Prepare to be Assimilated

Yesterday I was surprised when Dave Freer sent me a post that echoed almost exactly what I’ve been thinking.  In a late night (for me.  He has temporal privilege, living in Australia) conversation last night, I found that we agree in more than one thing, including how nasty things are going to get if we don’t get at least a partial course correction soon.  That is a post for another time — how the fact that the left’s escathology and the belief history comes with an arrow and that they are the inevitable “end of history” (a belief that’s religious in nature because no rational principles lead to it) has caused them to be blind to the fact that silencing opposition is NOT winning — but for now it remains scary that both of us are worried about the same things.  Why scary?  Because I’ve known Dave for… twelve? thirteen? years and the man has a gut feel for the future. Even when you really wish he weren’t right, he tends to be.

But today I want to talk about assimilation, or, in sociological terms, acculturation.  I, and Kate Paulk, and Dave Freer, and a ton of the rest of us are immigrants who went to another country with the intention of living there the rest of our lives and who had incentives to fit in and be part of that country.  (In the case of two of us, husbands. And in my case a philosophical belief in the principles the nation was founded on.)

But even then, with the best will to fit in, it’s a HARD thing.  Really hard.

It’s not just in your head either, though it is there too.

Humans are tribal, and living in a multi-ethnic society doesn’t make you less tribal.  This is why people keep looking for racists under their bed, because you know, it’s baked in, and they know they’ve “discriminated” at some point.  Only this isn’t the racism of the progressives.  Minorities can be (often are) as racist or more racist than the majority.

But more importantly, in a multi-ethnic society that tries as hard as it can to eliminate racism, you get a different kind of “racism” that has nothing to do with race.  You get tribalism that fastens onto odd things.  It’s best expressed in “Ya’ll are not for around here.”

What you might not realize if you have never immigrated and acculturated is that the way you move, the way you speak (absent accent), the way you eat and the way you walk (not to even mention handwriting) are ALL culturally linked.  Most of it is not identifiable at a conscious level, either.  Most of it is so deep that all it does is trigger the “ya’ll are not from around here.”

I know I’m fitting in better because it’s been years since people stared at me while I went about my daily business and before I opened my mouth came up to me and asked “Where are you from?”

(And btw, the reason I stopped resisting identifying as Latin is because other people are making that identification for me, usually people who have a grudge (and who, bizarrely, manage to think I’m Mexican.)  My kids came to the same decision for the same reason.  It’s one of those “you say that I am” and it actuates even when my hair is colored light brown — it has no color of its own anymore — and I’m pale from a combination of lack of sun and illness. SOMETHING is triggering this response in people.  I don’t know what it is.)

Now, when you don’t fit in, for whatever reason, you’re going to find that some people — often not the sanest people in the world — are going to have issues with you and often be hostile.

Remember this as we go through the stages of assimilation.

It starts when you find yourself in a completely different land and you realize there’s no going back.  I came over after Dan and I discussed our options and decided where we were going to live.

The choices were here or there or between and wherever, a sort of multinational, above nationality existence.

We chose the US for several reasons. To begin with there was that philosophical belief set I had which conformed best to the founding documents of the US.  Then there was the fact that Dan could never be REALLY Portuguese, even if he moved there, learned the language and acculturated completely.  He’d still be a foreigner living there.  Being Portuguese means sharing ancestry.  Our kids would be considered mestizos.  Our grandkids would probably bear “the Americans” as a nickname.  Our great grandkids might too, and by the sixth or seventh generation, THEN they would be Portuguese (and might not remember why they had that nickname, and might think it was just some ancestor who liked American movies.)  Then there was HOW we wanted our kids to grow and the options we wanted them to have.  We decided the US was our best bet.  There were no doubts our kids would be Odd and the more free the society the more outliers thrive in it.

So I came over and set out to acculturate.  Part of this involved watching a lot of old TV because it gives you the catch-phrases, the “feel” of things.  I also read a lot and pretty much everything, which helps, though what helped most was reading auto-biographies and NOT by famous people, who are presenting an image, but the sort of “my grandma wrote an autobiography and we printed a hundred copies and donated one to the library” candid shots of normal people you can get in those.

Even with the best will of the world, even wanting more than anything to fit in, it’s very hard.  Not just in America.  America might be one of the easiest places in the world, because it is multi-ethnic and a country of immigrants.

But even so, people catch the subconcious signals of “something wrong about you.”  They stare.  They don’t trust you.  Sometimes they think you’re stupid, because “smart” in a society is not an IQ test but a series of signals a lot of them subconscious.

I muddled through, but sometimes there there were days I felt so homesick that I’d give anything to never have set out on this course.  And people treated me oddly, and it’s very easy to use that as an excuse for failure.  I learned not to do it because, through friends who did it constantly, I identified it as a trap.  I chose to ignore it.  But I still knew it was happening, and it made me long to go back to my tribe, to the place I belonged.

Some number of immigrants do this.  It gets to be too much for them.  They run back “home” where “things make sense.”  I might have done it but for that philosophical conviction.  That’s how hard it is.

At this stage many people make plans to retire in the “homeland” or at least to go back after death.  I guess it’s a comfort.

And I still had that option, six years in, because the hoped-for kids had failed to materialize, so if something happened to Dan, or simply if it got to be too much for me, we could always “go to Portugal.”

Only then I had Robert.  And the most important reason to live here and stay here came into being.  And if I was to raise this child American, I certainly wasn’t going back, even if a tragedy happened and something happened to Dan.

This is the point at which you’re most offensive to natives, btw.  You know just enough of your new society to see all the warts, but not enough to see the good side or necessary side of the warts.  And you’ve been far enough from your native society for a while so it creates this glow of nostalgia.  You know you’re “trapped” in the new place, which creates resentment.

This is when the words “In my country” — meaning in the old country — come out of the mouths of immigrants.  I was lucky to watch a Turkish immigrant in a group we belonged to alienate everyone with this behavior, so I didn’t do it.  I thought it, sometimes, but I didn’t DO it.

So then came the serious-fitting-in part, helped, btw, by dad.  We took Robert back to meet the family after he was born and dad who, btw, longs to see me every year, told me not to be running back for every important event in the kid’s life.  “Don’t be like those immigrants from France who raise the kid to be Portuguese, while in France.  You made your choice, now make sure your kid knows his place. Raise him American.  We’d love to know him, of course, but he’s American and that’s where he has to fit, and live and thrive.”  This was much like Dave Freer’s FIFO advice yesterday.

So… I made my choice.  And I really started trying to fit in.  This did not involve changing our diet so much, or my clothing choices (I’m odd, okay) but a closer observation of people.  I’d have got rid of my accent, if I could.  Though being a mother helps with this too, because unconsciously you start picking up speech patterns and gestures from your kids.  I might still strike people as somewhat odd, but it wasn’t as in your face anymore.

I also stopped reading in Portuguese, because when I do that a lot, it affects my word choices and rhythm of language in English, and I was trying to get published.

And at some point, I stopped being stared at when I was at the grocery store, and I stopped feeling I stuck out as a sore thumb.  I still couldn’t write people who grew up in America.  (I still can’t write people who grew up NORMAL in America, but that’s something else.)

I don’t know when that happened because I was busy just living.  Somewhere along the line I stopped thinking of Portugal as “home” and Portuguese as “we” and instead changed that to America.

Then came the shock of going to Portugal after a five year hiatus and being in a foreign land, rubbed wrong by the way these people moved, the way they talked, the way they prepared food, a myriad little things.

Now, be aware I’m not an “ugly American”.  I’ve been to other countries (neither America nor Portugal) and reveled in the differences particularly in food and dress but also architecture and just ‘different’.  That’s the point of traveling, I think.  But it’s also easy to enjoy the difference when you know in two weeks or whatever you’ll be back home and have things your way.

It’s harder when the back of your brain remembers doing things that way and — this is hard to phrase, but it’s something like — is afraid of relapsing and of getting “trapped” in the old place.  It’s a feeling of being in a foreign land that is nonetheless eerily familiar, and yet not familiar enough that you could survive in it on your own. Because of how familiar it is, you see the warts.  Because you’re now acculturated elsewhere, it’s easy to see the solutions too and you find yourself saying “Back home we do it this way” then stop, aghast, realizing what happened.  And it’s a relief to come back to your adopted homeland.  And you feel guilty it’s a relief, because you love the people you left behind, and they would be hurt if they knew how much your prefer your new place.

This is where I’ve been for at least 15 years.  It’s where I’ll be the rest of my life.  There will always be little things that aren’t “right” about America, things I learned so far back that they’re not conscious.  Nothing big or philosophical, but the little ways of doing things.  Sometimes I can’t explain to my husband why I hate an area he loves, or vice versa (this is important while house hunting) all I can do is wave my hands and say “No, just no.” And I know I give the “indicators” of class and intelligence all wrong.  (Not REAL class or intelligence but how those markers are perceived in the US.)  I KNOW that was part of my trouble in the field.  I also know that my “I’m getting really, really angry” is mistaken for shyness or fear here, which has led to some in retrospect funny situations.

I will never fully belong either place again.  That’s okay.  It’s a choice I made. And of the two, I belong here the most.  Say I 90% belong here, opposed to 10% in Portugal.

But the process to get where I am was neither easy nor unintentional. And it involved consciously NOT romanticizing where I came from, which I find is a big temptation for immigrants of all types and colors.

