit to do broooo”, “West Coast girls are way cooler than them East Coast princesses duude.” It’s pretty funny.

I’ve never seen a country more obsessed with their celebrities than the Filipinos. They go nuts for their famous people. They’re also obsessed with their social media. There’s more selfies and smartphoning in The Philippines than anywhere else in the world.

Ethiopia is so misunderstood. The first thing that comes to mind is famine. Then disease. That’s true for a lot of Africa but Ethiopia especially. But it’s not like that at all. Ethiopia is booming. If anyone is wondering where to go in Africa, Ethiopia would be at the top of my list. That country will really surprise you.

Istanbul is stunning. It’s probably one of the coolest and most beautiful cities I’ve ever been to. It’s painfully gorgeous, feels like one of those magical Arabian cities from the movies or something. But the people let it down. It’s hard to feel welcome there. I couldn’t figure out the people, I guess. That was a real shame for me, because that city could really be something special.

I feel sorry for the people who live in New York. It’s like, you’re living in this amazing city, it’s one of the greatest cities in the world. But everyone is so on edge. It’s like, yo, chill out! Look around, you’re in New York! It’s like they can’t enjoy the city because they’re going 100% all the time. On the other hand, they don’t really have a choice. You gotta move fast to survive in New York, and that’s also what makes it such an electric place. So it’s kind of a Catch 22, you know?

I really like London. I didn’t think I would but I do. It’s kind of a polished New York City, just with more of that posh English vibe. But then I also think there’s a bit of savage under that poshness. Did you know of all the countries in the world, England has invaded all but 22 of them? That’s like 90% of the world. They’ve been to war with pretty much everybody. So as I walk around and marvel at London, sometimes I just think to myself, “You guys built this place with blood money.” Is that wrong?

I don’t get why Germans get such a bad rap. Everyone I meet from Europe hates on the Germans. They seem to have a really solid reputation for arrogance and just being dicks in general. But every German I’ve met has been cool and pretty humble. I’ve never met a German I didn’t get along with.

Thailand is very easy to hate but it’s also very hard not to like. Does that make sense? Like there’s so much wrong with the place – so many of the stereotypes, about the scams and the sex tourism and the ladyboys – it’s all true to some degree. Plus it’s been totally taken over by mass tourism and package holidays. Yet it’s still so awesome. Despite all the mess it’s really hard not to love Thailand.

People really owe it to themselves to come to Africa. You can pick any country – Kenya, South Africa, Uganda, whatever. In 24 hours you’re going to see how dumb the media is. All those photos of starving babies lying in the dirt covered in flies – that’s not the whole story. They got shopping malls here, cinemas, french bakeries, everyone’s walking around with smartphones; you’ll even find those health food stores with maca powder and gluten free pasta and all those other first-world-problem products. It’s not the place you think it is.

The French have a stereotype about being rude and arrogant. You know what? It’s true, but it’s not France. Most of France is cool. It’s Paris. Parisians can really be fucking rude. I’ve never seen such blatant rudeness from anyone else, it’s just the way they are I guess. But I feel like the younger generation is coming around. Not all of them, some of them are still snobs. But I’ve met some really, really awesome young French people. Not all hope is lost for France just yet.

I feel like Singapore is the vanilla milkshake of travelling. I mean, everything’s fine. The food’s good, the people are nice, it’s safe and easy to get around, it has all your western comforts. But that’s it. There’s nothing really to see or do there, but you can’t hate it either, because there’s nothing wrong with the place. So what do you do? You just shrug your shoulders and go, “Eh, so this is Singapore.” And you just kinda walk around and eat.

Cambodia is going to break your heart. There’s no way it won’t. Plus, it’s not an easy place to visit for a curious person. It’s history is so mind-numbing and like, you want to know more, but then you don’t. The thing is, you actually can know more. You can know anything you want, because all that shit happened so recently – the country is full of survivors, full of people that have first hand knowledge of everything, they lived it, they saw it all with their own eyes. And you see all these people rebuilding their lives after the terror and you want ask them what it was like. You want to know their story, all the details. But then you feel like an asshole bringing that shit up all the time, so you kinda just people-watch and wonder. Your curiosity eats you up inside. It’s like that friend you know who has some mad gossip but you’re too afraid to ask.

I see New Zealand so differently now. First of all, I understand why foreigners love it. To the tourist eye, New Zealand is probably as close to paradise as you can get. Mountains, beaches, good food, cool people, chilled out, safe, clean, developed. On the surface the place is heaven. It has everything the tourist or expat could ever want. But that’s my home – I grew up there, so I know the place. I know the bullshit that goes on there. So every time I visit another country, no matter how awesome it is, I need to remind myself that they must have bullshit going on there too. Bullshit is everywhere.

Bulgaria is like that secret hiding place you used to have as a kid. Like it wasn’t hard to find or anything, it was just there, behind some tree or something, but it was so good, it was perfect. And you just couldn’t believe that nobody knew it was there. It’s like, how could nobody know about such an awesome place? That’s what Bulgaria is like.

