Thursday, 7 June 2012

Teaching in Egypt (11): Egyptian humour

Out of the many cultural differences between the West and the East, I'm starting to believe humour might be one of the bigger.

I often find my students laughing at things I say that are not meant to be funny, and I frequently laugh at conversations they have that are meant to be dead serious. 

Recently, at the start of a new course, I asked my students to introduce themselves. I asked for their name, age, occupation and to try and get them to talk I wanted them to share a funny fact or story about themselves with the class. I was expecting stories along the lines of 'I was walking on the street and slipped on a banana peel', but got something rather different. 

* When I play video games with my 4-year-old niece, I always win. 
This is not funny, but plain mean. I thought the golden rule of playing games with children is to always let them win?

* The other day I played badminton for the first time. 
The first time I played badminton I knocked out half the light fixtures on the ceiling. That is funny, playing badminton itself clearly isn't. 

*A few days ago I bought a book online, thinking it was in Arabic, turned out it was in English.
That is more unfortunate than funny. Funny would be 'I thought I bought my grandmother a book on American photography, turned out it was about American pornography'.

*I once stayed up 48 hours watching episodes of my favourite American sitcom back-to-back. 
Again, not funny, that just means you have way too much time on your hands. 

*Last week I accidentally wore non-matching socks.
Shoes that don't match, maybe, but socks? I'm pretty sure most of my male friends do this all the time. 

Now, these people all speak and understand English fairly well, so it wasn't a matter of them not understanding what I was asking from them. But just to be sure, I gave them some examples of my own stupid antics. 

I once walked around for hours with the back of my skirt tucked into my tights, exposing my underwear. I once tried to clean an electrical socket with water (it didn't end well). I once drove my bike into a ditch trying to show off my 'skills'. 

They didn't think any of those things were funny, although I did see some of the guys' eyes light up when I was telling the skirt/underwear story. 

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