391. Discussing Language, Culture & Comedy with Alexander van Walsum

Here is a new episode featuring a conversation with a friend of mine who originally comes from the Netherlands but he has lived all over the world. You’re going to hear us talking about cultural differences, Dutch stereotypes, doing business in France, the UK and the USA, the different communication styles in those places, doing stand up comedy and getting Darth Vader’s signature. I hope you enjoy listening to it as much as we enjoyed recording it.

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Alex performing at Le Paname Art Cafe in Paris

You can see Alex performing at “WTF Paris? – Comedy Therapy for Expats” with Amber Minogue at the SoGymnase comedy club in Paris every Friday evening at 8pm. Details here www.weezevent.com/wtf-paris

  • Orion team

    Hi people we have finished this episode 391. Discussing Language, Culture & Comedy with Alexander van Walsum


    Enjoy it as we did.

  • Ptholome

    Well, I tried to send my daughter’s cat ti her in England and I had to have the Cat’s European passport. So to have it I had to vaccin the cat against the Rabies and check it six month later before they could give me this passport. but when they check it thay lasted another 6 months to give my the Ok. So because the vaccin was valid only for one year I had not time to sent it so the cat stood with us in Spain forever. And my daughter had an English cat. And the cat must be sent to London even if there was not quarantine and mu daughter must come from Northern Ireland to London to take the cat… it was a mess.

  • Ivan

    A really good episode, thanks a lot about warning us of french customer model.

    • Ptholome

      Monkey see, monkey does. That’s the key to enjoy the life in any country. La France is a wonderful country and they have a great life there.

  • Laderon Ashkenazie

    an Amazing voice

  • Catherine Bear

    Trying to make the audience laugh can be a very tough job. You can die in the ass trying it. Just listen to that crushing experience of Paul Taylor at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, back in the episode 296.

    I thought Paul a very funny guy. Just his voice and his face with those naive eyes of his make me laugh. Yet his own experience in Edinburgh was like “Gosh, I am the worst guy here. Nobody likes my jokes. I am the unfunniest guy ever” (something like this).

    He also said, if you want to see a real good comedy, you have to go to the UK. In Paris, they all are not funny. Luke being “kind of funny” or “little bit funny”. That was his opinion.

    What do you think? Maybe if you are a comedy freak and are exposed to great comedy, then you might find Luke and Paul not funny enough. You just have a really high standards.

    For me personally: the Luke’s English Podcast is the most enjoyable English learning resource ever. You will love it too (if you are a new listener ;-)

    Also I don’t understand most of the comedy yet, and I really feel grateful to Luke for explaining jokes and comedy. He is Master of Frog Digestion. :)

  • So nice episode, I like when you have guests Luke :), I would love to learn German, but after I learn Polish, but before I have to master my french :/

  • Toussaint Batilaelo

    Hello there this is Toussaint Batilaelo I have kinda weird name but don’t worry I am a nice person. I have been listening to #Luke’sEnglishPodcast since now for while I am very touched by the atmosphere and vibes around. I am from DR Congo but I live and study in Moscow for 5 years.
    I very love #Luke’sEnglishPodcast I have learned a lot by here even though I am still struggling with my English to make it perfect-:)

    By the way I speak French and Russian too Luke don’t take it personal but your Russian is awful.

    I should send you my voice saying hello, Hi…

    You’re doing such a great job
    Thank you for being so passionate and so good and positive person

    • Nick

      Hi Toussaint!
      My Russian is not as good as I want it to be even though I’m Russian :) So, you make a great job studying Russian and English. Well done!

  • MayumiM

    Hi, Luke and nice to meet you Alex!
    I cannot hold my excitement about STAR WARS story! Can I listen to it somewhere? or can you record your stand-up show and post on Youtube?? I’d love to listen, of course! I’D LOVE TO!!

    While I was listening to the story about French shop clerks, I was giggling because as I’m Japanese, like you said, still feel “customer=God” equation, it sometimes brings really strange customs between them, and I’d love to share what happened when Japanese people met French staff. (For any of you, French people, I really hope you don’t take it offensive or serious. It’s just my personal story and I do know there are a lot of people who can speak English very well. This is just the story from my point of view and my experiences. I respect your culture, people and country:) )

    Let me mention about services especially at cloth shop in Japan. Generally, you can have good services. Every shop customer smiles at you, asks what you need, follows sometimes as if they are private clerks for you, and even takes what you bought to the entrance to say thank you and good bye to you and finally they let you go with your shopping bag, which I think way too much and embarrassing.

