Talking about European fandom, we love to talk about internationality, but sitting at home and enjoying some translations is easy, but how does it feel going abroad for a convention? And how does it really feel going to a convention to a country where the vernacular language is neither your own one nor English? Where you do not understand a single word of the national language?
Well, I tried it out this September. I am Austrian, my mother tongue is German and I went to the Slovak con Parcon that was Istrocon at the same time this year.
The Parcon is the main event on fantastic issues of Slovakia and the Czech Republic. And they bestow the Karel- Čapek-Award. (Remember: Karel Čapek is the author who invented the word robot!!!)
You have a lot of speeches, exhibitions, talks to authors, competitions, games, workshops et cetera at cetera at the convention.
I went there with company, finally we were three people from Austria and according to our average measurement, you can already call this a delegation. The venue in Bratislava was quite close to my home in Vienna. About an hour to go, so really not a big deal at all.
This put a lot of pressure off me – when booking a long journey and a hotel, the event I attend must be supposed to be perfect, otherwise a lot money and time is simply wasted. But with that short distance – why not simply giving it a try?
The convention was a three days long, but I only attended one day.
The venue was quite close to the railway station, so we decided to walk and although I am a real nerds who usually sits at home and is certainly not sporty, I can grant that is was not far away.
When I was arriving, I already noticed a lot of cosplayers.
Checking in was not complicated at all. The people spoke English and even German to us.
Inside there were two floors with fair stands, role-playing-games open to join and a lot of computer games. In a big hall there was a program where a lot guest were expected like the cosplay competition, but there were a lot a lot of smaller rooms with speeches, movies shown, workshops and so on.
But unfortunately … it all seemed to be in Slovakian/Czech language, what was certainly some sort of problem as some topics seemed to be quite interesting. The organizers sure put effort in getting foreign guests, they even have an English version of their page and when you talk to the people, everyone is politely talking to you in English. But it could be improved by making concrete suggestions what panels can seriously be enjoyed by people who do not understand the national language.
In fact it was huge, but affordable convention (the entrance fee did really not scare me – it was around 10 Euro, so what?) what really surprised me. In Austria we do not have conventions like that and even in Germany the majority of cons is certainly on a smaller scale.
Finally they managed a thing that seems to be impossible in other countries and this is bringing fans of different parts of fandom together, no matter if it is anime or role-playing or literature.
Usually at such mixed events literature totally drowns, but: We noticed a crowd and we were really wondering what was going on there. Did anyone give away anything for free?
– And yes, one could get something for free, but not any goodie, it were signatures by authors!
Finally: Sure, it was a pity to be confronted with the barrier of language. But in fact the people were really friendly and when trying to socialize, noone refused to speak English, some even talked in German to us. So the best parts of a con – shopping, socializing and drinking beer together (may I add that Slovakian beer is one of the most delicious in the world and compared to other European countries also quite cheap) – remained.
Of course in fact it was a national con. A big con, but still not really international, although they really try to get foreign visitors.
But in case you in a situation like me, living close to a border: Give neighbouring cons a try! They may be more fun as you thought and a moderate travelling time makes it possible just to check out.
[Please note that I have also written on this topic in German language: http://dieloge.wordpress.com/2012/10/07/parcon-unentdecktes-conland-slowakei/
This text is NOT a literal translation.]