Israelis are a strange bunch. They talk to you as if they’re yelling at you, and you think you might have beef or something, but then you find out that’s just how they talk. They’re just loud, eccentric people. Most Israeli dudes I’ve met have been pretty gnarly and on edge but if you stay on their good side they’re pretty cool to hang out with.

I like the Irish. Personality-wise, I feel like they are the closest people out there to the Kiwis – small country, proud, funny accent. People say Irish people always love to scrap but they’ve always seemed pretty chill to me. I guess they are kind of long lost cousins of ours. I’m just surprised they don’t have a better rugby team.

I can’t figure out the difference between the Ecuadorians and the Peruvians. That’s probably a huge insult to them both, but I mean, that’s what I see. Their accents are the same, they look the same, they eat the same food. Yet for some reason I like Ecuador better. I can’t figure out why.

Colombia is underwhelming at first. It has such a strong reputation that you go there and you’re expecting something wild, and then it turns out to be just a pretty normal country. Shopping malls, nice people, buses. It’s like, hey, where’s all the crazy stuff? And then you settle in and realise what a fricken awesome place it is. Great food, beautiful women, lots of things to see. It’s like, if you had just told me the truth I would’ve come here so much sooner.

You know what I’ve noticed about Canadians? They’re all the same. Like Aussies are all different, some are really rowdy, some are real quiet and geeky, some are all business and some are hippie surfer types. Same goes for Brits and Americans and all that. But Canadians just seem to be all the same. I mean they’re all jolly and cool to hang out with and stuff, but they all talk the same, do the same stuff, have the same accent, the same opinions. It’s like Canada has a way of churning out a certain type of citizen. It’s really weird.

I’ve studied a lot of languages now and I’ve concluded that English has got to be the dumbest language ever invented. Half the rules make no sense at all. Like the sound “ph”. Why does that even exist? Why can’t we just spell “phone” as “fone” and “graph” as “graf”? Do you know how much easier that would make life for kids around the world? If people didn’t have to learn all these dumb rules in English we would’ve saved literally tens of billions of man hours. Those could’ve been devoted to something else, like curing cancer. It’s not a stretch to say we could’ve cured cancer by now if it weren’t for all these stupid rules in English.

Every time I walk around an airport I just wonder what it would’ve been like to travel fifty years ago – nobody rummaging through my bags, no standing like a starfish in some x-ray machine. We keep saying we won’t be terrorised but it’s like, c’mon, get real. Have you even been to an airport lately? We can’t even take water on a plane anymore. We’ve been absolutely terrorised.

You know, movies like The Lion King are genius. I saw that film when I was around seven years old, and then when I came to Tanzania nearly twenty years later I found out that “simba” was Swahili for lion, “rafiki” was Swahili for friend and “hakuna matata” really does mean no worries. Lion King was teaching me Swahili before I even knew it was a language and they made that movie so well that I still remembered all those words nearly two decades later. They need to make more movies like that.

A lot of people go to poor countries and harp on about how much happier poor people are. It’s not really true. Poor people aren’t happy just like rich people aren’t happy. They’re both unhappy but they’re unhappy about different things. I think it’s not really possible for anyone to be 100% happy.

I have a feeling the Dutch must be pretty tired of getting asked about weed. It’s like as soon as someone says they’re Dutch people ask them, “So do you like, go to coffee shops and get stoned all the time?” I used to do that too, until I realised what a dumb question it was, so I’ve been trying hard not to ask dumb questions like that. It’s like when someone asks me about Lord of the Rings as if it was filmed just down the street from my house or something. It’s like, bro, I haven’t even seen those damn movies.

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  1. I agree with a lot of what you mentioned above. As a Canadian, it’s pretty true that most of us are pretty much the same Except with the people in the Maritimes (east coast) and Especially people from Newfoundland & Labrador. They’re just nuts and they most Definitely have a different type of accent… If you meet one, let’s just say, you’ll know.

    I’ve never met an Aussie I didn’t get along with, and New Zealanders are awesomely cool and chill.

    For people from the UK, I’ve met the following types of people:

    – lads who are freaking drunk ALL THE TIME, think they’re part of the football/rugby team shouting from a bar, and obnoxiously hitting on any female that moves
    – normal people

    I agree for the Chinese part (I’m Chinese) and YES YES YES for Singapore!! I’ve stayed in Singapore to visit family, eat stellar hawker food, and going to somewhere else, usually Malaysia.

    You mentioned Africa so many times! Would you recommend/have you been to Tanzania?

    Love the site! Cheers!


  2. Interesting article as usual. I’m Filipino and I really get a kick out of someone saying something nice about the country and its people. We don’t often get that and I can understand why sometimes. We have so many things going for us, yet somehow we can’t seem to get our acts together. Agree with Singapore as well. I lived there for seven years and I love the place and consider it my home away from home. I think a lot of people I know from the Philippines will probably find living there a bit dull though. 🙂

  3. Bren,
    Great article! I enjoyed your take on different places and people. Not necessarily stereotypes, but genuine opinion about how distinct and wonderful different places and people can be. I do the same thing. It’s awesome how diverse and amazing this planet really is! I do have to disagree with you on the people of Istanbul (Istanbullu?). They were some of the most wonderful and helpful people that I have ever encountered. Great stuff! Btw, NZ is probably my favorite!

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