Sunday, September 30, 2012

Culture clashes and advice for Yankees

For those of you wondering about Tashi, she's doing as well as can be expected. She has good moments and bad ones, but that's par for the course.

We've had an influx of Northerners this summer, so I feel like I can share a little advice with them:

This is central Texas. Things move much more slowly here. Nevertheless, we have been known, while driving, to pass on the right.

Speaking of driving: going the speed limit, unless you're near a known speed-trap, is Not Done here. We have places to be and miles to go, so we generally drive like bats out of hell. Just keep up with traffic and you'll be fine. Don't go the speed limit in the passing lane; you'll likely get killed or yelled at.

I understand that things work differently in Chicago or New York or wherever it is you're from, but here you *can't* be abrasive and expect to get things done. If the movers tell you they'll be there between twelve and three, but you need them to be there right at twelve because you've got the freight elevator reserved from two to four, explain that. Don't, as I heard one person say, snap back, "You will not be there between twelve and three! You'll be there at twelve!" She later wondered why the movers came late and moved slowly. Just be polite. It costs nothing and greases the wheels.

If you have to ask how to "style" "cowboy boots" (they're called just "boots") then you probably shouldn't be wearing them. As Lyle says, buy your jeans a little longer.

The heaviness of the accent does not always indicate the education level, general intelligence, or personal wealth of the speaker.

Women of a certain age are always referred to with "Miz" preceding their first names, and only then if you've been invited to call them by their Christian name. This holds true in most small towns (it does in mine) and some large cities. In fact, it's best not to call anyone by their first name unless you're sure it's okay.

"Ma'am," "Sir," "Please," and "Thank You" are not optional. And don't, unless you want a reputation for being difficult, walk straight up to somebody and tell 'em to do something without first asking how they are and being pleasant.

Bless their hearts, they don't know any better.

Speaking of culture clashes, I was listening to an NPR interview a few weeks ago with a guy who says that culture influences perception of color; in other words, the context in which you're raised determines to a large extent how many colors you see and what you call them. He said, for instance, that the ancient Greeks had so few delineations between colors that they essentially saw in black, white, and bronze.

I snorted mentally at that until the other day, when Friend Deepa, who can't believe my hair, was touching it gently and cooing, "Golden hair, golden hair." Now, my hurr is red--at the most, it could be called strawberry-blonde when I've been out in the sun. When I corrected her, she said positively, "No, your hair is golden." I said, No, my hair is red.

She then pushed back her own hair to show me the earrings that she wears which, like those of most of the Indian women here, are twenty-four carat gold, so pure it's brassy. "Your hair," she pointed out, "is the same color as my earrings. So it's golden."

Point to Deepa. I stand corrected.


clairesmum said...

when in Rome, do as the Romans do is still useful advice! even tho the US is one country, regional differences in customs and manners can be huge. We Bostonians are not really cold or rude, or in a huge hurry to be somewhere else - we just seem that way. Some of us try hard to keep 'please, thank you, excuse me' in daily use, and to take turns at doorways, intersections, etc. And the driving - well, let's just say Boston city traffic is on roads based on cow paths from the 1600s - not exactly good urban design. And we do tend to drive like we walk and talk - too fast, not paying enough attention to those around us, and convinced that road signs and traffic lights are suggestions. I just figured you folks in the wide open spaces have to drive fast cuz everything is all spread out. Up here we really don't have a good reason.
Thinking of Tashi, and Wash, wherever he is now. Take care, Jo.

messymimi said...

From the person whose home state has a law that children in school must use "sir" and "ma'am", i must agree. Be polite when you are down South, or go home.

Mama D said...

Number one rule for Yankees moving south...slow down when you talk! (Can't say I've noticed a slow-driving Yankee problem when I've lived up north.) And the number one rule anywhere? Be pleasant and kind to secretaries, assistants, receptionists, nurses, etc, for they wield the real power. Piss one off and you are screwed, but make friends and your life becomes magically easier because they can make things happen if they legitimately like you!

Rosanna said...

That the ancient Greeks essentially saw all colors in black, white, and bronze (!!); and also that your East Indian Friend Deepa sees your RED hair as being the same color as her 24-carat GOLD earrings ............ (which, because of the gold's purity, her earrings DO have brassy tones) ............ is all, no kidding, just so, *so* interesting, Jo!!

Laura said...

My hair is what we would traditionally be called golden (well, dark blonde anyway) - I wonder what Deepa would call it? Would she see a difference between your hair color and mine?

Just My 2¢ said...

Exactly! We're just finishing Tourist Season out here near Yellowstone. Day-um, they're obnoxious. At one point or another, everybody I know has wanted to shoot one. (What's the point of a hunting season without a bag limit?)

I wish that we could require mandatory civility training at the state line.

Anonymous said...

I'm just going to leave a few links with you, Ma'am - in hopes you might find them entertaining or informative. Or maybe both. That is if you do not object.

Regarding the Blaukraut/Rotkohl debate: Indeed the juice of red (or blue, the color of the cabbage is dependent on soil pH)cabbage can be used in lieu of Litmus paper when doing experiments at home with kids.

What is the color nude?

Penny Mitchell said...

In Colorado it's perfectly legal to pass on the right. Yay, us!