Now I know what you’re probably thinking: this is bound to be a post about the kind of hangover you wake up with the morning after the night before; what you get if you had a bit too much to drink the previous night and you crawl out of bed late for work with your mouth dry and your head feeling like it’s going to explode. You look like death warmed up, and you promise yourself that you’re never going to drink again. That kind, right? Well, you’d be wrong, though the hangover we’re discussing today can nevertheless be just as difficult to deal with on occasion!
The first time I really thought about this kind of hangover was on one of my early trips to Russia. We’d had a lovely meal somewhere or other – Russian cuisine is, by the way, very underrated, and if you ever get the chance to try it, you should – and wanted to get the bill. I then sat and watched a very elaborate procedure that involved handing over business cards, printing out a very lengthy statement and much other faff that seemed to take forever. When I asked my Russia host what was going on, he simply shrugged his shoulders and said It’s just a hangover from the old days that we haven’t quite recovered from yet. In this context, he meant that during the Soviet era, before the collapse of the USSR, the country had been incredibly bureaucratic, with everything needing to be signed in triplicate, and that this had cast a long shadow. Old habits die hard and it would clearly be some time before Russia would adopt a quicker, more customer-friendly way of producing receipts that companies could use.
Of course, hangovers from the old days are certainly not unique to Russia. The UK has been suffering from a terrible post-Brexit hangover for over a year now, and many people argue that the nationalistic belief that Britain can somehow break free and rule the waves again on her own is itself a hangover from the days of Empire; an outdated belief in the country’s uniqueness and right to global power that hasn’t yet realised that things have moved on!
I spent two weeks in Indonesia in August, visiting my in-laws, and even though the country has been quietly getting on with life as a new democracy for most of the last two decades now, corruption is still rife – a problem that most see as a hangover from the Suharto era (the former dictator President Suharto was forced from office in May 1998). Each and every country has its own cross to bear in this respect.
Terrible, isn’t it, really? Almost enough to drive you to drink!
- What habits / beliefs / problems / attitudes in your country do you think are a hangover from the old days? Why?
- Can you think of any films, cuisines, bands, actors, etc. that you think are very underrated?
- How bureaucratic is your country? Give examples.
- Is it true that old habits die hard? Can you give any personal examples?
- Have you ever experienced problems with corruption? When? What happened?
- Can you think of any other dictators who have been forced from power by their own people?