Monday, March 22, 2010

Culture is the Sea We Swim In

So said author Eric Weiner, in a book The Geography of Bliss (2008).

Here in the deep South, this native of New York spent parts of yesterday and today trying not to drown in the local sea, not fully understanding what was going on.  Pretty bad for someone who had lived in Texas and Arkansas, and who had majored (so many years ago) in anthropology. 

I've now been thrown a lifeline by a former Long Island person who runs the bed and breakfast I am currently staying in.  She related some things that have happened to her in her years living in Georgia, and it was funny, but also instructive.

Over and over today, I was asked by locals (state employees at the Franklin Roosevelt sites we visited today in Warm Springs, as an example) where I was from.  It was not a question of friendliness, as I found out quickly.  I told people Upstate NY and suddenly the temperature in the room dropped 20 degrees.  It wasn't my imagination.  I should have known better.

Yesterday we were in a supermarket where the customers and then the employees stared at us, and today I found out why.  We very obviously did not belong there, having crossed an invisible line.  I won't go into further details because it is something that shouldn't be happening in our country any more.  But it does and it did.

Tomorrow I am going to try to tell people I am from Arkansas and see what happens.  Although, anyone should figure out quickly I am not an Arkansan, especially from my accent.  But hey, I lived there for nearly 5 years, so I should be able to wing it.  (You may ask, Arkansas is the south too.  Didn't that happen there?  Well, yes and no.  But not in quite the same way.  That's what fooled me today.)

Or maybe I'll just tell the truth and wear my winter coat.

What I've been told is by my lifeline thrower is to pretend I am visiting a foreign country and go with the flow. 

It may make for some good blogging.  What the heck.  Stay tuned.

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