So…  So this brings us to taking in refugees from a culture so different from ours as to be mind-boggling, (and you wouldn’t get HOW different unless you’d lived in one half way there), from a religion that considers itself at war (physical, not just spiritual) with us and modernity, from a place where tribe is primary above all…

Do I understand why they want to come here?  Sure.  Even if half the reason is probably wrong of the “streets paved with gold” variety.  They want a better life (or a life) for themselves and their children.

Will it be an easy road to acculturation?  No.  For one, our culture ACTIVELY DISCOURAGES acculturating.  It’s considered a “betrayal” of your “native” culture.  I was accidentally  in the room yesterday (I am ill, okay) while someone watched an episode of Dr. Ken, in which his wife accuses him (a second generation Korean) of being a lapsed Korean and brags about how she has passed on “her culture” (she’s second generation Japanese) to her kids.

The entire episode could serve as a cultural dissection of “the crazy years.”  These two people AND THEIR KIDS are AMERICAN.  That’s the only thing they are.  Yeah, okay, they come from elsewhere, as do most Americans.

BUT the message heard, loud and clear, is that you’re supposed to hold on to all this culture from an imaginary homeland, even when you marry someone from elsewhere, and pass this entire undigested baggage to your kids.  The message is that not only is there no escaping your roots, but it’s somehow bad to want to.

This is the message these new refuggee-immigrants will get, though TV, through movies, through social workers.  How important it is they hold on to their all vital tribalism.  Not just in food and clothing, but in thought.  How it’s somehow “racism” to demand they fit in into their new homeland.

Remember I’m saying this as someone who’s been there.  Acculturation HURTS.  Even when you want it, it’s a very painful process.  Think of the worst days of your teenage years, and multiply them by five or ten years of consciously dragging yourself through this process.

It’s hard enough to do when you chose this, when you love it, and when your tradition doesn’t demand you hold yourself as an enemy of your new land’s ways.  (And btw, I think that’s why it’s considered “racist”: acculturation and pushing for people to assimilate hurts people.  Bleeding hearts don’t understand that sometimes hurt is part of the growth process.)

I can’t even imagine trying to do it when immigration was forced on me, when going back was never an option, when my habits, culture and religion both encouraged me to be suspicious of my new countrymen and caused them to suspect me.

Hard?  Rather say impossible, or close to.  And then add to that telling you that you’re not SUPPOSED to assimilate.  And you’re supposed to raise your kids in the old culture.

People who have never acculturated, people who are frankly quite ignorant of what “foreign” or “abroad” means, beyond their easy, lazy, fluffy headed vacations talking to other people like them abroad, call those scared of such an influx of people in that bind “ignorant.”  I guess because they lack a mirror.

Is it scary?  It is very scary.  Can it end well?  Of course it can.

But the way it ends well is where our society cheerfully smiles and says “fit in, or f*ck off.”  We’ll embrace little Achmed and little Fatima as our countrymen, but NOT if they go around demanding Sharia, telling us to stop eating pork, and that we can’t write/make stupid parodies of Allah, as we do of every other religion/belief in our culture.  Sure, they can roll their eyes at the stupid parodies, or write outraged blog posts about our disrespect.  But they don’t have the right to try to curtail us by law, or to bring their f*cked up culture, which caused their problems to begin with, here.

I don’t see it happening, at least not while our current multi-culti elites are in power.  Which means what we’re doing is importing trouble for later.

Further more, what we’re doing is being horrible to these people and ensuring they’ll never fit in, either place.  And not like me, not 90%/10%.  No, we’re talking they will fit about 30% either place.  And because not self-selected immigrants, they’re probably not odd, not used to NOT belonging.

Of such discontent is strife and war born.

UNDERSTAND this is not what i want, not an expression of my desires.  It is what it is, and how the human animal works.

It is impossible to have this deranged belief that culture is genetic and that people can’t and shouldn’t change (a belief belied by history) and a multi-ethnic society.  At the end of that road is a war none of us wants to imagine and a far more restrictive society than any of us would like.

The only ways out of it are to either take no immigrants, certainly no immigrants in a large group (which makes it harder to leave the old country and its hates and loves behind) OR to hand to every refugee a little handbook.

The cover would say “Fit in or f*ck off.”  And the inside would explain “At home we did it–” is banned, that it’s gauche to try to pass the culture you left behind to your kids.  Oh, food and attire are fine, no one complains of that, but do not try to pass on “we hate x because in the 11th century, they”.  And the only way to stop passing that on is to be American as HARD as you can.

Which hurts.  It hurts like hell.  The generation that immigrated will never fully heal from it, and their kids will still bear scars.

But it’s the only way to make good on your choice of America.  It’s that or go back.  There is no other choice.  Making your new country fit the old is the WRONG choice.  Else, why did you leave.

Fit in or f*ck off.  No, this doesn’t mean becoming the Borg.  America is the society on Earth with the greatest tolerance for oddities and outliers.  BUT you do need to fit in minimally to succeed.  And you need to start thinking of America as “we” and not holding yourself up above the rest of your countrymen.

This goes double and with bells on if you were born and raised here.  Stop imagining there is a perfect society elsewhere and that you somehow belong to it.

Life is in great part the art of adapting to the flaws in reality that don’t match your desired state.

Sometimes all you can do is Fit in or F*ck off.

 

234 responses to “Prepare to be Assimilated

  1. Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

    I’ve said elsewhere that to be an American is to accept certain Core American Beliefs.

    Part of America’s strength was to allow new-comers to accept those Core American Beliefs and still have “flavors” of their old ways.

    One of the “rituals” of previous times in America was the Fourth Of July celebrations but you didn’t have to have ancestors from the time of the AR to take part in the celebrations.

    Immigrants “just off the boat” were allowed to take part along with DAR folks.

    Now immigrants don’t have to accept those Core American Beliefs and those Core American Beliefs don’t seem to be taught to young people.

    This is not good for America.

  2. My children’s mother is an immigrant. I lived in her country (Poland) for 13 years, learned the language, history, and culture till friends would say, “Steve jest po Polack,” (“Steve is half a Pole”). I noticed a thing though, the longer I lived abroad the more American I felt. People from other countries have told me it’s almost the opposite for them.
    America is almost unique among the peoples of the world in that our identity is based on a not-well-defined body of literature – in our case political literature.
    The only other peoples I can think of are Jews (Torah), and Icelanders (the Sagas).
    I do want my children to know their Polish family and their mothers language. But I want them to be American.

  3. Funny, i sometimes think I’m only about 90% American and 10% OTHER. I never got the little cultural tells that make you fit in to society. I have a feeling most of us who read your blog are probably that way. All culture are weirs is some way or another. I can remember when I was a kid you had to be careful which way you mounted a horse because “cowboys” always mounted from the horses left side. And, like other odds I was always subtley “wrong” to my fellows. Of course the different parts of the country used to have different “tells”. I think TV is changing that.

    • Polliwog the 'Ette

      Agreed. I also struggle to pick up on social cues even from my “home” area, and that was before we moved to various states and I had to decide that wherever I lived at that moment was home, no matter where my parents were. I don’t think Colorado can ever be home for me again, because of how much it’s changed, so Texas is home now and I’d like to see if Israel could be home but suspect there is romanticing involved there. I suspect that Sarah is right and having practice at not fitting in somewhere makes the process at least marginally less traumatic, but that it would be foolish to ever expect it to be easy.

    • Reality Observer

      Well, the reason we mount horses from the left (these days) is because they, like us, are creatures of habit. Just try mounting the typical horse from the “wrong” side – prepare to be stepped on, though.

      (I think the original reason, although I could be wrong, is that you either had your weapons on the right side, in the way, or your armsman handed them to your right hand, and it was particularly a pain to move a lance from one side to the other.)

      • I think it’s also about handedness, because pretty much every world culture I’ve seen has their guys mounting horses from the left, by preference. (Although some people teach horses to put up with all kinds of trick mounting, like the Mongols sometimes do.) But yeah, probably weapons.

    • As a military brat, I’ve never quite fit in either. Until I was in 8th grade and dad retired, school busses were green. In Europe, we all wanted to sit in the front of the bus where you could see stuff; here, everybody wanted to sit in the back of the bus where you could be mischievous out of sight of the bus driver.

      A friend of mine in 2nd grade had Man From U.N.C.L.E. and Green Hornet toys. I had never heard of them. I’ve only recently seen some Man From U.N.C.L.E., thanks to MeTV.

      And there are thousands of other little things a lot like that there.

      • Ditto for me. My school buses in England were chartered from a tour company – our driver had the speakers playing one of the pirate radio stations, so I became familiar with the music of the British Invasion before the invasion occurred.

        I had a friend when I was at the Naval Academy who grew up in Wetumpka, Alabama. He grew up in the house his grandfather had built. When he entered the Academy, it was the first time in his life he’d been more than 50 miles from there. He’s got roots in that community. When he goes back to Wetumpka (presuming that he does), people know him, if only through his family. There are stories people will know and can tell. He may no longer fit in, himself, but he knows that such a place exists. Having grown up as a military brat who seldom spent more than three years in one location, there is no such place for me.

  4. Ideally the US citizenship test would be one true/false question:

    The following is self-evident: All men are created equal and are endowed by their creator certain unalienable rights. Among these rights are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. That to preserve these rights governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.

