Something I have to say about being here at Ross is that I have never been in a more diverse place in my entire life. And I’m not even talking about the locals and being in a foreign country – I just mean the campus community itself.
In college, I thought being around a handful of “Yankees” and the occasional foreign exchange student made my life a culturally diverse atmosphere. Boy was I wrong. Yeah we were from different areas of the south, but we were (mostly) all still southern kids. We were all raised in the Bible belt, all taught to be polite to our elders, all grew up on a variety of deep-fried foods, and pretty much everyone at least knew who George Strait is (even if you didn’t actually listen to country music).
I don’t think I’ve ever lived in a place (inside the U.S.) where there wasn’t a church (of some type) on every other street, country music on restaurant radios, a Cracker Barrel at every interstate exit and a cashier calling you “Sugar” in every grocery store. We often call America a “melting pot,” and here I can finally see why.
Just in mine and the Mister’s usual group of friends there are people from North Carolina, New Jersey, New York, California, Oregon, Illinois, Ohio, Indiana, Florida, Arizona and even Canada. A couple of weeks ago, a small group came up to us and said they were “collecting southern phrases” to use to annoy a friend from New Jersey. They wanted us – the token Southerners – to pitch in ideas. Disturbingly, all their suggestions were phrases that, in their words, “Southerners use to make insults sound nice.” Wow. . . what a good way to characterize the south.
Another friend and I were talking about restaurants we want to visit as soon as we get home, and this girl had NO IDEA what a Cracker Barrel is!!!! Mind. Blown.
We’ve met people with Northern accents the likes of which I’ve never heard – even from “Yankee” students in college. Is New York an entire city of people who talk through their noses?? Although I’m sure others have had comments to make about our “adorable” southern accents as well. One friend did teach us that when someone in New Jersey wants to say, “Hey friend! I haven’t seen you in ages. I didn’t know you were working this job. How’ve you been?” they simply raise their hands and shout, “OY!”
In Arizona, apparently it gets above 110 degrees regularly, but you can hardly tell because there’s no humidity at all. No water in the air! Who knew weather like that even existed? Tennessee is nothing without its humidity.
It’s like the Brad Paisley song says, “Not everybody drives a truck, not everybody drinks sweet tea. Not everybody owns a gun, wears a ball cap, boots and jeans. Not everybody goes to church, or watches every NASCAR race. Not everybody knows the words to ‘Ring of Fire’ or ‘Amazing Grace.’” True, a lot of these things I don’t do either. For example, I don’t like sweet tea (or unsweet tea, for that matter) and I’ve never watched a NASCAR race in my life. I don’t own a gun, but my husband does, and he never goes anywhere without his baseball cap. He has two pairs of cowboy boots in our apartment right now, and if his feet wouldn’t melt off in the heat he’d be wearing them everywhere.
But to have never driven a pickup truck? Or eaten a funnel cake? Or to not know the words to “Amazing Grace?” And I can’t tell you who sings most of the songs that I know, but to hear “Ring of Fire” and NOT know that’s Johnny Cash. . . it’s beyond me how anyone can even get through life without those things. That’s just basic information that everyone should know!
We have learned a lot of things from people here about different parts of our great country and the ways the different people have grown up, and I feel like I can see a broader picture of the world now. Not everyone is like us, and we are like few other people. I can now name the five boroughs of New York and I understand that the New England students are not being rude all the time; it’s just how they talk. (No offense, but it’s true. Many of you probably hear a southern drawl and associate it with stupidity. It’s a common first impression.)
But the best thing about it is that this experience has solidified in my mind that I don’t want to live anywhere that’s farther than four to five hours from Nashville, Tennessee. Outside that circle and things just get crazy. (I mean, no Cracker Barrels? Seriously? How do you not starve to death?)
What is something distinctive about your part of the country (or the world) that others may not know about? Or may have the wrong impression about? What’s something surprising you learned about somewhere you’ve never been?