    My friend and I went to London and Paris when we were graduating students. Firstly, in London, we both studied English and had a great time. After that, we went to Paris. Unfortunately without good French. What we could say was “Bonjour”, “Merci” and those kind of basic stuff with bad accents and pronunciation. But we at least tried to greet in French at first when we got into the shop or anywhere. We knew we had to to have a good atmosphere in the first place. It was the best we could then.
    At one cloth shop on Rue de Rivoli (popular shopping street in Paris), I wanted to ask the staff about the price and I just said “Bonjour” and then switched to English, not very complicated one ‘cus all I wanted to ask was the price, but as soon as I started to speak in English, she looked startled and just said rather loudly “No, no English!” I was surprised at her reaction because in my culture, staffs shouldn’t show any bad feeling they got. We, in most cases, need to staple smiles on our faces even you feel so angry at customers.
    I thought “Ummm, how come can’t she say more… politely? Have I done something wrong or bad to her?? But… she must’ve had encountered lots of tourists who spoke English…” to be honest.

    Also, I had the similar experience at the airport as well. From my understanding, at the airport, there are lots of people from outside of France, so I thought every staff had at lease some English. I didn’t think any exceptions then. When I wanted to ask something to the staff behind the counter, again I started my horrible French and switched to English then, again her eyes suddenly widely opened and glared at me, and said “No no no no no!!! Je ne parle pas anglais! (I can’t speak English.) No!” But I tried to push myself a lil bit and tried to continue a little bit, but she just said “No English! No English!!” She didn’t allow me to say anything further and completely shut the conversation down. I couldn’t believe what happened then.

    Should’ve I studied French hard then?
    Yes, I honestly felt bad after what happened there and the different attitudes toward customers between France and Japan. I didn’t get angry or mad at these staffs but shocked. I was really shocked by the cultural difference. Probably. in my country, shop clerks have to normally serve you carefully and it’s taboo to show our true attitude and say “NO” to customers, which people say this can cause some problems from time to time.
    I cannot say which culture is better but I enjoyed these experiences somehow in the end, maybe because I was just a tourist, still I got interesting anecdotes I could share with friends and LEPsters, anyway!

    Thank you for reading story and I really hope you enjoyed, and sorry if any of you felt bad after reading this.

    • Hi Mayumi, that sounds like a very typical experience of many visitors in Paris. Some people are not very nice in shops and the relationships is one of equals, rather than them serving you. You have to respect them almost as much as they should respect you. It’s quite different in Japan, and many other places. Don’t worry – I don’t feel bad reading this. I’m used to it!
      As for the Star Wars material, I’m not sure I’m going to publish it yet. One day I’d like to film a 1hr show of my comedy and perhaps sell it on my website (for a small price). Nice to read your comment. Are you looking forward to seeing Rogue One?

      • MayumiM

        Thank you for your reply! I’m glad you didn’t feel bad, but I kind of knew that, because you mentioned already these kinda stories had happened to you as well;)

        Yep, of course, I’m excited about Rogue One. I’m trying not building up too much. I unfortunately did for Suicide Squad, which was the biggest flop in this year so far, in my opinion.
        And this time, it’s a spin-off so I’m not expecting something completely new too much. I’m sure I will feel warm retrospective feeling when I see some classic characters! Anyway, have you watched the trailers? There are something put me off a bit…:( (I’m not going to say now, just in case you haven’t watched.)

      • Yes I’ve seen the trailers. The only thing putting me off at the moment is the script which seems a bit cheesy. “I rebel” etc. The rest of it looks pretty good and I think we’re going to see Darth Vader again.

        But you’re right – we shouldn’t build it up too much. It is a prequel after all.

      • MayumiM

        Great then! Yeah, I found that too, but in my case, the problem is all about some new characters who seem to have some Japanese background… The thing is every time I see some culturally exaggerated Japanese or Asian characters in English sci-fi and adventure films, I feel suddenly the movie falls into some sort of anime from Japanese point of view. I’m glad STAR WARS has a good variety of people including Asian people in general, though. And I’d love to see Darth Vader again! Hooray!
        BTW, I seriously impressed by and love your Darth Vader impression:)

        Sorry, I forgot to mention about STAR WARS comedy story. It’s great! I mean, even if you sell it, it’s absolutely fine! In that case, I can kind of donate to you finally. As a Japanese LEPster, we cannot do it easily decause of the policy of paypal. Whether you sell it or not, it’s not the matter for me;)

      • I hope that these Japanese-looking characters won’t be too stereotypical. In fact I’m pretty pleased to see some awesome looking samurai-type guys, including a Zatoichi lookalike. I think they look pretty awesome. There are also other characters of other cultural backgrounds including a hispanic guy, a black guy and so on. Diversity has always been one of the things I’ve liked about Star Wars (except some characters from the prequel trilogy who seemed like gross caricatures to me – like those two business men from the Trade Federation) so I’m basically ok with that.