    • If you’ll forgive me being a bit PC, I’d probably make that “all men and women are created equal.” I’d also probably delete the reference to the creator (I don’t care whether you believe that human rights come from God or not, as long as you accept that all humans have them). Finally, I would add in a sentence to the end: “That the government has no right to abridge anyone’s freedom to of speech, freedom of religion, or the right of the people to peacefully assemble and petition the government.”

      In my mind, anyone who can say that and mean it is an American.

      • But not children?

        And I’d put gun ownership over the ones you listed.

        • Children grow up to be men and women, so I would assume they would also be equal, since they have already been created.

          But yes, I would put gun ownership first, on the other hand, I believe Jeff was quoting a founding document, and I don’t have a problem with anything he quoted.

          • Yes, but if you’re excluding women from men, you should also exclude children from the category men and women, since those terms can mean ADULT males and females.

  5. I’m proud of being an Irish/German/Indian AMERICAN. I like learning of the cultures of my ancestors, but I want them to be proud of their descendant.

  6. the belief history comes with an arrow and that they are the inevitable “end of history” (a belief that’s religious in nature because no rational principles lead to it) has caused them to be blind to the fact that silencing opposition is NOT winning …

    Y’know, now as you mention it their attitude and approach does remarkably resemble that of Pepé Le Pew. The insouciant confidence based on nothing beyond their arrogance, the casual shrugging off of all discouragement, the blithe indifference to all efforts to repudiate their attention — it is them, right down to the ground.

  7. As someone who is a few years behind Sarah in that process (I’ve been in the States for 13 years) *yes*. Dear deity yes.

    I’ve come to think of myself as American now, but I remain torn between the two, and not really part of either. The things that get me are the little things: for me the seasonal cues are all wrong. I’m living where it’s too cold for tropical plants and even if I had them they’d bloom at the wrong time of year.

    I’m getting more American, and Sarah is right, the process *hurts* on a deep level way below consciousness, and part of it does involve losing a sense of *belonging* where you have family and soil your ancestors worked. That sense exists – breaking it hurts and until you’ve put down roots and made your new home and culture truly yours you feel somewhat adrift. And this is from an Odd who’s never really belonged in any cultural grouping.

    Yes, Fit In or Fuck Off. Bring in the good stuff and be welcome, but leave the centuries of hatred behind or don’t even bother coming in.

    • Yes, on the I never even having belonged, and yet, I belong less now.

      • It’s a weird kind of feeling, honestly. I get fits of… well, it’s not homesickness, more a “familiarity-sickness” where I get acutely aware of all sorts of odd things like the grass here smells different, and the sunlight isn’t the same (it’s softer) and… Then I get over it and get on with things.

        • There are certain June nights, and a smell of pines, that make me tear up. It’s not me, but it’s that little girl at Sao Joao and staying up with my family till almost sunrise.

          • The olfactory sense is, IIRC, the only direct interface between brain and reality. As such it instills memories of a very distinct and concrete sort.

      • Heinlein, Stranger, that passage in which the old man talks about the statue of the Little Mermaid that sits on a rock in Copenhagen harbor…

    • Because so many Americans are essentially migrants, few remaining where they grew up, this is a feeling common to many of us. It is also why we are often very tolerant of minor misfittings … and why the older established areas of the country are prone to having their “First Families” and the like.

      • Likely also why we fundamentally don’t *get* how it is for someone who’s come from a culture where they can trace their family back centuries if not millenia (and often the family feuds as well…)

        It may well be easier for me because Australia is also largely a nation of migrants – of the ancestral lines I know about, after about 3 or 4 generations back it’s English or Scottish or Manx/Manx viking blend, possibly also Irish, also possibly maybe-crypto-Jewish (the name first appeared in Kent about when Longshanks was driving out the Jews, and it’s also a respectable Ashkenazi name. I grew up with “Are you Jewish?” and the standard reply “Not that I know of”). Pretty standard for Australian and also not that out of line for American.

        • Polliwog the 'Ette

          In that vein, questions about ethnicity or origin seem more socially acceptable than I guess they are elsewhere since almost no one is where they started out. Than again, did I mention I’m not good at social cues and could be horribly wrong? It just seems from observation that such questions are possibly nosy, but often not hostile.

          • They are acceptable unless you are conversing with an SJW, in which case you are likely to get your head bitten off.

            Admittedly it is possible to be both nosy and hostile when asking about someone’s antecedents, but to my mind that’s all in the phrasing, e.g: “Where did your ancestors come from?” vs “So, what are you?”

          • I don’t think you’re horribly wrong. I did a traditional Irish song at karaoke the other night and ended up talking to the bouncer about family history (he’s mostly Scottish, I’m Scottish/Irish/Welsh/German/French/Native) and how long our families have been here. Both born and raised in Colorado. Both have a feeling of being connected to other places but loving where we are because it’s home.

            The realization that this conversation couldn’t happen in most other countries is something that’s hard to “get” sometimes. We all have some idea of where our ancestors are from, even if it’s just a vague “over there”.

        • Another big difference besides the generations in one place is the concept of land. I’m in the 4th house. I’ve bought. There are other families now living in the other 3. Neither I, not anyone in my family, looks at them and says- “They’re living in my(our) house on my(our) land.” I bought the land, sold it, it was mine, now it isn’t. Where I live now most of the streets are named after families that for the most part, still live on the street. The family down the street from me used to own all the land on both sides of the street. No one in that family looks at us, or our neighbors, and thinks, “We need to do something to get our land back…” It was sold, that’s that. Want it back? Make an offer well above market value, it’s yours.

          From what I understand of most of the rest of the world, that isn’t the case. If your family ever owned a plot of land, the collective memory of the family tells everyone that land was ours once, therefore it still is, and we need to get it back… And since the land probably changed hands a few times, there’s more then one family saying that about it. Not a recipe for peace and tranquility.

        • My Father discovered this on his first trip to Scotland. It seems there is some ill will to something the Campbells did in 1688 for William of Orange. On his two week tour, the bus driver/guide was repeatedly rude to him because he was a Campbell. My dad was way too nice. I would have told him I gave his tip to the MacDonalds, and the Tour agency would need an asbestos safe to hold my letter.
          We wised up the next time we visited, we were a party of 6. I’m big 6’4″, and I had my Brother and Nephew for backup. If there were any complaints, we didn’t hear them.
          In anticipation of problems, I was prepared to point out that our Ancestors moved to America to get away from their surly b*st*rd ancestors. Now, our last trip, to the Duke of Argyle’s castle, seat of Clan Campbell was a little more pleasant. I understand the Duke is higher rank than other Scottish nobles because of the support they gave the English crown. We missed the Lady Campbell, as she was acting as Hostess to a charity event with Prince Andrew, who apparently doesn’t ask Fergie for help.

          • That guy was just a jerk using the MacDonald/Campbell thing as an excuse. Yes, there’s still a bit of tension over the horrible Glen massacre thing, but that’s between people who live close to each other or are looking for an excuse for fights in pubs. Unleashing that on a tourist is basically a confession of being incompetent as a bus driver and guide.

            • Yes, if it had been some MacDonald you met in a pub, I would say it is still a jerk but at least understandable. I had a not-similar lecture in Richmond Va. at a Highland games at one of the other Scot’s clan tents. I was aware of the history, and kept my mouth shut, but a friend announced ‘He is a Campbell’. The man politely explained why his clan was on the other side of the argument.
              American event where people gather to discuss Celtic history… appropriate. Bus tour where the driver is being paid by the tourist, who may actually be (and probably are) clueless to the things that happened 300+ years ago, in to them, another country… boorish clod.

            • But it does illustrate Kate’s point about it being much easier to be assimilated to American culture, which doesn’t have so much historical baggage. Imagine me relocating to Scotland and buying property in a village of MacDonalds…

      • Vance Packard wrote a book about that in the 1950s, about how few of the post-WWII veterans went back to the same places they came from, and the radical demographic shfits across the country.

        [googles] it was probably “The Status Seekers” from 1959, since WWII was still relatively recent, though “A National of Strangers” from 1972 seems closer to the subject.

      • Similarly, tolerant of “misfittings” because America used to be composed of many culturally-variant islands – the Old South, New England, Midwest, etc, etc – we grew up expecting that some of the people we’d live among as adults would have different backgrounds, because our parents’ friends did. Movies would show some heavily-immigrant-influenced family cultures – usually emphasizing the American commonality as well. Such differences were part of the American adventure, if you like.

        Now, communications and entertainment have homogenized our culture to a large extent, so the differences with immigrants are larger than expected. We don’t know what to tolerate, how much to expect, how to relate; and our not-well-trusted “thought leaders” who tell us NOT to help immigrants “get it”, to become acculturated, just confuse the issue. A lot of people do still have common sense, y’see, but we expect our leaders to start from what common sense tells us and help us figure out how to accomplish it.

      • wanderingmuses

        Heaven help me, but I live in the same city I grew up in. Even the same darn neighborhood. But I did live in other cities in Texas and five very unhappy years in NYS (well, it wasn’t *all” bad but those folks just ain’t right) but the vast majority of my life has been right here. I keep saying I want to live in San Antonio but I think right here is where I belong.

  8. Others have observed that long-time speakers of a particular language have a distinguishable facial expression, especially around the mouth. Until your face adjusted to English All the Time they might have been reacting to that.

