John McMahon

The Key to Success? Talk to Yourself More Often

How many times have you been walking around the grocery store talking to yourself? “Okay, John, don’t forget the milk,” you say out loud. Or sometimes you catch yourself debating on which colour shoes you want: “Alright, but if I get the blue ones, they’re not going to match anything I own.” Perhaps you’re even(…)


The Many Sayings and Phrases to Cheers around the World

When travelling the world one of the best ways to get to know locals and learn about their culture is to sit down at a table, break bread and share a drink. Likewise, it is one of the most forthcoming ways people all over the world welcome a stranger. This sharing of food and beverages,(…)


The Language, Lifestyle and Universality of Skater Speak

Recently there appears to be an international outbreak of Thrasher T-shirts, hats, and hoodies on the streets from Kanchanaburi, Thailand to Hong Kong to Sunnyside, Queens. It’s doubtful that this retro skate apparel trend is isolated to just these varied places. Thrasher, if you don’t know, is one of two magazines that launched in the(…)


Top 8 Thai Dishes You Won’t Want to Try

Having lived in Thailand for a decade and a half, I’ve gotten used to some of the odder aspects of the culture, so it takes fresh eyes to remind me that there are feral dogs roaming around everywhere on three legs or that people routinely drive into oncoming traffic. Food can be included in the(…)


The Dalai Lama Says ‘Let Them Drink Horse Milk’

If any of you are familiar with American NPR, at some point, you may have been witness to a few headlines celebrating the Dalai Lama’s many messages. More recently, a headline read ‘Dalai Lama says he cured Mongolia of alcoholism by promoting drinking horse milk.’ Now, it’s not unusual to find peculiar story lines attached(…)


Learning to Have a Heart-to-Heart in Thai

Languages around the world use the heart as metaphor for love, disappointment, sadness. In Spanish, a generous person has a corazón de oro, in Lithuanian, a širdies pasikeitimas is a change of heart. In English, we speak of broken hearts, black hearts and bleeding hearts. It’s not often that idioms travel so far, but Thai has the(…)


From Hieroglyphs to Emojis: Maintaining a Visual Presence

When we think of cultures using pictograms, a visual representation of a person, place, or thing, and ideograms, a visual representation of an idea, we tend to think of ancient cultures, right? Sketching on a cave wall or in the dirt to pass on information to the next generation of the tribe probably started soon after homo-sapiens(…)


The Human Voice as an Instrument for Language

There must have been a time before homo-sapiens developed when communicated languages were nothing more than grunts, howls, utterances and octave-shifting yodels were used, much like our primate cousins do now. Following evolution, through time those sounds would later transform into language and, naturally, song, or could it have been the other way around? Long before we were(…)


From Water Fights to Flying Candles: A Year of Festivals in Thailand

Thailand is known world-wide as a party destination which is, in some ways, due to the fact that the Thai love to party. There are 20 official national holidays on the calendar in Thailand and about ten religious ones as well that add up to around 50 weekdays off a year. Thais celebrate New Year(…)


Language Learning: Is Fluency Worth It?

One of the pleasures of being a traveller in a new and exotic place is not understanding the language. Of course, being an English speaker you will always find a person with whom you can communicate. However, being oblivious to conversations on the streets and in the shops, to the television blathering away, or the radio gibbering(…)