Exploring cultures and communities – the slow way

Street iconography that is more than commercial branding

article summary —

In hidden europe 3 (July 2005), we carried an article on the curious argot of those foreign territories that are the Paris suburbs beyond the boulevard périphérique. It is a language called verlan, that gives hidden status to those who master its criss-cross babble. Of course, it is not unique, and all manner of words, clothing and other symbols confer status on their bearers. The symbolism of the nun's veil, the business man's suit or the designer label are as potent as the words their wearers utter.

Changing trains at Thun in Switzerland's Aare valley a month or two back, there was the palpable collective apprehension of the late night stragglers as a half dozen skinheads strode assertively down the station platform: five young men, a woman who looked by far the toughest of the lot, plus a close cropped dog who bought up the rear and snapped at anyone who came within a few metres.

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About the authors

hidden europe

and Susanne Kries manage hidden europe, a Berlin-based editorial bureau that supplies text and images to media across Europe. Together they edit hidden europe magazine. Nicky and Susanne are dedicated slow travellers. They delight in discovering the exotic in the everyday.

This article was published in hidden europe 5.