Blending in By Lunchtime
I started life in Mobile, Alabama where the weather is warm, the people are kind, and “Please” and “Thank you” are the first words out of a well-brought-up Southern child’s mouth.
When I was in third grade, my father was transferred to New York where the weather was cold, the people were considerably less polite (and proud of it) and I went home in tears when I got yelled at for saying “Yes, ma’am” to a friend’s mother. (Back home you’re immediately reprimanded firmly but gently if you forget to say that. Southern ladies do not yell, ever, and certainly not at children).
I felt like a goldfish in the piranha pool until I learned the cardinal rule of being the new kid: As long as you blend in by lunchtime, you’ll be okay. This rule has stood me in good stead during many moves all over the United States, Canada, Europe, and Asia in friendly and hostile environments, military and civilian.
In New York: I learned that Coke=soda or pop (pronounced po-wap where we were) – I never was entirely sure which was which or why, (it was hotly debated) but I did learn who said it which way and remembered to say it their way when I was in their presence.
In Maine: “You can’t get there from here” really is a phrase as my mother and I found out when we got lost on our way back from – we actually never found out where we were, come to think of it. But when my mother asked a guy walking down the road how to get back to our new town, he said “Ya cahn’t get theyah from heyah” and kept walking. To which Mom replied “Why not? We got here from there.” To which he replied “You ain’t from aroun’ heyah, is ya?” To which my mother replied “We are now.” Apparently that was the right answer, because he did give us directions to a place from where he assured us we could get there from there. And so we did.
In England: Cars have bonnets instead of hoods, boots instead of trunks, and biscuits are not biscuits (white fluffy things served at breakfast back home) but cookies. It was a bit jarring to be referred to as “You Yank” since I’m from the South (and that’s an insult back home) but it was meant in good grace as a generic reference to Americans, so I took a deep breath, smiled, and refrained from shooting the offender.
In Canada: Eh? (pronounced like the letter A) and added at the end of each sentence isn’t really a question (unless it’s repeated and followed by a quizzical look).
In Japan: Ohio is not a state at all, but means “good morning.”
In Spain: they run in front of the bulls on foot instead of riding behind them on horseback. It helps to be drunk.
Take the DP challenge – it’s a hoot (Southern for “highly entertaining”).