Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Best Friend Test


When you live in another country you soon find that your friendships are ephemeral, transient, and fragile. My best friend in Taiwan ended our year-long bestfriendship because he was mad that I went to see Star Wars Episode 3 without him.

So what we ex-pats need is a scientific test to find out who is truly our best friend. Fortunately, I've created such a test. A test you can trust.

What makes a best friend?

There are six components to bestfriendship:
1: They say 'a friend in need is a friend indeed'. So a true friend helps you when you really need it. Like, even with something unpleasant or hard.
2: Although it's not a good idea to lend money to a friend, it's a pretty damn good indicator of how much someone's welfare means to you. My best friend should be willing to lend me a sizeable chunk of money.
3: The unpleasant job of pointing out home truths falls to the best friend. Hence your best friend is the one who says, 'Dude, you are so whipped by your girlfriend', or 'just get over yourself already.'
4. Another function of a friend is to take whatever character defects you have (in my case, being a dick) and accept them. My friends have to be able to accept the fact that I'm quite likely to make them look retarded in multiple blog posts.
5. Friends also have to be willing to take a bullet for you. This means things like talking to the ugly girl while you seduce the hot blonde, and taking the blame for something you've done.
6. Your best friend should be on the constant lookout for hot women for you to meet, even if it means someone in their own family.

With that in mind, I created six easy questions to determine which of these guys is my best friend:

The Candidates:

Candidate #1: CECILE BUTCHERMEIER (French Stropster)
Candidate #2: SERENA VEGAS (Model student, and model)
Candidate #3: MARK (Hot Swiss male friend)
Candidate #4: ANNA BAGEL (German woman with penchant for beer)
Candidate #5: TATIANA (Fun student from Soviet Bloc)

And now, the results of the test:

1. If I had an accident and I was in a wheelchair, would you push me to the disabled toilet, watch me poop, and help me wipe my bottom?

Cecile: "No." (She later tries to change her answer to 'yes' when she realises that I'm keeping score.)
Serena: "No. But I'd get some guy to help you."
Mark: "No. Gross."
Anna: (Far too quickly). "Yes, of course."
Tatiana: "No!"

2. Would you lend me 1,000 francs (750 pounds)?

Cecile (well-off): "Depends what you need it for. To pay the rent, yes. For you to pay for a threesome in Vienna, no."
Serena (rich): "Yes."
Mark (rich): "Yes. Is it for that threesome thing?"
Anna (poor): "Yes for something important. No for a prostitute."
Tatiana (earns slightly less than me): "Yes."

3. If I were dating someone bad for me, would you tell me?

Cecile: "No, if you were happy. That's what good friends do - put aside their personal feelings."
Serena (grinning like she'd enjoy it): "Yes."
Mark (Has done this several times): "Yes."
Anna: "Actually, chatting to my other friend on Facebook is more important than this test." ANNA DISQUALIFIED
Tatiana: "Yes. But only if she were bad for you, not just that I didn't like her."

4. If I mercilessly made fun of you on my blog for the amusement of me and the general public, would we still be friends?

Cecile: "Well, you've done it like ten times already, so yes."
Serena: "Yes, if it was funny." (Well, duh. It would be.)
Mark: "Yes."
Tatiana: "No, I'd hate that. I'd ask you to delete it."

5. If I didn't have a ticket on the train, and the ticket guy was fat and old and gross, would you aggressively flirt with him until the next station while I hid in the toilet?

Cecile: "Yes."
Serena: "Yes."
Mark: "Yes (but only if it was a hot woman)."
Tatiana: "Of course!"

6. Would you introduce me to your hot sister/cousin/ex-girlfriend with the tacit understanding that one day I might be making babies inside her?

Cecile: "Yes, but my hot sister doesn't speak great English." (Earns bonus 0.1 point for showing me photos of sister in bikini.)
Serena: "I don't have a sister but yes."
Mark: "Yes, but not my ex-girlfriend."
Tatiana: "No. I never do matchmaking. It doesn't work."


Serena: 5.5
Mark: 5
Cecile: 3.6
Tatiana: 3
Anna: ZERO


My best friend. For now.

Try the test on YOUR friends - you may be surprised by the results!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Asterix at the Olympics: Latin Jokes Explained

A bigger, better version of this article now appears on my new Asterix site - click the white link just above this article. The one that says 'Everything Asterix'.

