Episode 15 - Why do some of the coolest cities in the world begin with the letter B?!
Hello everyone! Welcome back to The British English Language Podcast! Thank you so much for being here after another long gap since the last episode! I’ve been keeping you in suspense these last couple of months but now that I’m back in the UK and no longer on the road (a phrase we use in English for travelling), I’ll be able to record episodes more regularly! As always I’m really happy that you’re here as it truly feels an honour to be a part of your English language learning journeys! If it’s your first time listening then I welcome you to the community and hope that this podcast for intermediate level students can help you to improve your understanding of the British English language and culture too.
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My advice would be to first listen without reading and then listen a second and a third time whilst reading the text.
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Episode 15 - Why do some of the coolest cities in the world begin with the letter
B?! Exploring the concepts of coincidences, synchronicities and serendipity.
I had the idea for this podcast episode as I was walking along Port Vell in Barcelona last week. It was my first day in Barcelona and my first time visiting the city. I had heard so many good things about this city and had wanted to visit for a really long time. And finally I had the opportunity as it was my first stop-off point on my way back to the UK from the Balearic Islands. I arrived by ferry at Barcelona Port on Saturday night and got up early on Sunday morning to start exploring the city. The Airbnb I stayed in was just two minutes away from the famous street La Rambla and the same distance walking to the renowned architect Antoni Gaudí’s Palau Guell. My exploring that day began on La Rambla and after that I walked past Port Vell, towards Playa de la Barceloneta. It’s quite difficult to speak in English with a very English accent and then include Spanish words so I apologise for my Spanish (or not so Spanish!) accent just then! Anyway, as I was walking I was admiring the impressive buildings and gorgeous architecture whilst rollerbladers, skateboarders and people on electric scooters whizzed past me. People really seemed to be enjoying life in that part of the city. It felt young and vibrant, I really loved the energy! It was a sunny Sunday lunchtime and there were lots of people hanging out with their friends, talking, laughing and having fun. By the way, you might already be familiar with the phrase ‘hanging out’ because it’s such a popular phrase used every day by people from my generation in particular. But in case you haven’t heard of it, it’s an informal way of saying ‘spending time’. I wouldn’t recommend using this phrase in a job interview but definitely make use of it when you’re talking to your friends and colleagues.
Anyway, getting back to setting the scene… I was casually walking as people were hanging out with their friends on the beach, some people playing beach volley ball (a sport usually played by two teams where the main objective of the game is to hit the ball over the net without letting it touch the floor or the ground). I also saw people windsurfing that day, as well as street performers and musicians and I felt like Barcelona was alive, creative and artistic. And all of these observations made me feel like this is a very cool city indeed.
As I had this thought I suddenly realised that other cities which, in my opinion, are super cool too, also begin with the letter B! I thought of how cool Berlin, in Germany, is. Maybe to me Berlin is the coolest city of all the cities I’ve ever visited. And then I remembered how cool I think Bristol, in England is too! And I thought ‘Wow! What a coincidence that all of these cool cities begin with the letter B!’
I think I might have explained in a previous episode what a coincidence is but I can’t quite remember which episode that is! But just to remind you, a coincidence is the chance happening (occurrence) of two or more related things at the same time. But what is the difference between a coincidence, a synchronicity and serendipity?
Well a synchronicity is very similar to a coincidence but the difference is that it has a meaning to the person observing it. A synchronicity could be a series of signs or events which are too emotionally provocative to just be a random coincidence. So an external event that speaks to our internal world. Simply put a synchronicity is a meaningful coincidence.
My personal belief is that most coincidences are actually synchronicities and that most of the time they carry a special meaning. For example if I were to ‘coincidentally’ bump into (randomly meet) someone I’ve known from my childhood, but on the other side of the world and in extraordinary circumstances, I would feel like this was not random but actually meant to happen for some special reason.
I bet that so many of you have seen the movie The Matrix?! There’s a scene in that movie where Neo is told to follow the white rabbit. Later in the movie a girl knocks on his door and invites him to follow her and she has a white rabbit tattooed on her shoulder. This is a perfect example of a synchronicity. This particular sign also has a lot of meaning for me because when I see white rabbits I understand it as meaning that I’m in the right place at the right time. Or maybe it’s just because the Easter bunny was around a lot last week?!
So was the example of Neo and the white rabbit a synchronicity or simply coincidence? Of course it’s both. But because it held important meaning for Neo, to him it would have been a synchronicity. To someone else though who believes more in random chance than in synchronicities, and understands the world from a more mathematical point of view with statistical probabilities, then perhaps this white rabbit event would have just been an incredible coincidence.
So, finally where does serendipity fit into this? Serendipity could be defined as a blessing in disguise, good fortune or luck when you’re not expecting it. It’s the phenomenon of discovering or experiencing something valuable which comes to you as a surprise. So the development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way. For example finding something beautiful without looking for it. I remember about 12 years ago I was trying on a vintage skirt at Portobello Market (which is in London). As I put my hand into the pocket of the skirt I pulled out £75. One £50 note, one £20 note and one £5 note. A wonderful example of serendipity! I then asked the girl selling the vintage Valentino skirt how much it cost and she told me she would sell it to me for £75! Wow! Serendipity AND a perfect synchronicity! (Or coincidence if you choose to see it that way!)! Of course I had to buy the skirt!
I really love to talk and think about this topic! To me synchronicities are little signs of magic in the world around us. And they seem to show up in my life very often. And when they do I understand this to mean that I’m on the right path in my life. Sometimes I even think that they might be messages for me but it’s not always obvious what the message is!
What about you guys?! What cool synchronicities do you come across in your lives? And what do they mean to you?
And can you think of any other cool cities beginning with the letter B?! I’ve never been but I’ve heard that Brisbane in Australia is one of the cooler cities of Australia, also Budapest is supposed to be amazing and a cool destination too. Have you ever visited Brisbane or Budapest? If so do you think this is true?
Thank you so much to you lovely people for listening to The British English Language Podcast! I hope you’ve found this episode interesting and I look forward to seeing you next time!
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