The one that starts off well but degenerates into schoolgirl humour quite rapidly...

>> Thursday, 20 October 2011

I guess I've lived 'an international life', friends-wise, for about 6 years now; pretty much ever since Boy #1 went to day nursery, in fact, and I discovered that he was one of only two British passport-holding children in his group of 16.

It's great to interact and become friends with people from different cultures, I love it (this may account at least in part for my having married a Dutchman), and since moving to Moscow it's become even more the case for me. It's unusual, in fact, for me to be sitting in a group of people with more than one Brit apart from myself nowadays; I ate last Sunday's lunch, for example with one other English woman, two Russians, an American and my Dutch husband. The previous evening had seen me sitting down with Kiwis, Russians, Americans, again one English woman, and two Dutch. The time before that had been Dutch, Korean, Canadian, Kiwis and Russians - and so it goes on.

But there are some conversations that you can only have with other Brits. The Monty Python 'I were brought up in a paper bag & had to lick 'road clean for breakfast' conversation. The 'Hyacinth Bucket' aka 'More tea, vicar?' conversation. And the one I had with an English girlfriend yesterday which went completely over our Russian friend's head, but which had us both cracking up over a reference to a character's beautiful furry muff in one of our children's library books.

Even when you explain this one to a Russian - and let me tell you, trying to do that that can be painful beyond imagining - for some reason they don't find it funny. She was stony-faced.

Sadly, I must admit that this is not my first experience of having to brave these waters; there was also the incident last year when a friend and I were trying to explain the double meaning of 'beaver' to a Russian after she found us wiping the tears away in a particularly undignified manner following our discussion of the fact that there was one living nearby under a bridge. (A mutual male friend of ours - not British - was particularly interested in visiting this beaver on a regular basis and, I'm ashamed to say, this situation was particularly easy double-entendre land for ex-convent girls such as myself.) Our rather hiccupy explanation as to why we were nigh-on hysterical (OK, there might - MIGHT - have been a contributory white wine factor involved in this) fell on extremely stony ground with our Russian acquaintance.

At the time I was confused by this (who wouldn't find references to a beaver funny, surely? Oh. Just us Brits, then?). But then yesterday, after the unsuccessful attempt at explaining the humour in a furry m... the furry m - god, I can hardly even write it - I remembered my trip to the banya last year when it was evident that extreme waxing is something of a patriotic duty in Russia. And suddenly, it all became clear. No wonder the Russians don't get these particular cultural references! The chances are that the only beautiful furry muff's they have ever encountered really are something which you would use to keep your hands warm in, in cold weather...



PippaD 20 October 2011 at 18:46  

I do love a furry Muff to keep my hands warm in winter. Or of course wrapped around my head in the form of ear muffs. Do other cultures get the naked mole rat imagery? Finding that out is your task for the week...

Iota 20 October 2011 at 22:02  

I have explained to my toy store colleagues why the game 'Help Madeline find her Puppies' is very funny, and they dutifully laugh now. Though it's definitely not the same as sharing the humoUr with a Brit.

family Affairs 20 October 2011 at 23:30  

I am of course proud of you.....but REALLY don't Russian women do hair either??? No wonder they are popular (yes, I know beautiful too, but still, I am sad and hairy and old).

Also FYI, Australians don't get the Beaver street - when we lived in Melbourne I had a friend who lived in Beaver street and I she had to stop inviting me!


Expat mum 21 October 2011 at 01:59  

It's what Americans call "that British sense of humor". Sigh.

Iota 21 October 2011 at 03:10  

Mind you, in Scotland (and England too?) junior cub scouts are called Beavers. My oldest went to Beavers every week when we lived there.

MsCaroline 21 October 2011 at 07:00  

Oh, Expat Mum, surely I am not the only American who finds the terms 'beaver' and 'muff' worthy of undignified giggling? Maybe it's just Chicago where they don't get it, because they're all too sophisticated? I admit I don't get all British humo(u)r, but I was under the impression that those, at least, were transatlantic?

This is putting me in mind of the YouTube clip someone posted a week or two ago on her blog called 'Mrs. Brown gets a Bikini Wax.' It really seems to fit in nicely with the trajectory of this discussion, Potty.
As an aside, the Koreans are not a very hairy race, so I have no idea what their cultural stance is vis-a-vis waxing, but in the next neighborhood to ours, there is an establishment called 'The Waxing Bar.'
Who uses it, and how, I do not know.

Expat mum 21 October 2011 at 13:43  

That is one of the funniest things I've ever seen - the Mrs Brown episode. Everyone should You Tube it and watch a snippet. Make sure the kids aren't in the room though!

nappy valley girl 21 October 2011 at 17:53  

We came across lots of Beaver references in Canada this summer and actually saw a Beaver in the wild near Niagara Falls. People were standing there pointing and shouting things to their kids like, "Look, a big hairy beaver!". I did have to hide my sniggers, I admit.

nappy valley girl 21 October 2011 at 17:55  

Oh, and one of the funniest experiences here was on an Amtrak train when they announced over the intercom "Has anyone lost a large black Fanny in coach?" No-one found it at all funny except us....

Anonymous,  23 October 2011 at 20:40  

hahaha! I love it. There are some thing only brits would understand and guess the same is true for Russians!

Pig in the Kitchen 24 October 2011 at 06:52  

Brilliant. Have you read 'How to be a woman' by Caitlin Moran? She's a big fan of furry muffs. :-)
Pig x

Muddling Along 24 October 2011 at 10:51  

Have always wanted to go ski-ing in Beaver Creek for what I think are obvious reasons...

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