    Humans are pretty good at picking up subtle signs, especially the visual, and if that overwhelms other little signals hilarity can ensue. When I traveled in Switzerland I was constantly being mistaken for either a local, or a German. I had been sure I would stick out like a sore thumb as an American, but about the second time someone asked *me* for directions I figured it out. Yes, I have a LOT of German ancestry–so I fit in. Even though none of my clothes were local, my shoes weren’t, and I’m sure my accent wasn’t perfect either. It was pretty funny. It also happened to my sister with more hilarity, because she doesn’t speak German.

    Maybe we should preferentially select introverts as immigrants? they are much more prone to watching and observing before interacting, whereas extroverts just bounce in and expect to do things as they’ve always done. Everybody else gets preferences these days, so why not My People? And what kind of questions should we ask to get more Odds? “Please list the last five occasions where the people of your clan/village thought you were raving nuts and ought to be locked up. Use extra paper if needed.” “do you consider having a large ocean between you and your extended family a plus?” “Have you ever felt like you just don’t fit in? (teenagers please skip this question)”

    • I get taken for a native German speaker in Germany/Austria because 1) I cue on the rhythm as much as the vocabulary and 2) I’m very careful to try and dress “European” so I’m less of a target for random attacks or muggings. People who do catch that I’m not Germanic usually take me for English (coloring, body shape, bland mode of dress.) I suspect traveling off the beaten path helps even more.

      But the short period when I lived on the economy in the Palatinate was painful, in part because the people did not care for outsiders of any kind, thanks to the 1200 Yugoslav refugees who’d been dumped on the town. (Hmmm, why does that sound familiar?)

      • Same thing happened to me when I spent a semester in Salzburg. People kept stopping me and asking me for directions. I thought it was both confusing and hilarious because I’m pretty sure I was the *only* person in Salzburg wearing a leather jacket, blue jeans, and Nikes, and the only German I knew was “Nicht spreche Deutsch gut, Ich eine dummkopf Amerikaner.” And yes, I understand exactly what it means. Heck, short of donning a Stetson and swapping the sneakers for cowboy boots, I probably couldn’t have looked more American if I tried. This was a few years before the current troubles in the region, and I was an idiot college student at the time as well.

        • The really funny thing? In Portugal they ask DAN for directions/the time/etc. Never me. 😛

        • I visited Prague one time for science (uh, to consult with somebody about it, not as an experiment itself) and I think I might have been asked for directions a time or two. Except I couldn’t understand enough of what anybody was saying to tell. I’m fairly sure after one such conversation I turned around and the place somebody had written down on a piece of paper was further back down the street, so probably she wasn’t actually looking for it, but have no idea what she might have been getting at instead.

          If true, this is even more absurd because — to my husband’s perpetual bafflement — I am somewhere around the worst person to ask for directions in places I actually live.

          • I spent a weekend in Prague during my semester abroad. Gorgeous city.

            You’re probably not as bad as my father when it comes to directions and navigation. Reagan claimed that the scariest sentence in the English language is “I’m from the government and I’m here to help.” False, the scariest sentence in the English language is when my Dad says, “Don’t worry, I know a shortcut.” Once those words are uttered, odds are maybe 50/50 we won’t get lost, and pretty much 0 that we’ll reach our destination faster than if we’d taken the “normal” route.

            Of course, I’m really not one to talk seeing as how I pretty much need a GPS to drive around the block without getting lost…

            • richardmcenroe

              We used to dragon my father for his “famous shortcuts” as we roamed the countryside on childhood vacations. Good father, lousy map reader-

              • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

                Dad never called them “short-cuts” but plenty of times he’d get Mom lost by taking country roads back to our house.

                Of course, this was in East Central Illinois & West Central Indiana where he actually knew where he was. [Smile]

                • There is a local road that we named The ________ Cutoff Road. That’s what we have called it for years; even though it is approximately twice as long as taking the main road.

              • dragon = rag on. Of course, after a couple hours, we were flaming him too, in our grade school way.

              • Every now and then, I’ll try to get somewhere familiar using different roads, or just drive down some unfamiliar road to see where it leads. That’s not counting the times I make a wrong turn inadvertently. When my girlfriend asks me what I think I’m doing or where I think I’m going, I tell her, “I’m having an adventure.”

        • The summer I spent in Jerusalem studying archaeology I had that happen to me a couple of times. Walking back through the old city from the City of David excavation I would occasionally get stopped and asked for directions. And it is clear that the people stopping and asking me thought I was local. Ah well I’ll give them that I was generally dressed appropriately for the area though everything I had came from California.

      • I have been asked for directions multiple times in France, Germany, and Sweden. (And in Swedish I can barely stutter “inte talar svenska”.) Ask a tourist for directions in the native language — how likely is that to work? I guess I must look like I know what I am doing. If they are serious about needing directions, only the really desperate (usually tourists themselves) hang on past the first exchange when my lack of fluency becomes obvious. But I have managed to help a few people.

    • “Others have observed that long-time speakers of a particular language have a distinguishable facial expression, especially around the mouth.”

      Wow, I thought it was just a weird delusion on my part … but I can usually tell a Brit from an American in a photo. From the mouth. Nobody has ever believed me when I tried to explain …

      • This is distinctly so — for one example, it explains much about the French pout or sneer.


        Knowledge of the rhythms of languages is what enabled such as Sid Caesar, Danny Kaye and other comedians to fake foreign languages — a comic shtick oddly less common these days, which probably says something about the changes in American society.

        Notice the different facial shapings and the use of hands as he performs.

        Keep in mind that The past is also another country, making all of us strangers in strange lands. The way different generations speak is in part a function of excluding “others” as much as it is a bonding of one another.

        • “Where y’all from?”

          “1965”

          • I do get the odd look when I ask, “When am I?” but it fits so well, so often.

            • richardmcenroe

              The hospital I’ve visiting has a dri-mark board on the wall for basic info: doctor name, RN, date, etc., and one category, PCA, which probably stands for something like ‘Personal Care Assistant’ but when the setting it up got to PCA, I said, ‘Just put Earth.’

              She stared at me, so I explained, ‘Planet of current assignment.’

              She checked my med schedule.

        • “Keep in mind that The past is also another country, making all of us strangers in strange lands.”

          I can’t explain my past to my siblings children nor my younger coworkers without astonishment. Nor can I explain the farm life to the city folks or vice versa. Equally difficult is military to those that haven’t served…

          • I was explaining, or trying to explain, Watergate to a much younger coworker and the political scandal was understood easily enough. That it got a lot of TV news coverage was understood. That there were only three TV stations in the area, one for each network, and they ALL carried the hearings… I got the ‘Did you leave your saucer double-parked?’ look of utter disbelief or horror.

            A different time a discussion of people’s first video game (console) came up. “Pong.” “On what?” “Pong. That’s what it was.” “Wow, [Orvan] is old.” This I could not leave alone, but denial is pointless, so embraced it in the extreme, “Yup, used to babysit Cthulhu.” That reference was understood, but quite unexpected. *grin*

            • Kid, when I was your age computers didn’t have hard drives — you had to write programs by punching holes in paper tape and G-d help you if you made a typo.

              TVs were black and white, only had three channels, and if we wanted to change channels we had to get up and walk across the room to do it.

              And cars only had AM radios for sound systems (no way I’m trying to explain 8-Track players to some punk kid, nor the frequency with which one found dead 8-Track tapes along the road side.)

              • You had a tape player in your car? We only had a radio. It did however have both AM & FM. Also being in NYC there were a multiplicity of radio stations one could tune in.

              • When I was a kid (about the time you hit middle age) we had four channels, but color TV. You got up and walked across the room to change the channel between three of the channels, one of which you could only get when the weather was right. To get the fourth channel you had to get a ladder, go up on the roof and turn the antennae until somebody in the living room yelled that it was coming in.

                That fourth channel was the one that broadcast the Superbowl several times, so I remember on Superbowl Sunday, my dad coming home from church and getting the step ladder to change channels.

                • When I was a kid, Dad splurged and went to Radio Shack, bought a motorized rotator for the antennae. You still had to get up and walk to the TV, but we could sometimes get All three networks (plus PBS) more often, and it was most of the time once the ABC channel in Green Bay got an UHF repeater. When I was in high school cable finally made its way to us in the sticks, The company got took over by Charter, so I wonder if the system still goes past our old house?
                  Anyhow, now that things went Digital Broadcasting, folks living with over the air are getting back to the “Bad Old Days” as the digital stuff has far less range. They upped the range a bit, and in some areas they are putting more repeaters, but it is like the Cable Co.s and SatTV companies wanted a law that made folks almost need their services to get pictures on the magic box.

                  • When Dad set the antenna we had, he set it in a pipe that was slightly larger than the pipe he mounted the antenna on, and welded a steel bar to that pipe to make it easier to turn it. Grandaddy left a pipe wrench hanging on the pipe at his house……

                  • We had some rotor & control box that looked like it was old in 1974, but it was there. On one move the control cable wasn’t quite long enough and for a couple days we had a sort of Green Acres setup where changing stations meant going outside and climbing a (short) ladder to the rotor control box.

                    In the 1980s the remote control thing was almost solved (still had to get up to turn the TV set on or off – until an ultrasonic switch from Radio Shack was added – but the dog’s bark (or an M80 nearby…) could trigger it.) by having the VCR(s) (and big dish satellite control, and stereo..) on a stack next to Pa’s viewing chair. All the control were then local – and no silly getting up and walking across the room to change a tape.

