by missfootloose on January 28, 2011 · 44 comments

in Culture and Customs, exotica, foreign places, Humor

Looking at the world

Do you love your own country, warts and all?  Do you actually know your own country’s warts?  As a traveler or an expat you discover the idiosyncrasies of other cultures and countries, but you also learn to see your own homeland with new eyes.  (A shocking experience this can be, not?)  It’s interesting as well to learn how foreigners see your culture and your people.

There are anywhere from 192 to 196 countries in the world, depending on your definition of country and the odd successful war of independence here and there.  Lots of fun out there to dig up, wouldn’t you say?  So, for your possible elucidation and/or edification I’ve gathered up several quotations by wise and learned souls describing the personality and characteristics of various countries, their own, or others.  May I assure you that these views are not necessarily mine?


Eating in Sweden is really just a series of heartbreaks.  — Bill Bryson


Many people are surprised to hear that we have comedians in Russia, but they are there. They are dead, but they are there.  — Yakov Smirnoff


Italy is the paradise of the flesh, the hell of the soul, the purgatory of the pocketbook.  — German saying


New Zealanders?

New Zealand is a country of thirty thousand million sheep, three million of whom think they are human.  — Barry Humphries.  (Now that’s just plain mean!)


Every country gets the circus it deserves. Spain gets bullfights. Italy gets the Catholic Church. America gets Hollywood.  — Erica Jong


English bed buddy: hot water bottle to keep you warm

Continental people have sex lives; the English have hot-water bottles. – George Mikes


Canada has never been a melting pot; more like a tossed salad.  —  Arnold Edonborough


France is the only place where you can make love in the afternoon without people hammering on your door.  — Barabara Cartland.  (You’re wrong, Barbara)


Apart from cheese and tulips, the main product of Holland is advocaat, a drink made from lawyers.   — Alan Coren, British humorist

If you’ve been a loyal reader of this blog, you will know I hail from the land of cheese and tulips.  Advocaat is one of my favorite desserts.  Advocaat is a distant but more refined relative of English and American eggnog.  It is a liqueur made of egg yolks, brandewijn (a type of brandy), sugar and vanilla.  Depending on the brand, it has an alcohol content of 14-18%.  The original, traditional version is very thick, like pudding, and you eat it with a spoon, preferably with a dollop of whipped cream on top (sadly lacking on the photo because I didn’t have any handy).  If you happen to pass through Schiphol, Amsterdam Airport, you’ll find it in the duty free shops.  There is an inferior tourist version that is more liquid, but forget that.  Get the real deal and eat it with a spoon, or put it on ice cream, or make lovely desserts and mixed drinks with it.  If  you cannot lay your hands on a bottle and you’re really desperate you can make it yourself.  Here’s a recipe for advocaat.  I’ve never made it myself, so don’t give me grief if it doesn’t work out.


I like Ireland because it means I’m near France. – Harry Harrison


Rioting is a Kenyan thing.  If they didn’t do it, they’d be Tanzanian.   — Dr. Mavura from Tanzania


A tiny portion of all the cheeses in France

How can you expect to govern a country that has two hundred and forty-six kinds of cheese?  — Charles de Gaulle


In Italy for thirty years under the Borgias they had warfare, terror, murder and bloodshed but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and the Renaissance. In Switzerland, they had brotherly love; they had five hundred years of democracy and peace and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock.  — Orson Welles

* * *

Now, dear reader, do you have some other gems and warts tucked away?  I’d love to find some pearly quotations or warty words about other countries.  All in good fun, of course.

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{ 43 comments… read them below or add one }

Ballerina Girl January 28, 2011 at 5:23 am

Interesting quotes that you found…
We are soon traveling around Europe some, and will be stopping in Amsterdam for a few days. I will think of you!



missfootloose January 28, 2011 at 9:48 am

Hope the weather is nice in Amsterdam (this is not the best time of the year!) Take a day ticket for the canal boats. You can get off at different places, walk around, see a museum, have coffee or lunch, then get back on and go to another location.


Mara January 28, 2011 at 6:01 am

I am still laughing so finding a nice quote about any country is impossible right now.

I remember the advocaat. We were allowed one glass on Sunday when we were at my Grandparents’ house. With whipped cream of course! I would feel so grown up!


missfootloose January 28, 2011 at 9:39 am

I hope the alcohol didn’t make you too giddy, being a child 😉


Wendy January 28, 2011 at 6:23 am

Love the quotes! Superb.