The new site is extremely beautiful, by the way. It's probably going to win an award and be preserved by UNESCO.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Why I Didn't Flirt With You

1. Girl in Domino's Pizza

I watched you come down the street. I thought, 'Gosh, she looks nice. I hope she comes in here so I can find true love.' And you did. You looked Scottish, but spoke Swiss-German. You had a fragile beauty. You ordered a Hawaiian pizza with EXTRA pineapple, and confirmed the order, stressed that you might not get enough pineapple. Pineapple on a pizza is a crime, and that's why I didn't flirt with you.

2. Cute Girl at Football

You turned up in the middle of our game, looking innocently cute. You had a tight shirt on. You looked at me and waited for me to tell you it was okay for you to play. I said it was okay for you to play. But I didn't flirt with you. Because you were 45 minutes late.

3. Girl at Gay Party

You were one of few girls at a gay guy's party. You said some interesting things, but when I said, 'Hey, come and play this fun game I just invented,' you said 'no'. So you kind of blew your one shot at finding happiness.

4. Hot Girl at Gay Party

You were a girl. You were hot. You live on a different continent. Anything more than 20 minutes away is too far. That's why I didn't flirt with you.

5. Girls Sitting on Chairs in Remote Corner of Party

You were some girls at a party. I'd been told you were single and looking. You sat in the corner the whole night, scrunching your breasts with your tight, cross-armed postures, pretending the rest of the party wasn't happening. I asked myself if I wanted to date a girl who would go to a party to meet a guy and then do whatever possible to prevent flirting from happening.
The answer was no. I don't want that.

6. Girls Standing in an Impenetrable Circle at a Party

Same deal as number 5. Seriously, try mingling.

7. Potentially Attractive Woman on Train

You were well dressed. You had a ponytail. These are things in your favour. But you were wearing sunglasses. On a train. At night.
So for obvious reasons, I didn't flirt with you.


Friday, July 15, 2011

The French Art of Destroying Conversations

York, 2006

There are three French women sat at a table. They are teachers, come to York to watch over a band of French teenaged thugs. They fail in spectacular fashion - one of the kids is deported for buying an air rifle in Scarborough and shooting a baby.
But two of these French femmes are way hot. I could easily fall in love with either. I approach.
"Hey there," I say, charmant. "I am going to see a movie. Does one of you want to come?"
They look excited - at last a break from their routine of chain-smoking, changing outfits, and buying cigarettes. They decide that only one can leave - two must stay and watch over the kids. They huddle and discuss who should go. My body is angled significantly towards the hottest one. They choose Munta, who is oddly-shaped and oddly-faced. I am distraught, but I don't show it, because I'm an English gentleman.

In the queue to the cinema, I bravely engage her in conversation.
"So, Munta, do you like movies?"
"Yes, I am French. I like French movies."
I point at a poster. "We could watch this one. But maybe it's a bit sad. When's the last time you cried at a movie?"
"Why would I cry at a movie?" she says contemptuously. "It's just a movie."
Conversation over.

My Flat, Zurich, 2010 

I'm talking to a French woman who has come from Prague to visit me. We talk about stuff and suddenly I get excited about the relationship between dreams and creativity. In particular, I've always been fascinated by people like Steven Spielberg and Stephen King, who turned their childhood fantasises and nightmares into movies and books in their adult life.
I turn to the French girl. "Yeah," I say, bouncing and buzzing, "It's like with Steven Speilberg..."
But I get no further.
"Spielberg?" She spits his name. "Ee is shit."
Conversation over.

Zurich, Walking Around, 2011

The Apprentice is one of the best things on TV, and one of my favourite things ever. It's a business-based reality TV show. I love the candidates's stupidity and the way they crumble under pressure. But I wouldn't watch it if it weren't, at heart, true-to-life. I tried to love the American version, but found it very fake and turned it off after half an episode. The British version is superbly edited to be as entertaining as possible, but the show is real, and I love it. 

The Apprentice 2011

Cecile, a moody French woman with a habit of uninviting me to parties based on perceived slights, found it shocking that I left her company on Wednesday night to get home in time to watch The Apprentice. On Thursday, she asked me if I enjoyed "that show".

My whole body language changed as waves of positive emotion flooded my body. "Oh, man!" I said, excited, "It was great! There's only six of them left now. Four did a great job; they really understood the task. But the other two totally lost the plot." I paused to think how best to describe their paralysing stupidity.