                    Before the big switch from analog to digital, I could get one station where I am now. After, nothing. Haven’t tried of late, but it’s been a few years and now when I visit some places I discover that TV is really annoying. And that’s the programming, not even the commercials. So.. I don’t see much point in investing in a big antenna now – or paying for cable (TV) or satellite service. Cable is for a network connection.

                    • Yep, I have a TV, with a VCR/DVD player, but it may go six or eight months at a time without being turned on. I’m certainly not going to pay for service to something I never use.

                    • I watch more and more streaming stuff but so far my intratubes are not big enough for me to think about dropping the Direct. (go through the end of march and first week of june without the Isle Of Man TT??! Are you mad?) but I did go two years without Direct and the ‘net I had was dial up to start, then a slow wifi.

                  • yeah, that was one of the ways you knew you were visiting the rich kid’s house: TV antenna had a rotator.

                    • WEll, it eventually br4oke so Dad locked it in place and the rotator became “JP. go up and turn the thing ’til I tell you to stop” (~_^)

                    • We weren’t rich by any stretch. One TV of my youth was a rescue from the curb of a local repair shop that evidently given up on it. But knowing what was possible, what was available, and being able to use a little knowledge – and putting money in durable goods when possible, helped quite a bit.

              • The Other Sean

                You may have had to get up and walk across the room to change the channel, but that wasn’t true for everybody. The first wireless remote for radio was 1939, and the first for television was 1955; there was a wired TV remote in 1950. Not common at all, though. None of the TV’s my parents had when I was a young kid had a remote. The first one they got with a remote was around the mid 1980’s, when the only one of the TV’s actually from that decade burned out during the World Series, much to my father’s disgust.

                Ironically, the older color TV and the even older B&W set soldiered on for another ten years or so. The B&W one made it 20+ years. The older color TV never quite died. Vertical hold gradually needed more frequent adjustment, but otherwise it continued on more or less OK until finally one of the colors went out, giving everything a strange hue. And still we kept it for a while longer.

                • Zenith offered a wireless remote using, I believe, ultrasonic signals to change channels and affect volume. At least, when one* opened the device up what one found was a series of metal cylinders and “triggers” which would strike them when the buttons were depressed. Swapping cylinders from one trigger to another would cause the channel changer to raise the volume or the increase volume button to lower the volume.

                  According to http://inventors.about.com/od/rstartinventions/a/remote_control.htm this was first offered in the mid-Fifties, although Tesla had registered a patent for a wireless remote back in 1893. These devices raised the cost of a TV by 30%!

                  *Or so i am told, as I certainly was not one to dismantle and rebuild the family TV remote. But i knew some people who had done it.

                • As far as I know, the color TV I grew up with, is still working. My parents left it in the house when they moved, and my cousin is renting the house, last I knew it still worked. Only thing wrong with it is channel knob, which is stripped out, but as long as you have a VCR hooked to it, you can change channels with the VCR remote. This is one of the old cabinet TVs, made in a wooden cabinet.

              • TVs were black and white, only had three channels, and if we wanted to change channels we had to get up and walk across the room to do it.

                And sometimes step out the back door to also turn the antenna so you could get better reception of the channel you just changed to…….

              • Some of my questions to younger folks when they start…
                Have you ever done chemical photography?
                Have you set the needle in the groove?
                Have you waited for ALL the tubes to warm up?
                (I really bewilder them when I say that they probably have at least one vacuum tube in the house even if the CRTs are gone. Then I mention the magnetron. On the other hoof, when I ask how many nuclear devices are in their house, there are so many erroneous ‘the microwave?’ replies.)
                Have you DIALED a phone?
                Have you seen a TV station sign on? Or off?

            • Neglecting the classic is one of the SJWs’ strengths. It lets them pretend something is new even when E.E. “Doc” Smith used the trope

            • Free-range Oyster

              Oh, so you’re the one that put him down for that nap!

            • A decade or so ago, my next-door neighbors’ oldest son came to my door asking for help with a class assignment. He wanted to know what it was like in the US during the Vietnam war, and his parents weren’t old enough to be able to help him with it. They probably weren’t even in kindergarten when it ended. That was an interesting discussion.

          • That last one has been a major issue for me, at least until I met my husband, no one but my folks had even an approximation of a notion of what it was like to serve. And the one guy who should have (again other than my husband) freaked out at the difference between what he thought he knew and what it was really like.

          • I read a comment recently where someone was appalled that those craaazy Japanese let 9-year-olds ride the subway unattended.

            At one time, any unfortunate child in one of the American urban hives could ride the subway if he could reach high enough to drop a token in the slot. I didn’t know that was doubleplus ungood now.

            • In America adolescence has been squeezed unconscionably down to about two and a half years:


              Source:
              Why parents are scared to let their kids grow up
              By Naomi Schaefer Riley November 22, 2015
              nypost[DOT]com/2015/11/22/why-parents-are-scared-to-let-their-kids-grow-up/

              • (According to Bearcat)

                At what age SHOULD children be allowed to:

                Get a Job: when old enough to show up reliably and strong enough to do the work that Job entails

                Go on a date: When the have a drivers license

                Go out with friends without adult supervision: school age ie 5*

                Get their own social media account: When they buy their own computer/tablet/internet device

                Be trusted to have their own cell phone: when they can pay for both the phone and the monthly service

                Play at a park or walk home without adult supervision: 5*

                Have a comprehensive talk about sex with their parent: 12ish

                *This may be considerably older in some areas, not due to any deficiency in either child or parent, but simply due to some areas not being safe for unattended small children due to human predators.

                • Egad! 12 or 13 for walking home?! Now I do feel old, I was *expected* to walk home (and to school) on my own at 5. And I was “out playing” who knows where for hours – and what’s a cellular phone? In the country we might be a good distance from any phone – and I recall it was bit of a big deal when the family got a phone. Yep, it is possible to live without even a wireline.

                  By 12 I was expected to know what I was doing with some things that can’t be sold to those under 18 now. Sometime between 5 and 12 (I can no longer recall my exact age at the time of this) we were in the country, no phone yet far as I can recall. There, well away from what was being pressed into service as a house, was a BIG old shipping crate or something, partly open, and a bit of plastic sheeting for some weather protection. There was also an Army surplus ~100 VDC (yes, DC) generator with a wind-the-rope-and-pull start (no recoil), and exposed plug (use the grounding bar to short the ignition to turn it off). This powered lights and tools with universal motors. And at that young age the folks left me there with: exposed whirring machinery (and probably a can of gasoline), high voltage, power tools, a light drizzle, and a rapidly darkening late evening. My instructions? “Turn the generator off when you decide to come in.”

              • Sheesh. I walked a mile or so home from school (and to school most mornings) starting in the second grade. There were a lot of kids with houses along the route, so there were pretty much always parental eyes tracking the herd as we passed. I was older when I got to go to the park alone, but that was because you had to cross a very busy road to get there.

                • Was that barefoot and in the snow. Uphill both ways?
                  Those were the stories my Parents told. Then the reality comes. I find out that my Dad’s school had a spiral sliding board to use as an exit from the 2nd floor for fires and fire drills. How much suffering is that?

                • I lived twenty miles out of town growing up, so I never walked to school, but I walked to the bus stop by myself, from the time I started school.

                  And boy do I remember how much trouble I got into the time I missed the school bus because the neighbor kids and I got in a snowball fight and missed the bus. On snow routes I had to walk almost a mile to the intersection of the main road where the bus would pick us up, and that included going past the neighbors who had two boys about my age. We were expected to be responsible enough to get to the bus on time, and we certainly learned the consequences of being irresponsible. 🙂

          • Another country – but it culturally infects this one. Sarah’s idea of watching a lot of old movies was a good one.

        • In my mind (at least the way I learn languages), it’s also where in the mouth the words are formed. As a native Coloradan, I tend to speak just behind my teeth (although growing up, and into university people thought I was from somewhere else because of an unplaceable “accent”). I think Brits speak higher up, in the sinuses, and a little farther back, while French tends to come out just in in front of the teeth for me. My Spanish accent was never very good, but it would fall around the space behind the lower teeth and under the tongue, while my Russian is in my throat. The rhythms are also key to getting taken as a local/native. Since I speak Russian as a second language, I fit in great in Central Asia (since most of them also speak Russian as a second language). In Moscow, though, even though I look vaguely Russian, I open my mouth and get sneers…I just don’t speak as clippedly and quickly as a real Muscovite.

          • I think Brits speak higher up, in the sinuses, and a little farther back,

            It’s the “stiff upper lip”. Try speaking without moving your upper lip, and you’re halfway to sounding British.

            • Appalachian/Southern accent is much the same (see the Burton Brothers of NASCAR. Wards upper lip doesn’t move at all while speaking) and is considered close to “The Mother Tongue” with emphasis being slightly different

          • Fraulein Bachaus my College German instructor proclaimed I was the only person she had ever taught that spoke German with a Southern accent.

          • I blend in best in Bavaria and Austria. Berlin? Forget it. The Black Forest? Much better, ditto parts of the Rhineland. Cologne is a whole ‘nother dialect and Saxony is odd again. And that’s with people trying to speak Hochdeutsch, not the local dialect.

          • This would explain why nobody else in the universe can do an Australian accent. It’s an odd combination of nasal and drawl with the mouth kept relatively closed (to prevent the flies coming in, as the joke goes).

