09 Jun Oh Say Can You Sing?

The Best National Anthems You Haven't Heard Though you may not agree with the politics behind the flag, it’s generally accepted that the United States of America has an excellent national anthem. Originally written by Francis Scott Key as a poem expressing his feelings during the War of 1812, the poignant words were later paired with the music of “Anacreon in Heaven”, a gentleman’s club song from London. The most common places to hear the tune are sports matches, the Olympics, and memorial services, and it’s safe to say that even if you don’t know all the words you can hum a few stanzas. Britain’s “God Save the Queen” and Canada’s “Oh, Canada” are similarly recognizable, and the Francophiles amongst us will certainly know France’s “La Marseillaise”. However, there are 196 countries in the world, all with songs to honor their land. In addition, if we work off the definition of nation as “a large aggregate of people united by common descent, history, culture, or language, inhabiting a particular country or territory”, there are even more anthems to consider. It can all get a bit overwhelming, but never fear! Here are 5 of the best national anthems you’ve probably never heard. Qatar – “Peace Be to the Emir” [embed]https://youtu.be/_Ub4frgwRTw[/embed] “Al-Salam Al-Amiri” is a baby as far as national anthems go, only instated in 1996 when the current Emir Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al-Thani ascended to the seat of power. The song opens with a great thrill of strings...

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13 May Treat Yourself

One of my favorite things about traveling is the chance to try out foreign foods, specifically candy. Nothing can compare to the discovery of a new favorite sweet in a wrapper that is impossible to decipher. Foreign candies have also given me some of the more startling taste sensations I’ve experienced. You should never let a few bad tastes stop you from adventuring, though. To help further your quest for sweet sensations I’ve compiled some of the candies you absolutely must try. Some of these are so good the taste more than justifies the price of the plane ticket. Wine Gums – England Wine gums are chewy, gummy candies that are flavored after a variety of your favorite alcoholic beverages, with none of the hangover after-effects. In every bag you’ll be able sample burgundy, champagne, claret, gin, port, and sherry. Cheers! Kinder Country – Germany Purportedly a good source of your daily dairy, Kinder Country bars consist of a milky cream layered over puffed rice and then covered with some of the best milk chocolate you’ve ever had. Super delicious, but it melts fast, so eat quickly! Chimes Mango Ginger Chews – Indonesia Made with ginger grown in the volcanic soil of Java, these chews are spicy, sweet, and great for settling your stomach after a night out on the town. As a bonus they’re also gluten free and vegan, so feel free to share! Alfort – Japan Though many people don’t associate chocolate sweets with Japan, these cookies...

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06 May Where the World Vacations

Spring is here and with it comes the inevitable urge to travel during the upcoming summer months. Though the vast majority of Americans travel domestically, there are still those who wander farther. These are the people who dream of tropical getaways to Mexico, or hiking adventures in the northern wilds of Canada. These are the travelers who don’t feel fulfilled until there is a new stamp in their passport and a new security tag on their baggage. Seasonal wanderlust is hardly limited to Americans. In fact, Europeans are famous for their vacations. It certainly helps to live on a continent full of distinct nations easily reached by a car trip or short plane flight. Interestingly, a study conducted on travel trends for the EU noted that vacation destinations differ by nationality. Here are some of the results. Italians vacation in France. Yep, even Italians need a break from pasta occasionally. They head inland to the mountains and cities of France for a refreshing getaway. British go to Spain. It’s no secret that the Brits love the Mediterranean coast. Tans, tea, and tapas; Spain is the dream destination for everyone looking to escape the grey skies of England. The Irish visit the UK. This is a bit of a surprise until you consider that you can get a round trip from Dublin to London for $50. $50! You can hardly buy a suitcase for that price! Czech tourists choose Slovakia. Though not well known in the US, Slovakia is a gorgeous...

