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Making friends around the world through BookCrossing

by mojosmom
February 2, 2004

Yes, it’s true. For too long, I dithered around, wanting to study Italian but never signing up for a class. Then I found BookCrossing, and now I am happily learning la lingua d’amore. What’s the connection? The Italian language forum! One of the reasons I put off taking a class was that I had no place to practice; now I hang out in that forum, and on the Italian mirror site http://bookcrossing.debris.it/ as well, reading and occasionally even posting. What a warm welcome I’ve had there! No one laughs at my mistakes, but, knowing I’m a student, they politely correct me. And so I learn.

This is just one of many examples of BookCrossing’s contributions to international friendships and understanding. Whether or not this was in Ron’s mind when he created the site, for me it has been an unlooked-for pleasure. I have learned so much about other countries (who knew what “root” meant in Australia!), and have made new friends and sent my books all over the globe. I have mailed books to Canada, France, Spain, Switzerland, and Romania. I have received a book by an American mystery writer — in French! I’ve donated books to libraries in Italy, and passed on books that will eventually go to GLBT libraries in Hawaii and Canada.

I’ve engaged in discussions about secularism and religious symbols with French BookCrossers and school fee schemes with British BookCrossers. And I’ve tried to explain American politics and election processes to people from many countries with, I hope, a modicum of success.

Whom have I met? An Australian internet bookseller, a Catalan playwright, an English magistrate and a Canadian papermaker, among others. Students in Romania, Spain and France. I’ve shared my love of my city with others around the world, and they have taught me about their homes. I’ve learned more about time zones from paying attention to who is on the forums when than I ever did in school!

The world is at my fingertips. Any question I might have about the language, customs, traditions or politics of another country would be very quickly answered if I just posted in Chit-Chat or one of the language forums. I know this to be true from the many generous and informative responses I got after posting that I am taking a trip to Japan. Books, articles, PM’s filled with information came my way from all over the world!

I have been reminded that if misunderstandings arise between speakers of the same language because of the limitations of written communication, the difficulty is compounded when some of those in the discussion are using a second (or third) language. We must be careful, then, not to take offense where none is intended, and to ask when we do not understand. (Something all our politicians should learn!)

Most important, it has been brought home to me that our differences are nothing compared to our similarities in this world of booklovers. I think that wherever I might travel, if I were there on the second Tuesday of the month, I could find a BookCrossing Meet-Up and find friends.

Arigato! E ciao a tutti!

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