Pausing was a mistake, for it allowed Cecile time to piss on my cornflakes. "Oh, they choose retards to be on the show," said the woman who has seen a grand total of zero minutes of The Apprentice. "It's all fake."

Conversation, fin.

Zurich, Bubbles café, 2011

Cecile went to the toilet. I opened my laptop. My next class was going to be with a manager pretty high up in a bank. I checked the stock market. Everything was down - way down. Shares in his bank were phenomenally low. Maybe a good time to buy? Make some quick money? Or could it be the beginning of a new financial crisis? Maybe my student would have some insights. Maybe some of my friends and students' jobs would be at risk. Maybe his big meeting with the CEO - the reason for our lesson - would be postponed. Certainly, there would be plenty of interesting and important things for me to talk about with him.

Cecile came back, sat down, and rudely pulled my laptop screen back so she could see what I was looking at. "What's that?" she asked, apparently unable to decipher the names of companies with numbers after.

"Huh? What's that?"

"The stock market," I said, ready to inform her and educate her about the world-changing events unfolding digitally before my eyes.
"Oh," she said, Frenchly, "The most boring thing in the universe."

And that was the end of the conversation.

Saturday, July 09, 2011

Asterix and the Chieftain's Shield: Latin Jokes Explained

A bigger, better version of this article now appears on my new Asterix site - click the white link just above this article. The one that says 'Everything Asterix'.

The new site is extremely beautiful, by the way. It's probably going to win an award and be preserved by UNESCO.


Sunday, July 03, 2011

Henrici and the Cupcake Crisis

My temporary obsession with cupcakes started on a Monday. I went out with some friends to Rimini. By day, it's an outdoor swimming pool for gay men. By night, it's one of the hip places in Zurich. That night they had a special event - a market running around the edges of the bar. One of the stands was selling cupcakes.

There I met Cupcake Angel, a woman of indescribable perfection who, for one tiny fraction of a second, I thought was an actual angel. Like, from the Bible. That's how glorious she looked in her heavenly white dress. I flirted with her a bit. She laughed at my jokes. I don't think I'll ever stop loving her.

Imagine this suddenly appearing in front of you and laughing at all your jokes

On Saturday, Cecile asked me if I wanted to go out. I didn't. But then I thought I could go to the new cupcake shop in town - Cupcake Affair - and see if Cupcake Angel worked there. She didn't, and the cupcakes were expensive, but I bit into mine and it was delicious. Cecile waited before trying hers, because she wanted to take it to Henrici and eat it with a pot of Chinese tea.

Henrici is a nice coffee place in a good location in Zurich's main tourist spot. The owners are friends of friends, so I heard about it when it opened and it needed customers. Since then, I've been millions of times and told all my friends about it. On my Tourist Simulator Day, I brought 25 people there. In total, I've probably taken more than 60 people to Henrici. Indirectly, who knows how many? One of the guys I introduced it to is my hot Swiss friend. He takes all his dates there, and that's a lot of dates.

Over time, it has become busier and busier and I've gone less and less. It became impossible to go there after Friday night football because of the slow service and the frequency of being overcharged.

I still liked it, because the staff are attractive and the ambience is nice. And let's face it, you shouldn't bring cupcakes into places. But Cecile is French and thinks the rules of society don't apply to her. Still, I wouldn't have predicted what happened next.

We stood for a second to choose the best table, then headed to the corner. We sat, and a member of staff came over. But he came a little too fast, especially given the normal speed of movement in Henrici. What was up? He placed his hands on the table and leaned at us. He then gave us a dressing down in angry German.


I stared at the guy like he was a mildly interesting exhibit in a mostly dull museum. My lack of reaction seemed to annoy him as much as the cupcakes, so he turned to bully Cecile. He repeated everything he'd said, then jabbed his chin at her and fumed, "DO YOU UNDERSTAND WHAT I'M SAYING?"

I nearly laughed at him, which wouldn't have helped things. We stood up and walked out of Henrici forever.

Now, it's obvious you shouldn't take food into places that serve food. Obvious to anyone who isn't French, anyway. And if they'd come over and said 'hey, come on, play fair,' or any of the billions of possible ways to handle the situation in a positive way, we'd have gone outside, eaten the cupcake, and gone straight back in to give them twenty francs for two containers of hot water and some tea leaves.

But Henrici has grown beyond the need for my custom.

Good for them.

Click here for Cecile's version of these events.