            Add in the way the dialect is something of a mutant thieves cant and it can be completely impenetrable if an Aussie wants it to be.

          • Proper Klingon tends to throw a lot of spit…

    • Oh, and I forgot another funny story. I was mistaken for German by an *American*, in *America*. The guy had been in the military and posted to Germany for a while–but still. Even though he heard me speak, knew my last name wasn’t German…I hit all the visual requirements for Deutsche Frau in his mind. That one did boggle my mind…

      • Other strange things happen. The strangest I can recall myself is the time a person addressed me as “Ma’am” repeatedly – and at that time I had a significant beard.

        • I’m ROUTINELY called sir, and was called sir when I was young, slim and pretty too. EVEN WHILE WEARING DRESSES.

          • Sigh. It is soooooo cis-normative gender-oppressive to assume anybody wearing a skirt is not a “sir.”

            Of course, the whole “sir” vs “komrade” issue is a whole ‘nother can of worms.

            “Can of worms” is clearly vertebrate normative.

            “Normative” is statistically oppressive and classist.

          • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

            Anybody here ever watch “Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C.” on TV?

            Gomer got in trouble for calling a female Marine officer “Madam” instead of “Sir” (it may have been Marine policy to call all officers “Sir”). [Smile]

            • That can be found a decade earlier in No Time For Sergeants, and likely as early as WWII film comedies.


              The line from Andy Griffith’s “Will Stockdale” to Jim Nabors’ “Gomer” is so direct as to defy coincidence.

              • Ah! Someone who has seen No Time For Sergeants. I managed to see the movie (on TV) and not much later the play (kinescope?). I couldn’t recite it, but even these many years later, some parts tend to stick quite a bit. That one, for instance.

  9. … It’s a feeling of being in a foreign land that is nonetheless eerily familiar, and yet not familiar enough that you could survive in it on your own.

    Sounds like something similar to the “Uncanny Valley” effect.

    Back when I first attended college, a small school of about 1,000 students, I discovered early in second semester that, while I did not know everybody in the student body, I was able to spot anybody hanging about who was not a member of the student body. I’ve no idea what identification process was operating but (other than weekend partying) the identification was infallible. Some perception of the subconscious, picking up clues of body language, I guess.

  10. I moved from the east coast to the west coast in the last 80’s!
    That was very much like moving to another country, only they spoke mostly the same language, because the culture really is radically different out here.

    • Interesting. I moved from the Midwest (Chicago ‘burbs) to Silicon Valley in ’74, and there wasn’t a cultural shock. I figured that I was actually part of a migration of engineers/scientists, geeks and Odds to there.
      I saw more shifting when I was a kid (blue collar Detroit suburb to junior executive Chicago suburb) and when we moved from California to rural south-central Oregon. We had to make it through a couple of winters before anybody paid attention to us. (We don’t see the California-phobic attitudes common to the western portion of the state. I think it’s due to the winter-filter. [grin])

  11. Grew up in a boarding school in Madagascar. Terms were 7 years long at the time. I checked on my feelings. It took 5 years to relocate my sense of belonging from USA to Mad. Then in 2 more years I had to travel from a very restricted set of people and social opportunities to college. Talk about culture shock. I’m still different (LOL) but I fit in well 50 years later. Now I visited Madagascar (home) again. I was able to read Malagasy clearly, understandably for church. I am constantly mistaken to be able to speak Malagasy because the words I use sound like a particular local dialect (hillbilly but oh well).

  12. When I was a child, we toured the country, and often got that ‘Y’all aren’t from around here?’ They especially thought my Mother sounded ‘southern’, but it was all in good fun, and they all seemed appreciative that we were visiting and enjoying their part of the countryside.

    Except for the New York World’s Fair, where some guy grabbed my mouth and demanded my Mother take me to a dentist. Certainly was a surprise to my dentist, as I saw him every 6 months. I was too young, and too shocked to remember her put down, but it had to be great. At the same venue, we were culture shocked by the pushing and queue hopping, so our family of eight joined hands and stretched entirely across the queue area. It was an incredible experience to see the shocked faces of the natives when they couldn’t push past.

    It was an experience. In the end, we decided that New Yorkers were actually very nice people, if you could slow them down and get their attention. And good thing too, my Aunt and Sister-in-Law were both from New York, the latter from Long Island.

    California is different. When anyone asks “Where are you from?”, what they are asking is what other state did you move from into California? At least up until the late 80’s, it seemed most people weren’t native. Perhaps this helped assimilation, perhaps not. After driving around D.C. or the Jersey Turnpike, you will find Californians are polite and considerate drivers. It is only when they move into your state that they become a problem.

    Heck, even here in Virginia, I crossed one river to become a ‘come-here’ person, and yes, some of the natives, when excited, are impossible to understand.

    This in a country that self-identifies as a single culture. I don’t think I can imagine what Sarah must have (and perhaps still) felt. The ‘Are you Latin?’ probably comes from the sub-conscious differences expressed by body language and face, and therefore, they ‘fit’ you into the ‘hole’ that mostly closely resembles that shape.

    I think the greatness of America has been “Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”… at least until the Progressives took over. They love division and envy and strife, it is their source of power. I pray that enough of America will wake up and correct this situation, but I fear it may be too late.

  13. The U.S. is united by it’s founding documents, not by any particular ethnic background, and anyone can become an American by subscribing to them. From what I read once of Japan, there are families that have been there for generations, that aren’t Japanese, because they’re Korean. And when I say not Japanese, they can’ t vote, hold office or do other things citizens do, because they’re not citizens- they really aren’t Japanese.

    Even so, living in different parts of the U.S. can be like living in different nations. Travelling cross country moving from CA to SC with my very pregnant wife in 1978 we stopped to see an elderly aunt of mine that I knew about from grandmother’s stories. And she knew of me. She was quite serious when she offered to keep my wife there while I went on and bought a house and settled in, so our newborn could be a native born Texan. That was more important to her then being an American, and is still true in TX today.

    I lived in ME in the 90’s when Sen. George Mitchell announced his impending retirement, and suddenly statewide offices opened up in a shuffle. Some people LITERALLY moved back to ME to run for office. You’re not getting elected to a statewide office in ME without being a native. I live in NY now, and the election of Monica Lewinsky’s ex-boyfriends wife to the senate proves that isn’t true here. In fact, it proved you can have no association with the state at all and get elected. It’s why I strongly support residency rules for statewide offices… she never represented NY, only herself. It’s also why I shudder when liberals talk about eliminating the native born requirement for the president from the Constitution. I would lean the other way- strengthen it. If someone spends more then 4 of their first 18 years outside the United States, other then on military bases- they should be ineligible for the presidency. Life on base as an exception because that’s a microcosm of stateside life. We wouldn’t have the current president if that were the case- a big plus IMHO.

    • Pretty much, yes – about the bases overseas being a microcosm. My daughter spent the first year of her life in Japan, then from age 4 1/2 to nearly 12 living in Greece and Spain, with only one short visit to the States in that time. We didn’t live on base in that time – but her school was there, the youth center, the movie theater and most of her friends. The base was USA.

    • Patrick Chester

      Keeping the native born requirement for President would be good. Though I find myself amused at the thought of prog heads exploding if Sarah got elected soon after their machinations eliminated that requirement.

      • I’d vote for her.

        Though why we’d inflict that on our wonderful hostess…

      • First thought before correcting myself- What does Palin have to do with this? Though I would vote for either Sarah over any of the other proclaimed candidates at this point.

  14. Most progressives have no idea that the opposition to refugees is not tied up with the refugees so much as it is the WAY we expect governments both National and local to accept them. It will be done in a manner to damage both them and us. They will treat them the same way blacks have been treated. That is – we will act as if you are really SPECIAL – but give you the thinnest soup for help and keep you far away from any power.
    They will be courted to get their votes – but no dignity. The few who grab the opportunity to acclimate will be disrespected if not physically assaulted.

  15. “For one, our culture ACTIVELY DISCOURAGES acculturating. It’s considered a “betrayal” of your “native” culture.”

    Serious question: when did this happen? My mom’s family (both sides) emigrated to the States in the 1890s or early 1900s. I don’t know about my grandfather (never met him, may he burn in the darkest pits of hell), but my grandmother, a first-generation American, came from an Italian family but could not speak a word of Italian. Reason being is that her parents decided that their children were Americans and were going to be raised as Americans, so they learned English. They kept many Italian traditions (including, thank God, the food!), but she and her siblings were raised as Americans first and foremost and taught that while their family came from Italy, America was their homeland.. And I’m given to understand that’s how it was with pretty much immigrant family in the area at that time.

    So when the hell did that change? (I can guess, but I’d like to know for sure)

    Oddly enough, my father’s family proudly traces their ancestry back to the Mayflower, and while I consider myself a proud American, I find that I enjoy the company of Mom’s relatives (the “immigrants,” and I use the term loosely here) vs. Dad’s relatives. Reason being is that Mom’s relatives are by and large fun to be around, whereas Dad’s family is made up of some of the most boring people on the planet.

  16. BobtheRegisterredFool

    I was accidentally in the room yesterday (I am ill, okay) while someone watched an episode of Dr. Ken, in which his wife accuses him (a second generation Korean) of being a lapsed Korean and brags about how she has passed on “her culture” (she’s second generation Japanese) to her kids.

