By MIHAL GREENER
Many moons ago when planning my first trip to Europe I was met with a unanimous chorus of “whatever you do, don’t miss Prague.”
Knowing I couldn’t miss what was undoubtedly going to be the highlight of the trip, I squeezed it into an already packed itinerary.
And when I finally arrived on New Years Day it was… okay. Maybe it was the hangover, the dreary weather or the abundance of parachute tracksuits on the local men, but Prague and I just never really clicked. And I felt embarrassed to admit it. After all, what sort of person didn’t like Prague, apart from uncultured sloths that clearly should just stick to visiting Starbucks and the Hard Rock Cafe.
So it was with equal parts relief and delight when I read Elizabeth Gilbert’s discussion in Eat, Pray, Love on every city having a word. Rome is ‘sex’, the city being all about food, romance and art, while the drive and energy of New York City makes its word ‘achieve’. The idea was that if your individual word and the city’s word weren’t similar, then you and the city were never going to get your groove on.
It made me feel vindicated, and most importantly, understood. Sometimes there is a lot of pressure to like something that, on the face of it, is so likeable. But it’s an intangible feeling, a momentary response that often dictates whether something speaks to us, excites us, connects. Or not.
Some things will just rock your boat, while others can leave you cold, no matter how hard you try. And there is often no valid rationale or reasoning behind it.
I don’t know why I love Coles and make a mad dash to escape Woolies. Or given the choice would always buy my popcorn and choc top at Village over Hoyts. Target or Big W, do you even have to ask? (Target). I’d visit New York in a heartbeat, but don’t understand what there is to like about the urban sprawl and veil of pollution that lingers over the Los Angeles skyline. I know I should love The Wire and Mad Men but pass me the remote and the West Wing box set.
Is it irrational or instinctual?
Does the idea of each of us having a word also explain why some people can get along almost instantaneously; while others can’t find common ground despite supposedly having lots in common. If your word is faith are you every going to have a connection with someone whose word is science?
Is what dictates our reactions to the world around us as simple as one word? Or is it a complicated combination of history, aesthetics and ideas? Why can something be meaningful to the person next to you, but just make you pause for a moment before going …meh…
Mihal is a freelance journalist from Melbourne living in the Netherlands.
What is it that you love that nobody around you can understand? What are the things that despite all the hype just leave you feeling flat?
Any of these?