Especially love the one about NZ 🙂


Rambles with Reese January 28, 2011 at 6:49 am

This post was great fun! I wonder what quote would describe Canada? I often hear about its inferiority complex because of its American neighbour. Being away for most of my adult life in different countries and now living in Italy, I am definitely proud to call myself a Canadian! Warts and all!

Cheers Sweetie and have a great weekend!


missfootloose January 28, 2011 at 9:37 am

Resse, there is a quote about Canada on the list! I think it’s quite nice, since I love tossed salads…


Paul D Brazill January 28, 2011 at 8:17 am

I love the Alen Coren one!


missfootloose January 28, 2011 at 9:38 am

If you come across any others, do let me know!


MartyrMom January 28, 2011 at 9:58 am

“America is the best half-educated country in the world. ”
Nicholas Murray Butler

He was president of Columbia University for 43 years; Nobel Prize winner and active worker for peace.


missfootloose February 3, 2011 at 6:00 pm

How sad, don’t you think? Thanks for sharing.


Aledys Ver January 28, 2011 at 9:16 pm

Great post! I loved all the quotations! I agree that the one about New Zeeland is totally mean… My favourite would be the one by O. Wells about Italy and Zwitserland!
I have a common joke that other Latin American people make about Argentineans and their egocentrism:
“Do you know what an Argentine’s biggest dream is?”
“what is it?”
“to go away to live on a deserted island so that he can think of himself as much as he pleases without being interrupted.”
“and why doesn’t he do just that?”
“because then he would not be able to tell it to anyone.”



missfootloose February 3, 2011 at 6:03 pm

Oh, that is hilarious! Does speak to the character of Argentines, or at least to the stereotype! Thanks so much for this one; it’s going into my file 😉


Nancy Atkinson January 30, 2011 at 3:44 am

I never fail to learn something new by visiting your blog.


missfootloose February 3, 2011 at 6:04 pm

You make my day 😉 I live to enlighten.


Balanced Melting Pot January 30, 2011 at 9:32 am

I like this one “I met a lot of people in Europe. I even encountered myself.” ~James Baldwin

I usually find the twin of someone I know from home while traveling – in the end we’re not all that different.


missfootloose February 3, 2011 at 6:12 pm

Very good! No, at the core we’re not all that different. It’s good to pay attention to what we have in common, and that makes it so much easier to make friends abroad, too.


Madame DeFarge January 30, 2011 at 4:04 pm

Great quotes. I like being Scottish, but find the endless cultural cliches very tiresome. And I am always annoyed when someone thinks I’m Irish. Or maybe I’m just grumpy!


Welshcakes Limoncello January 30, 2011 at 7:13 pm

Cheered me up, Miss Footloose. I think we have to hand the prize to General De Gaulle!


missfootloose February 3, 2011 at 6:14 pm

Glad you were cheered. I try to find the fun in life. TV is already doing the nasty stuff.

Check out other quotes by De Gaulle; there are quite a few and mostly not flattering about his own country!


bettyl January 31, 2011 at 10:32 am

Great quotes. I’m afraid I’m afraid to see what else folks have to say about New Zealand!


Karen Lac January 31, 2011 at 11:50 am

There’s a common saying that the Chinese will eat anything with four legs except for a table, which is pretty much true for my parents and their siblings.


missfootloose February 3, 2011 at 6:16 pm

I like that one! I’m not up to the Chinese eating habits, but I do like to be adventurous and I like people who are not turned off by the first thing that looks slightly different.


frayedattheedge January 31, 2011 at 1:04 pm

Just found you via Boonie (still laughing at his search for a rhyme!) I love your quotes – very entertaining. I’ve been an expat, but not had as many adventures as you (3 years in Indonesia). I used to fly from Jakarta via Amsterdam to Edinburgh, but it was some years later that I actually got to see more than the airport!


missfootloose February 3, 2011 at 6:19 pm

Boonie is amusing, yes. I lived in Indonesia for 2 years, long time ago, but it was a great experience. If you come across any quotations describing the Indonesians, let me know!

