Laughter: The Shared Language

Mackenzie - San Diego, California
Entered on April 16, 2009
Age Group: Under 18

I believe that laughter is the common language that is understood by all people in all countries. This past summer I was fortunate enough to spend in Zwettl, Austria. I was attended a summer camp in Zwettl that had fourteen participants, all of whom were from different countries. Being from America I assumed that the people attending my camp already had preconceived notions about me based on average American stereotypes. I later learned that they did; they thought that I would be obsessed with junk food and act like the people on America’s reality TV shows. Fourteen different countries were represented in my camp including Spain, Australia, Holland, Estonia, Lithuania, Italy, Turkey, Hungry, Denmark, and France. Once I got off my thirteen-hour plane ride it was an immediate culture shock. I could not speak German, so I could barely find my way around and on top of that I was extremely nervous to meet the other kids. Once I was where I was supposed to be I met four people in my camp and immediately started talking to them. There were so many questions that they had for me and that I had for them that the conversation never ceased. Once we arrived at the camp we met everyone else and the same situation occurred. We admitted our stereotypes that we had of each other and laughed about how wrong they were. I stopped for a moment and listened to that laughter. Although we all had different accents and different mother languages our laughter sounded the same. As we spent the next couple of weeks together we grew even closer and learned about everyone’s different cultures. We all respected one another and could not understand why some of our countries felt animosity towards each other. Through our friendships we proved that lines between countries do not mean that there must be divisions between the people living in them. No matter where in the world you may be from there is one common form of communication and that is laughter. It makes the distance between two people smaller and is the common thread that each of us shared. Now in my daily life I choose to make people laugh and get to know a person before judging them based on where they are from or what they look like. Laughter can dissolve the barriers between people and can help to mend friendships or even create new ones. The fourteen of us were proof that everyone in the world is not that different from one another and it is possible for us all to get along. The experience has taught me to recognize everyone’s similarities, like our laughter, rather than focus on our differences.