Tag Archives: Culture

Friends Get Married

I’ve hit that age when everyone you know starts getting married. Some even start having (gasp!) babies! In the last year alone I’ve been to weddings in Serbia, the U.S., Germany, and Paraguay (oh, and there was that time I met my BFF’s baby in the Bahamas.) It’s expensive to keep up with so many friends and their love lives, but it’s also so much fun!

Every country has their traditions – some of them seem weird (actually, no, they ARE weird, but let’s not debate semantics here) but they are all equally as crucial for the couple getting married and for the guests in attendance. Here is a list of some of the things I found to be the strangest, or most unique, in the “foreign weddings” I attended this year:

SERBIA

Vladi and Ive

Vladi and Iva

  • The first wedding is in a church (pretty standard) and not all wedding guests are invited to attend – this is usually a small, intimate ceremony that lasts about half an hour – the couple must accept congratulations and smile and pose with every guest who came to the church for the photographer
  • When you walk outside the church, there are local gypsy brass bands that come up to the wedding party and play music – their music becomes more insistent the longer they play, often putting the horn of the instrument directly in your ear and playing at full volume until you give them some cash (at this particular wedding the best man also brought the gypsy band to the party, much to the delight of all the guests) – keep in mind, these guys can pull in thousands of dollars a night for a big wedding
  • When you arrive to the reception, the couple once again stands outside and poses with every. single. guest. (in this case about 350 people) Only after every guest had their photo op does the party begin.
  • Lots and lots of different cakes.
  • Oh, and the photographers have printers on hand and walk around the party distributing photos that guests can buy on the spot (this is not so much weird as awesome!)
Brass Band

Gypsy Brass Band

GERMANY

(This was a mixed wedding: half East German half Northern England, i.e. Geordie)

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Ali and Neil

  • Straight from leaving the church the friends of the bride and groom hold up an old bedsheet which has a giant heart drawn in the middle, and the name of the bride and groom inside of that. The bride and groom are each given a pair of tiny scissors and they must work together to cut the heart shape out. Once complete, the groom then carries the bride through the opening they’ve created in the sheet.374396_10152077898159278_1848781778_n
  • German tradition is that as the first true test of marriage, the newly wedded couple must work together as a team to saw apart a foot in diameter log using an old school, massive saw. The first marital row, if you will, ensues.995734_10152077899664278_1485770867_n
  • This might just be East German, not totally sure, but the bride and groom are each given two giant loaves of bread – they must create a pair of shoes from this bread. The first one to walk across the stage (or room) in their new shoes wins!
  • Each guest is given a balloon filled with helium and a postcard pre-addressed to the bride and groom. Each guest writes a message to the couple and ties the postcard to the balloon. Everyone releases the balloons at the same time (great photo op!) Once the balloon finally lands (wherever that may be) it’s up to any random stranger passing by who finds it to mail it back to the couple. (Strangely, our postcard made it back to Ali and Neil from the Czech Republic!)

PARAGUAY

(This was a mixed wedding half Paraguayan half Colombian – so the traditions may be a bit mixed up – at least in my mind)

Nati and Luis

Nati and Luis

  • There is a traditional Paraguayan dance at the beginning of the reception and every guest must dance for a few minutes with the bride and groom (men with the bride, women with the groom) and smile for a photo op!
  • Ligas – this took me a while to understand! The bride has about 20 garters under her dress (one garter for each single woman at the wedding). One garter is special (i.e. a different color) and the rest are traditional white. The bride sits opposite the single women (one at a time) and they each lift their right leg and touch the souls of the shoes. The groom then takes one garter from the bride’s leg and must slide it across their legs and feet and up the thigh of the single lady. His “last chance to touch another woman” if you will! The woman who gets the colorful garter is the next to marry. Ligas in Paraguay
  • Masks/hats/whistles/glow sticks/silly string, etc – Boxes of costume-like hats and whistles, (see list above) are distributed to guests to liven things up. I have to admit, this makes the party a hell of a lot more fun!
  • Whiskey – easy as that, the drink of choice for the night is whiskey, the nicer the better
  • For the Colombian tradition that stood out most, aside from sharing a bottle of whatever they were passing around, is some dance where a woman lies on the floor (or I suppose it could also be a man?) and all the party guests dance feverishly over her. (See example of Mapale here.)

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As I continue to grow my international network of friends, I will continue to observe the oddities of culture, which are never more openly displayed than in time-honored traditions such as weddings!

Berlin, the Land of Plenty

When trying to figure out a plan for the weekend, there is never a dull moment in Berlin. From the recent Fashion Week parties and shows, to new restaurants (especially of the “Pop Up” variety) to celebrity sightings checking into the SoHo House, even to the disastrous “Berlin” silent film accompanied by left of center music events, Berlin has it all.