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29 Apr Manage Your Manners

During the 5 years I lived in Japan I committed my fair share of cultural faux pas. Dressing incorrectly, saying the wrong thing, exposing my misunderstanding of basic social rules… I unwittingly checked all of these missteps off my list. However none were more memorable, or more embarrassing, than those rules I broke at the dinner table. (Never stick your chopsticks point down in your rice. Trust me on this.) Table manners are a sign of civility and good character everywhere in the world. Unfortunately, “good” and “bad” etiquette is subjective dependent on culture, which can lead to unintentionally rude behavior. There are a few tried and true rules that transcend location (chew with your mouth closed, wash your hands, don’t throw things) but the rest are tricky. We’ve compiled five of the harder ones below. Read on to become a politer you! Italy – No cappuccino after 12pm Cappuccino is a morning drink. Indeed, for many Italians it can function as their entire breakfast. Therefore, anyone ordering it after noon is instantly identifiable as a tourist. Older Italians will admonish you for ruining your appetite and upsetting your tummy. Stay on the safe side and order espresso instead. Britain – Hold your fork in your left hand For most of mainland Europe, and particularly Britain, the approved way to hold your fork and knife is in the “Continental Style.” (Does that mean Americans use the “Colonial Style?” Need to look into this…) To be correctly...

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18 Apr A Dog’s Culture

Anyone who knows me at all knows that I’m obsessed with my dog. He is literally the cutest thing I’ve ever seen. A perfect combination of insane puppy energy with extremely lazy Labrador qualities. He averages a 70% success rate for retrieving sticks and toys when thrown (30% of the time he’s distracted or just plain refuses to participate in such inane activities). He loves running through herds of geese in the park and is probably the worst watch dog in the world. But he’s such a lovable galump that it’s totally forgivable. Charlie is always up for an adventure, including road trips Up North and anything that gets him into a body of water. But sometimes I wonder how he would adapt to relocating to a different country. Are dogs different in other areas of the world? Do they have culturally different attitudes, mannerisms, and decorum (as their human counterparts do)? Is dog language universal or are there dialects? Do they go through an assimilation process in order to “fit in” with the other dogs? How would daily life change for Charlie if we decided to move across the globe? French Social Structure  According to The Telegraph, there are four different types of dogs in France: “handbag dogs, hunting dogs, tied-up dogs, and dogs on the loose”. Charlie is clearly too large to be a "handbag" dog, and I like to think that I would never have a "tied-up" dog. I think he could potentially fall into...

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15 Apr Flea-Bitten: A Guide to Flea Markets in Europe

[caption id="attachment_2301" align="aligncenter" width="300"] An awesome Lion's Club Flea Market I stumbled upon in Denmark.[/caption] Caught the Shopping Bug? Whether it’s to find that one elusive dinner plate to complete a set from the 1940s, or because a modern couch just doesn’t have the same charm as an orange couch from the 1970s, there are many reasons people flock to flea markets. The air is always filled with excited chatter, music, and the mingled smells of food and dusty age. Flea markets are rarely just about buying old things - they also bring to life a sense of community and familiarity. Europe has some of the oldest and largest flea markets in the world, and stopping by at least one or two is almost a requirement for a well-rounded study abroad or travel experience. Flea markets give people an inside look into the culture, history, food, and customs of an area, all in one unique place. During your time abroad, take a day or weekend to hop on the train and get down to one of the flea markets dotted all across Europe. Even if you have no intention of buying anything, you won’t be disappointed in the rich experience you will have. Just be sure to keep an open mind and try to engage someone in conversation - people selling vintage pieces usually have amazing stories to go along with the items. Mercatone dell’Antiquariato del Naviglio Grande Held along the Naviglio Grande, this flea market...

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01 Apr Fool Me Once

As you are undoubtedly aware, today is Easter. Okay, so it isn’t. We know you know, but it was worth a shot. Today is, in fact, April Fools' Day, and if no one has caught you off-guard with a prank or joke yet today, then we apologize for breaking your streak. At least we didn’t put cellophane over your toilet or something, right? RIGHT? April Fools’ Day is a long-held tradition that is an official holiday in exactly zero countries. Perhaps this is a testament to the enduring whimsicality and fun of a day in which you can play terrible jokes on others with no consequence? In any case, though the origins and original purpose of the holiday are debated and hard to prove, it March-es on (HaHA! Get it? March-April?? I’ll show myself out.) Many people, companies, news providers, and governments get in on the fun by concocting wild stories that are JUST believable enough. This brings much mirth, hilarity, and reinforces the paranoia of those of us who have a hard time trusting others in the first place. To further your understanding of this worldwide day of pranking, we’ve singled out three countries where April Fools Day is observed in very particular fashion. No free-styling here, if you want to fool your neighbors there is a certain way to do so. Scotland – Hunt the Gowk “Gowk” is the traditional word for a “fool” and the Scottish trick takes a village to pull off....