Glad you got out of the airport in Amsterdam. I had the same experience with Paris, transferring there often, and never seeing the city. Until one time we missed our flight (to Armenia) and had to wait 2 days for the next one. We saw Paris! Loved it! Went back for a real visit soon after. Sheesh 😉


marja February 1, 2011 at 4:04 am

Great ones. The one about the new zealanders is probably written by a Australier. Like the dutch have jokes about the belgians the australiers go on about the nzlanders and especially about their sheep. Must be an old one as well as. There are now over 4 million people and there are about 40 million sheep.
oh and advocaatje is what my aunts used to drink. I actually never had any.


missfootloose February 3, 2011 at 6:21 pm

The Dutch and the Belgians often have the same jokes about each other, in reverse! Advocaat is an oldfashioned “likeurtje” but it’s still around everywhere. It’s quite unique, and very versatile.


Laurel February 1, 2011 at 1:49 pm

Thanks for the chuckle. Love Bill Bryson’s comment about Sweden and have never heard the one about Canada and I’m Canadian.


maria altobelli February 1, 2011 at 5:31 pm

Great post, Miss Footloose. I have to track down some sayings for you.


Ashleigh February 1, 2011 at 9:02 pm

Hey there,

Found you on Karen’s Expat site…I have a blog about my family’s life in Spain. I’ll be following your blog…looks like you’ve done a lot of the things I hope to accomplish one day…Looking forward to poking around your blog!


missfootloose February 3, 2011 at 6:23 pm

Hope you enjoy the tales of my (mis)adventures. It’s fun to write. Good luck with yours! Spain should give you plenty of inspiration.


YTSL February 3, 2011 at 11:16 am

More Kenya vs Tanzania (this from when I lived in Tanzania back in the 1990s):-

Tanzanian: “Kenya is a man-eat-man country.”
Kenyan: “And Tanzania is a man-eat-nothing country.”



missfootloose February 3, 2011 at 7:30 pm

Ouch, indeed! I lived in Kenya for some time, and visited Tanzania, but it’s a long time ago. Let’s hope Tanzanians have food to eat. I’m all for that.


Lady Fi February 3, 2011 at 1:03 pm

Oh, Loved these quotes. That Mikes one is one of my favourites.


inka February 3, 2011 at 10:04 pm

You got yourself a new fan – me! i’m off to Venice in a few eeks and will think of a quote to add here. Added you to my blogroll.


missfootloose February 4, 2011 at 11:36 am

Thanks, Inka! Surely the Italians should have generated some interesting quotations about their culture, and especially the Venetians! I was in Venice many years ago, but in the last few years we’ve been going south more. As the Italians say, it’s a different country down there. Actually, what they say, is that Africa starts south of Naples. Not nice. Not true, either. I’ve lived in Africa.


GutsyWriter February 4, 2011 at 12:33 am

My husband is an advocaat, but I need to add some cream.
Love the General de Gaulle quote.
To think that I used to carry a British passport.


missfootloose February 4, 2011 at 11:39 am

About your British passport, I think perhaps it didn’t quite suit your temperament. But as passports go around the world, you could do worse 😉


Walter Knight February 4, 2011 at 11:21 am

I always enjoy you comments about cultural differences, and picked a gem from it for a conversation in one of my books. I loved the comment about eating anything with four legs except the table.


missfootloose February 4, 2011 at 11:40 am

As a writer, you never know where your inspiration might come from. I know all about that. Glad I’ve been of help 😉


Maria February 5, 2011 at 2:45 pm

Found your blog as I was searching for travel quotes for my blog.

The Advoocat is similar to the German “Eierlikör” – as thick as pudding and if you want to get it out, you have to give the bottle a real shove.

I like this quote:
The first condition of understanding a foreign country is to smell it.
– Rudyard Kipling –

Smelling Japan on a hot summer night (incense and yakitori), in Germany it is passing a Biergarten, smelling the Sauerkraut and Bratwurst, in Greece it is the Souvlaki on the grill, etc.

I understand food very well:-)

Greeting from a repat!


Samba February 7, 2011 at 3:29 pm

I loved this post. I have been cranky lately with people trying to fit me into their stereotypes of my country, but I couldn’t help but laugh at some of your quotes. Well done!


missfootloose May 12, 2012 at 2:45 pm

Thanks for the link, Sandra! I do hope you find better food in Stockholm than what you described in your post! Even though Bill Bryson wasn’t impressed either.


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