    Perhaps I weigh certain reports too heavily, but since when does someone ‘Japanese’ marry a ‘Korean’? I’ve heard some of the same stuff Gospace has. Along with that this has apparently been going on for centuries, and similar stuff with leather workers and certain types of ‘magic’ users.

    The lady sounds like she is culturally influenced by old fashioned American culture, in addition to the hippy bullshit.

    • And I have another story… from when I was a career counselor in the Navy. Had young sailors all the time walk into our office with orders to a forward deployed ship, who wanted them changed to a tender in San Diego. Standard answer, “Sure, put in your request chit. We’ll forward it to BuPers recommending disapproval. You joined the Navy…” One day a young sailor walked in, “I got orders to a tender. Could I get them changed to a forward deployed ship in Japan?” “Fill out a chit, we’ll call the detailers, see what we can do.” He stuck around to talk. Turns out his wife was Korean. And he figured Japan was real close, They could jump a flight from Japan to Korea and visit her family more often. Dead silence from us counselors. “Did you talk to your wife about this?” “Uh, no. I wanted it to be a surprise.” “I’ll tell you what I’m going to do. I’m putting your chit under my blotter. It’s staying there until you talk to your wife. DON’T tell her YOU asked for it. Mention that the Navy may send you to Japan. And come back to see us tomorrow.” Next morning as we got in, he was waiting for us. And wanted the chit back. And thanked us profusely. He didn’t know his wife could get that crazy…

      Japanese or Korean woman will marry caucasians long before they would consider the other. If ever they would. Japanese or Korean men for the most part would willingly marry Caucasians if that were an option. For the most part, it isn’t.

      • BobtheRegisterredFool

        In fairness, there has apparently long been a small Korean population living in Japan and passing for Japanese. Apparently to the point that they do not always manage to avoid inter-marriage.

    • The Japanese word for Korean person literally translated in to English is turtle. What it means is sub-human. No “real” Japanese would knowingly marry a Korean. I left Japan with the realization that their culture is deeply rasist. In a way that most of the west can never grasp.

      • I wonder if there is more to this then meets the eye. In front of the Korean Naval Academy in Chin Hae there is a very impressive model of a turtle ship. http://navy.memorieshop.com/Korea/index.html The turtle ship was used by the Koreans to defeat the Japanese navy. I find it curious the Japanese would use Turtle, the name of a class of warship that defeated them, as a term of disparagement for the people that used it.

        As an aside, nothing to do with the subject, the first submersible used in combat was also named Turtle.

        • Yeah, part of why the Japanese hate Koreans is because the Koreans used to be the civilized people who taught them stuff, and because a lot of Japan is really a Korean colony or a bunch of Korean pirates who ran off to Japan to use it as a base. (To be fair, Koreans are equally unwilling to admit any genetic relationship with Japanese.)

          The other reasons for hatred between the countries are the intermarriage of Koreans with Mongols during the Mongols’ reign in China, the whole thing with Empress Jingu’s invasion of Korea, the gruesome Japanese assassination of Korea’s last empress/queen, and the ensuing Japanese takeovers of Korea and nasty behavior during them.

          • A lot of it is also because the Japanese tended to have some VERY strict notions about how people should act, and did absolutely everything they could to shatter the Korean identity and make them inferior Japanese people who would willingly be a base so Japan could then conquer China. They failed to consider that Korea had not become a Mini-China and China tended to assimilate people in a very borg like manner when they swept in with an army (or the army conquered them in the case of the Mongols.)

            The Koreans were highly shocked that the US neither wanted tribute nor to make them into mini-Americans that would make nice little drones. It kind of shocked them when the US said “We’re pulling out in 3 years” and then did… (Source: Relatives who where there.) It ran utterly counter to everything they’d ever dealt with.

            • BobtheRegisterredFool

              The Norks haven’t helped things by doing communist intelligence stuff against the Japanese.

              • No, they haven’t. And you KNOW China’s an issue when the Japanese and South Koreans are seriously talking about even temporary alliances against them.

  17. The postwar history of the U.S. practically screams that any attitude toward immigrants other than “thou shalt assimilate or be expelled” is cruel to everyone: already-here and immigrants alike. And by “postwar,” I mean post-CIVIL War.

    The huge wave of immigrants we accepted in the late 19th and early 20th centuries was compelled to assimilate. The public schools forced it on their kids, and the parents found that they were inherently compelled to follow suit. That’s the only way a liberal admissions policy can work. Anything else is the rankest, most self-deceiving cruelty.

    • Not just that, but there wasn’t the welfare setup of today, where you could live here without having to at least assimilate enough to get and keep a job.

    • This was a big part of the opposition to the Catholic Schools that led to many states in the early 20th Cent adding “no public $ to private schools” amendments to their constitutions. These Blaine Amendments have since been used to block school voucher efforts.

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  19. My paternal grandparents emigrated from England – Grandpop just before WWI, Granny Dodie just after – and they remained very British to the end of their days, although as one of Granny Dodie’s brothers rather acerbically pointed out when a discussion of immigration and assimilation came up at the Thanksgiving dinner-table, they had the advantage of speaking English, and being white. (That great-uncle had married a lady whom I now realize must have been Hispanic, from one of the old Californian Mexican families.) Grandpop Al and Granny Dodie remained very, very British and proud … although they were less outspoken about it, when they made a visit back to England in about the late 1950s. I can only guess at the culture shock – they had departed from Edwardian England … and returned forty years later, to the aftermath of war, rationing and the loss of Empire. They were, my parents noted, somewhat less chauvinistically British after that.

    When I made my own visit to England, in 1970 … it was … a very strange, deja vu experience. Things and places were familiar to me, I fit in and felt comfortable in them … but I had never been there, ever in my life. When my brother and sister and I came back and spent the whole summer of 1976 traveling around on BritRail and staying in Youth Hostels – there it was again. By the end of the summer, local Brits were saying to us, “You don’t have much of an accent, for an American.” Grandpop and Granny’s country was something we might have been able to put on again, very easily … but the fit wasn’t comfortable.

    I put a bit of this into the last book of the Adelsverein Trilogy — when three of the main characters — now middle-aged and well-to-do, bring their families for a visit to the little German village they emigrated from as late teenagers. The village has changed — not for the better — and their children are revolted and horrified. The place is poor, tumbled-down and smelly … and one of the older characters realizes that all unaware, she and her sister and brother-in-law are no longer really Germans — and that their children are Americans, in their attitudes, the way they walk and carry themselves. Germany will now be the “old country’. Their children are wholly of the “new country.”

  20. c4c

  21. I identify as normal, for a very wiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiide range of “normal”. There are times when fitting in as normal can be soul-killing because some facet of their normal is unacceptable.

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  23. Sarah, I think you have identified the essential problem, but you don’t realize it. The US has successfully absorbed an endless series of immigrant waves throughout its history, and our nation is much the better for it. Each of these waves have had to fight its way into acceptance and we grown stronger as a result.

    What has changed at present is not in the nature of this new wave (Muslims), but the dysfunction of our cultural and political leadership. Our political leadership is worse than poor and our cultural direction is opposite of the founding ethos that made this country great. And we are accelerating in the wrong direction.

    Immigration angst is a trivial matter compared to the rot that is hollowing out our original national character.

  24. I have a different perspective on assimilation. I’m a Pennsylvania Dutchman. I speak the dialect that my immigrant ancestors spoke 300 years ago, although my family was always “worldly”, and it’s been my lifelong advantage to fit in almost anywhere. So I do get what you’re saying. But as you know, many Pennsylvania Dutch people, even after over 300 years, haven’t assimilated at all, but still they prosper. Far from being a threat, they’ve become a cliche of peaceful coexistence: whenever there’s a terror attack, somebody’s sure to make a sarcastic comment about the Amish being at fault. Nobody ever has to explain why that’s ridiculous.

    In a way, it seems you’re suffering from a bit of the same cultural oversensitivity as the “bleeding hearts” who preach against assimilation. I hear you saying, obliquely, that immigrating Muslims need to assimilate because, why, everyone behaves badly and does poorly when they cling to their tribalism. Except that’s not true. If my example seems self-serving, consider instead the Cajuns. May they never completely assimilate.

    • Except that their culture is toxic. I made it clear many past cultures have been toxic. To bring up a culture that isn’t and then accuse me of cultural over-sensitivity seems more than a little insane.

    • BobtheRegisterredFool

      IIRC, Pennsylvania Dutch were Germans. There used to be a lot of assimilated German speakers in the United States. Many of them were suppressed during WWI and WWII, and quit passing the language on to their kids. Eisenhower’s family being one example. Maybe the Pennsylvania Dutch had better branding than a lot of the others. We haven’t fought a war with the French in some time.

      • No, some Pennsylvania Dutch were Dutch. My grandfather was one. I still carry the Dutch last name.

        • I believe the term derives from a corruption of Pennsylvania Deutsch, mostly of Hessian ancestry, descending from “mercenaries” brought here to prosecute the Anti-Revolutionary War who turned their coats and found refuge amongst the colonials.

          Any actual Dutch in Pennsylvania are a consequence of other corruptions.

          • BobtheRegisterredFool

            Corruption of Deutsch, IIRC, yes. Redcoat Mercenaries, no. They immigrated during the colonial era.

            My understanding is that they, or other colonial era immigrants, brought the tech for rifles over from Germany, and that this technology was well established in the colonies prior to the Revolution. If that was the Pennsylvania Dutch, that would suggest that they were not purely Amish or Mennonite.