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24 Feb Nostalgic for Nancy

Nancy, France that is. An hour and 45 minute high speed train ride from Paris Gare de l’Est, and you’ll arrive in this beautiful, if underrated city in northeastern France. Stepping out of the train station, it feels quite like any other mid-sized city in France with its tramway, brasseries, bakeries, cafés, and shops lining the streets, but a few blocks into the city center, you’ll happen upon the real treasure of the city, Place Stanislas. Place Stan, as it’s known among locals, is the heart of Nancy and is a classified UNESCO World Heritage site. The square is almost fully enclosed by the facades of the City Hall, Opera, Grand Hotel and a few luxurious restaurants and night clubs. It’s the hosting place for community and cultural events, a common meeting place among friends, and in general, is the site to be seen. Go ahead, take a look! Place Stanislas is not only a visually stunning site, it was designed with a functional purpose in mind. The square was a project conceived of by Stanislaw Lesczynski, King of Poland and father in law of King Louis XV. It served to connect the old town of Nancy to the more modern part of the city, and walking through Place Stan today, the distinction between these two parts of town, is still quite marked. Cross through to the Vielle Ville (old town) and this is where you’ll find the tiny...

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12 Feb Love Makes the World Go ‘Round

Here it comes…the day when couples are expected to shower each with love and expensive gifts, while their singleton friends gather together to get drunk, defiant and depressed. Well that’s what happens in the States, but there are many different Valentine’s Day traditions happening in different countries around the world. Here’s an insight into how different cultures celebrate February 14. Italy Long before Juliet was meant to be blowing kisses at Romeo from her balcony, Italians celebrated Valentine’s Day as the Spring Festival. The young and romantic would stroll arm-in-arm through gardens, resting beneath tree arbors to enjoy poetry readings and music. Today on Valentine’s Day, Italians are more likely to be exchanging gifts and chocolate over a romantic dinner. And when we say chocolate, we don’t mean a Hershey Bar. Italians believe the bigger and better the chocolate, the stronger the love you will have. France France has given the world its most romantic city, most seductive accents, and it’s sometimes claimed, its best lovers. It’s even said that the first Valentine’s Day card originated in France when Charles, Duke of Orleans, sent love letters to his wife while imprisoned in the Tower of London in 1415. Today, you’re more likely to find French people wining and dining each other than exchanging heartfelt cards on February 14.   United Kingdom In the UK, Valentine’s Day is when you can discover your secret admirer, or confess your secret passions for another. Sending anonymous Valentine’s cards is a tradition...

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02 Feb Beachy Keen

OK, so you have your enormous designer sunglasses and know how to order a croissant and café au lait, totally French-ified, right? Hate to burst your bubble, but there is much more to France than Parisian cafe culture, so trade your book of Sartre for swimwear and hop on a train to the coastline of Southern France. Here, you can channel Brigitte Bardot or pretend you’ve been invited onto a mega yacht by P-Diddy. Known colloquially as Le Midi, the region’s beautiful beaches (and the Cannes Film Festival in May) have made it a haven for jet setters, filmmakers and celebrities. But you don’t have to be rich or famous to enjoy the idyllic scenery. Anyone can enjoy the golden beaches, deep blue Atlantic Ocean, pine-lined headlands, and aspirational yachts bobbing in the sea. For indulgence, relaxation and a glimpse of the European high life, check out our picks of the best beaches in Southern France.   Cap Ferrat, Paloma Plage Located in Cap Ferrat, one of the richest areas in Europe, Paloma Plage is a tree-lined stretch in a small shallow cove. Swim out in the crystal clear waters for a great view of the area’s palatial mansions, where people like composer Andrew Lloyd Webber and Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, make their summer homes.   Argeles-sur-mer, Le Racou Situated at the top of Cote Vermeille, France’s only eastern coastline, Argeles-sur-mer is the sun-drenched region where you’ll find Le Racou, a small bay set against a...

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