Where being nice is the law

It was mid-afternoon on our second day living in Hawaii, and I woke up groggy from a much-needed power nap. I stumbled into the kitchen where my girlfriend was ..

A nation of introverts

In a comic book produced by the organisation Latvian Literature for the recent London Book Fair, the main character gives a rare smile on realising that the wea..

An ancient word no-one can translate

It was spring when I reached the end of the world. On that mid-September day it was cold and raining in the city of Ushuaia, Argentina, but the sky cleared as I..

The confounding way Mexicans converse

As a Brit living in Mexico, I’ve discovered that many people are intrigued by whether or not I eat spicy food. I once had an entire conversation with a waiter i..

Europe’s last pagan nation

In mid-January, the snow made the little coastal town of Šventoji in north-west Lithuania feel like a film set. Restaurants, shops and wooden holiday cabins all..

The country with the ‘wrong’ name

Ice hockey is not usually my thing. However, while at a bar in central Helsinki watching Finland play Canada, I was absorbed by the atmosphere. Ice hockey is on..

The oldest song in the world

In Syria, music runs deeper into the fabric of the place than anywhere else in the world. Long before the modern state was formed in 1946, Syria had developed r..

A mystifying city with 225 names

The historical Oldehoofsterkerkhof square in Leeuwarden, the capital of the province of Friesland in the Netherlands, is a striking muddle of the weird and the ..

A language only three women can speak

The tiger shark was having a really bad day. Other sharks and fish were picking on him and he was fed up. After fighting them, he met up with the hammerhead sha..

The odd philosophy Icelanders live by

We were somewhere in the remote Westfjords, a large peninsula in Iceland’s north-west corner, when our campervan first stalled. It was late September, the end o..

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