This is never more evident than when I do something different from my normal routine. Not just deciding to take the U-Bahn to work instead of the tram, but going to an event or place I’ve read about, which seems to be the at the height of cool, and experiencing yet another side of Berlin.

Last night I joined to friends from work to see a Balkan Ska Band called RotFront play at Kaffee Burger on Torstrasse. They are most famously known for their jingle “Gay, Gypsy, and Jewish”, check it out if you have a chance! If it had been my very first rodeo, I might have been utterly confused by the description of the music, but since I’ve been around the block a few times, I knew I was in for a night of sweaty bodies jumping in a not-so-logical and men taking their shirts of to share the sweat with everyone.

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Okay, that sounds terrible, and if you were dead sober and hated the music, it very well may have been. But really, the band was fantastic and the energy in the bar was amazing. People were jumping up and down and sweating their asses off in the middle of a 20 degree night in the frozen tundra of Berlin because you couldn’t NOT jump up and down listening to these guys, (maybe you would only jump a little less if you were stupid enough, like me, to wear high heels to such an event!)

But really, between the kick ass trombone player, the exceptionally short singer, and rather good looking and talented sax player, it was one of those experiences that reminded me I am lucky to live in such a dynamic and energetic city.

The Universal People

Traveling has taught me one of the most basic life lessons. A lesson that you think you’ve learned in kindergarten, and then again in college, and then again in life, but really it never ceases to amaze you. People are just people.

The more I travel. The more people I meet. The more I interact (thank god for English, body language, and an open mind!) and the more I realize that humor crosses international boundaries, as does kindness and a pleasant smile. I have come across so many different kinds of people over the last year, (and of course earlier in my life,) but never before moving to Berlin has the point really hit home that people all over the world are just that, people.

I find it easy to relate to people with different cultures, religions, backgrounds, sexual orientations, races, and languages. The list goes on. I am still amazed that I, as an American, can sit in a group of people mixed from the UK, Indonesia, Germany, Australia, Finland, and Sweden and find common ground. We tell stories, we all laugh when something’s funny, we all understand the aggravation of falling off a bike, (your truly told the story, everyone else both sympathized and laughed!)

As long as you have patience and willingness to learn, I think it’s amazing how much you can get out of these relationships you form when away from home. Away from the comforts of your own childhood friends, or those who know you best. Traveling is an opportunity to relate to new people in such different ways and living in a new world shows you that despite minor frustrations and setbacks, you really can acclimate anywhere. As long as I’m not being naïve in thinking it’s as easy for everyone as it is for me! But honestly, I think once you get over the fear of the unknown, you easily learn how simple it is to relate to others, even when you might think you have nothing in common.

A Night at the Teatro

Last night I accompanied my friend Laura and her boyfriend to the Municipal Theater to see the internationally known play, “Closer”.  Some of you might remember the movie from 2004 starring Natalie Portman, Julia Roberts, Jude Law, and Clive Owen, which is a twisted love story about two couples who’s lives become inseparably intertwined and the hurtful things love makes people do. While many friends really disliked the movie, for one reason or another I loved it. The music, the casting, the story, the betrayals – Hollywood at its finest!

Very Tiny Movie Poster

I was excited to see the play here in Asuncion. Nicolas García, who played the character “Larry” was simply phenomenal in the role. Every scene he played he was undeniably Larry, who is a sex-crazed, egotistical doctor who may or may not have been a drunk. Perfect casting for that role. The role of Dan was also very well cast with an incredibly good looking Hernan Melgarejo. While his acting was not quite on par with Larry, he was still enjoyable to watch. As for the women, I really liked the woman who played Anna, Belén Fúster, however she was a little bit more stiff in her role than necessary. And lastly the part of Alice, played by Gabriela Cubilla, was very well acted – but unfortunately I did not enjoy watching her act! I think in comparison to the Natalie Portman role from the movie, Gaby just couldn’t compare, (really, who can?)

The play was overall very well done on the stage of the Teatro Municipal. I was surprised as how easily they were able to tell this twisted love story with so few props and settings, but I guess that’s good play writing for you! I do, however, feel like some key emotional or tragic elements were missing. I couldn’t relate to the overwhelming sadness of Alice or Dan, in their various moments, but I might be able to blame some of that on the language barrier. Also, I have to say, the play, (at least in writing,) was exactly equal to the movie. I don’t know if that credits the movie or the original playwright, Patrick Marber (pretty sure the play or book came first) but there was certainly no variation in this tale, and very little Paraguayization.

Overall an enjoyable experience and I will definitely try to go to the theater more before my time is up here!

Thank you Google Images for this great shot of the Teatro Municipal