        I have no idea when I’ll get my stand up online. Perhaps I should just publish it, but I’ve been working on it for a while and I don’t want to just give it away!

      • MayumiM

        I really really hope that, too. I was surprised at the fact I didn’t remember what Trade Federation was! I haven’t watched the prequel ones for ages… I must again this time ‘cus I need to prepare for Rogue One, maybe? (even though I’m reluctant to…)
        Luke, you still have so much things to say and need to record about STAR WARS again!

        How about testing it with your audience first without recording then decide whether selling it here or not? I’m not a comic and cannot say exactly how much you put your effort on that, but I can imagine you’re doing about something you love, this time about STAR WARS, and it must mean very very special for you then. I do love comedy scene in my culture and respect standup comedy especially. I believe it’s a form of art and culture. Please take your time and I look forward any outcomes:)

  • facetoface

    Hi Luke,
    You and Alexander literally kill me of laugh with your jokes…
    I am from Belgium and I work sometimes In France.
    I’m used to deal with french people like the postman and I had almost every time the same reaction: ” Ce n’est pas possible…” (Which means: it is not possible”)
    My interpretation is that some of them don’t want to work and some are just waiting to be implored by the customer. I think they want to be recognized as superior than you or feeling as they have a superpower…
    That’s the way it is in France…
    You probably know that we say in French:
    “La France est le plus beau pays du monde, mais dommage qu’il y a les français”.
    France is the most beautiful country in the world, unfortunately there is french people…
    Belgian joke…
    Keep up with your amazing work, Luke.
    Thanks for everything.

    • Ah, you know what we’re talking about!
      Glad you enjoyed the episode. :)

  • Catherine Bear

    — I wanna be as good as him and I want him to like me…

    — Luke is the funniest guy on the whole stand-up Paris scene! …

    — You are the guy you wanna to be as good as.

    Alexander Van Walsum
    (15:16 ff.)

    PLUS: Signatures of thousands and thousands of LEPsters ;)

    • SergeyA

      If Luke is the funniest guy on the whole stand-up Paris scene then I feel sorry for France, they perhaps never heard any good jokes.

      • Jack

        Negative comment. What`s up with that ?

      • Sergey Abakumoff

        I don’t feel that it’s negative. Not being funny is totally fine.

      • Jack

        you do realize that Luke performs comedy every now and then ? and you are writing that he is not funny, what does that mean ? At least try to appreciate others and stop with these negative comments

      • Sergey Abakumoff

        You are right, my judgment is totally based on the podcast which I think isn’t funny at all. In fact I found that the best application of the LEP for me is kind of sleeping pill on the plane. I usually put headphones on, start one of the episodes and 10 minutes later I sleep like a baby. No kidding.
        Perhaps Luke is more funny on the scene, I am totally not sure about that.

      • Jack

        Good for you then but there are thousands of people who absolutely adore this podcast. Constructive criticism is always good but what you did with those comments is insult. Avoid such statements please.

      • Sergey Abakumoff

        With all due respect, what are you some sort of moderator here? I don’t think so. If Luke finds my comments insulting he will simply delete them or even ban my account. Until then, just mind your own business okay, buddy?

      • Jack

        keep churning out useless comments


      • Catherine Bear

        There is always someone who doesn’t like what you are doing. There will always be some criticism. You cannot make everybody like you. Such is life. :)

        Dear Sergey, I think you must like the LEP somehow. Otherwise you won’t be coming back again and again. Even it it is a sleeping pill for you. ;)

        Anyway, it’s nice to have different opinions around.

      • Nick

        I think this podcast is humorous and professionally made. That’s why we all listening to this one because it’s not awfully boring like some others. Also I like that Luke respects feelings of his listeners and warns about swear words or some statements that can be treated in different ways.

    • Agnes

      I make a signature under these statements:-)

      By the way, very entertaining conversation, I enjoy listening both guys, about various cultures, behaviors, customs. What not to do in various circumstances, how to behave, we’re lucky to have you Luke!