Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Whinging Poms

Or is it whingeing? The Internet seems divided.

Last week some friends and colleagues ran what I can only describe as a fantastic week-long programme here on arts/crafts/folk traditions. Participants from all over Europe attended, met people working on traditional folk arts and crafts, observed them in their work and also participated themselves and practised what they had seen. Among other things this involved weaving, linen work, traditional wood painting, folk dance from all over Transylvania, making (and playing) traditional local musical instruments, riding on horse carts, visiting museums and art galleries, and many more. As a bonus they even got taken bear watching one evening (and saw 10 bears). One Polish guy in the group said he'd always dreamed of driving an old Dacia, so he got that chance too. They stayed in a fabulous local inn which is located in an old water mill, with accommodation in renovated traditional local peasant houses. The food at this place is plentiful and delicious, and is accompanied with lashings of palinka and wine. All in all it was the kind of week that would cost an absolute fortune if arranged through a travel agent/tour operator, but the people in this group got the whole thing completely funded through the European Union's lifelong learning programmes. Including their travel and everything else.

Everybody was incredibly impressed, happy, delighted, overwhelmed, and full of nothing but heartfelt praise for the experience.

Everybody except one person that is. The one English person on the course seemed to delight in moaning about anything and everything. First of all she had an allergy to paprika. Now this she stated on the form before coming, so every meal the group had was absolutely and perfectly paprika free. Timea, the female half of the couple that owns the watermill-pension who does all the cooking made sure of that (and as you can imagine in a Hungarian context cooking paprika free is quite a challenge). But the English woman insisted that she thought she could detect paprika in her food and got very upset and demanded to see the kitchen. Eventually she reduced Timea, who is the sweetest most caring person you could ever meet, to tears. Then she complained that they hadn't seen enough "Romanian" (as opposed to Hungarian) folk culture - though of course they had all received tons of information before coming to let them know what to expect, to talk about the unique character of this region, and to generally ensure that no-one would have unmet expectations. (Obviously if they had been driven to Bacau or Piatra Neamt or somewhere similar where they could have experienced something more "Romanian", she would then have complained about the distance).

But these are fairly small things. The thing that has really made my blood boil is that on Friday evening when I met the group I asked her how everything was going and she said everything was fine, great, it was a wonderful week etc. However, now, via email she is sending in another great litany of complaints. My favourite being that there were things at breakfast that English people wouldn't eat. Now I have eaten breakfast at this place and there are plenty of things to eat, and if you don't want to eat szalonna, for example, you really are not likely to go hungry. I don't eat szalonna, but I manage to put on weight every time I eat there. Plus, when you travel, you get things that you don't normally eat for breakfast. It's normal is it not? And she wasn't a first time traveller by any means.

I think the thing that really pisses me off is that to my face she told me that everything was great and now back in the UK she is shooting off cowardly emails complaining about ridiculous trivia which marred her experience. An experience which to everyone else was a wonderful amazing life-enhancing experience. An experience which was, let us not forget, entirely and absolutely free.

They say we are nation of whingers, grumblers, and complainers. I didn't really think this was entirely fair until now. It's really pissed me off.

[Now I of course, have whinged and griped about her, so I am obviously a product of my culture just as much as she is.]


A said...

Well, it IS different if you at least have a rationale for your complaints, not just for the sake of complaining.

Although I've never heard of a paprika allergy, I don't doubt there is such a thing. However, as a food allergy sufferer myself, I can guarantee that if I have any exposure to the allergen, I won't be wasting my time complaining of having "detected" anything. Instead I would be experiencing symptoms and therefore have more immediate concerns than wanting to inspect the kitchen! Sheesh!

Piroska said...

I wish I had been there instead of that annoying woman, it sounds like a fantastic experience. I am really enjoying reading the archives of your blog, by the way. My Hungarian grandfather was born in Csikszereda, and a couple of years ago I visited there, just for a day. I love the way you write, so frank and amusing, and all the everyday stuff about living in Transylvania is fascinating.

Anonymous said...

I could not stop laughing while reading your blog. I am a traveler my self and I would highly recommend to anyone who visits new places to have an open mind. There will be surprises –good and bad- and not everything happens as it was planned. If you can not embrace and appreciate what your trip offers than stay home. I would have loved to be part of that trip and I would have eaten the szalonna too:-) with some palinka.