            • What part of “mostly’ had you confused?

              Sheesh, you think i insert those weasel words just to boost my character count? THIS. IS. AMERICA. Character no longer counts!

            • Remember, NYC started out as New Amsterdam, a Dutch colony; they lost it as part of the settlement to end one of the English / Dutch wars in the 15-1600s.

            • During the revolution an English officer wrote home to the underclassmen at his academy that while their muskets could miss by a hand’s breadth at 50 paces the Germans living in Pennsylvania could put a ball through a man’s head at 200 yards. He suggested having all their affairs in good order before coming to the colonies. It started a mini-rebellion back at his old school…

            • Not a corruption. The English word “Dutch” used to be a generic term for Germans. Only in the 19th century did it come to mean exclusively Low Germans from the Netherlands, but by then the Pennsylvania Dutch (Pennsilfaanisch Deitsch, ass mer dorum saage) name was in place.

              • BobtheRegisterredFool

                The English may have used it that way, but it was super racist and offensive of them to do so.

          • BobtheRegisterredFool

            The Quakers settled Pennsylvania, and might have found German pacifist Christians familiar enough to recruit as additional settlers. New York was originally Dutch, and that neighbors Pennsylvania. (But not the way I recalled before I checked a map just now.)

          • No, the Germans had heavily settled Pennsylvania long before the war. Which was why the Hessians were able to desert there. English, Scottish, Welsh, and Irish soldiers deserted all up and down the colonies. Germans? Mostly in Pennsylvania. Indeed, one German, captive, discovered an additional downside when being marched through Philadelphia: his aunt emerged from the crowd to berate him.

            • “Upstate” NY as well. A goodly number of Palatine Calvinists came to the Colonies in the early 1700s when the French were tearing up the Rhineland.

          • The Pennsylvania Dutch came mostly from the Rhineland Palatinate. They were invited to Pennsylvania by William Penn to farm the land in the 1680’s. They were eager to leave because that country had never recovered from the 30 Years War.

    • Difference of opinion here. The Amish and Mennonites have been here before 1776- they’re part of American culture, one of those different parts, like Texas. They hold themselves apart from the rest, but don’t ask the rest of us to behave like them. The women around here who aren’t Amish or Mennonite aren’t mistreated by Amish and Mennonite men because they dress scantily. And at the local VFD blood drive, I’ve seen Amish show up to donate their blood. They recognize obligations to the whole community, not just themselves. And, in our area at least, there are black Mennonites. (Not Amish that I’ve seen.) You can make the argument that this means they have assimilated quite well, or that they are quite good at assimilating others. Or both. BTW, the black Mennonites speak and talk just like the rest. If you close your eyes and listen, you can tell they’re Mennonites, you can’t tell they’re black.

      And they don’t ask for special accommodations. Amish are fairly new to this area. One of our Scouts noted they were tying up their horses to anything available. His Eagle Scout project was to identify where the Amish needed hitching posts in town, getting permission from business/government to install them, then build them. When asked during his board, “Did you talk to the elders?”, he looked confused, and answered, “Well, they were kind of old….”

      And I might add, another Eagle project was putting a town clock up in the town square. It still works.

      • My sister-in-law is a Filipina, from one of the out-islands where they don’t even speak Tagalog. She had “language” (as she calls it), some Spanish and some English.

        When they eventually moved Stateside from England, she fell in with some local Amish. And somehow, wherever they’ve lived since, they’ve wound up on the periphery of Amish or Mennonite society. Not all of them dress funny and use horsecarts, and there are way more of them than I would ever have suspected.

  25. It is impossible to have this deranged belief that culture is genetic and that people can’t and shouldn’t change (a belief belied by history) and a multi-ethnic society. At the end of that road is a war none of us wants to imagine and a far more restrictive society than any of us would like.

    Indeed, the belief that culture is genetic and that people can’t change is the one which leads directly to the Nazi variant of Fascism. Given that belief, Hitler’s core conclusions make perfect rational sense: the only thing left to fault him on was whether or not he made the right strategic and tactical choices.

    I can’t emphasize this enough — down the road of specific cultures being innate in particular racial groups lies the Third Reich. Maybe with different flags or uniforms, but equally-nasty in every way that counts.

    • (Nods) We’d almost buried that ideology. We’d come so close. Then the idiot leftists had to come along and dig it back up, and the racists felt legitimized.

      • BobtheRegisterredFool

        Not really. We hated the part that Hitler had espoused, because we had a now fading cultural hatred for him and for all his works.

        Problem is that his thinking was only a part of a widely spread school of magical thought about the nineteenth century.

        The magical thinking about Darwin got associated with him, and tarred.

        The magical thinking about industrialization, which also fed into Eugenics, kept a clean reputation.

        Progressives in the US supported Eugenics. Fascists in Italy imitated our Progressives. Hitler came to the same ideas by being a crazy autodidact rather than a fashionable intellectual from the best schools. The Communists, the socialists, and the rest of the left were trying to do the same perfection of society through measurement, except replacing purification of blood with training.

      • “But… why SHOULDN’T I take the stake out of the dead vampire? He’s dead, after all.”

        And we know where THAT sort of thinking leads…

        • As the pot of petunias said so well, “Oh no, not again.”

        • This was an actual scene from the Dracula comic:

          Empty morgue room, Dracula’s body is on the slab with the stake still in him. Door opens, and in comes the new Chief Medical Examiner, after the old one was fired for all the hullabaloo involved in tracking him down, trailed by the assistants who know all too well that the world is not what they were taught in med school. She takes in the scene:

          Gasp” I don’t know what your boss allowed you to get away with before, but while I’m in charge we will show proper respect for the dead!”

          Yanks out stake. Dracula’s eyes open. Cue red panel.

          Why is it that Chesterton’s Fence never gets the respect it deserves?

  26. Just listening. The lack of demands to assimilate brought to mind the only episode of Fresh Off the Boat I ever watched, where someone in the family took the wife and mother to task about not being Chinese enough, and she went the whole SJW culture thing until finally saying “Forget this” and embracing assimilation.

    One episode does not a series make, of course, and have no idea if the series runs counter to the rather racist opinion of culture held by progressives.

    • My sister married a Chinese man, and ran into the concept of the “tai-tai”, or first wife of the family, the senior wife. And she was quite clear on it. “I will show you all the respect you are entitled to in your home, but this ta-tai shit stops at my door.”

  27. it’s been years since people stared at me while I went about my daily business and before I opened my mouth came up to me and asked “Where are you from?”

    I used to get this fairly regularly, often with speculative suggestions (“Are you German?” being the most common, though Swiss, Dutch and British came up more than once). I was born in the U.S., as were all my ancestors going back as far as we could reliably trace (except for a great-grandparent who was Swiss), and raised in a generic suburb. The fact that it happened regularly means people were picking up on something, but no one could identify what it was. I asked.

    These days I’m usually asked if I’m a musician or artist. A nonspecific kind of alien, I guess, although a woman stopped me in a grocery store just recently to ask me if I was from Holland.

    • mind you, in Portugal they often asked me if I was German. Go figure.

      • In Germany they thought I was from Norway until I opened my mouth lol

        • The French ALSO thought I was German. This is weird, because at least to me, I don’t look German in the slightest and if I have ANY traceable German ancestry it would have to go back to when the Swabians swept the peninsula.

          • When I went to France– they pointed me to Normandy 🙂 Yea– I don’t see German in your face…

          • I’d say that reaction had two different components: something signals “foreign” to them, then they consciously try to figure out your country of origin from aspects of your appearance (having already excluded the correct answer in Portugal, but in France perhaps just playing the odds). So what signals “foreign”?

            Walking down a busy urban street after dark, a group of teenagers who had been walking the other direction stopped and asked what country I was from. The leading opinion was German, but they’d had a brief argument and wanted me to clear it up. So under streetlights at a distance of 5-10 yards something about me was sufficiently foreign to simultaneously convince half a dozen guys. I was wearing generic college student clothing, but most students at that university weren’t foreign.

            One possible explanation is body language, as you suggested above.

            • the reason (I suspect) most foreigners exclude “Portuguese” is height. Before I lost a couple of inches I was 5’7″. Also, though my hair was very dark, under bright light it showed deep red, not black. So…
              WEIRDLY in the US despite height and coloration (and I go very pale when I spend a lot of time indoors and/or am ill) people tend to think I’m South American. Must be body-language.

    • … recently to ask me if I was from Holland.

      She probably noticed you had two lips.

      • Are you always this saucy, or is it the holindaisse?

        • Do we need to get out the chromium plates?

          • Are you channeling the guy who draws Pearls Before Swine? I think yesterday’s strip was a new low, which is quite an accomplishment.

            • Nope. ’tis an old joke. And I’m… well, I ain’t that young. And I have a fondness for bad(good) puns and so-called corny jokes. I recall a bit from some old-then jokebook I was given as a kid. It’s probably the only thing in the whole book that I do still recall, but it sticks: “I feel like I swallowed a nuclear bomb.” “How’s that?” “I have atomic ache.”

    • Long ago I noticed, when reading stories about Wales, that I “think like a Welshman”. A peculiarity, but acquired, or so I thought… Then come to find out my dad’s ancestry, where it’s not Scot or English, is mostly Welsh.

      There is indeed some genetic basis to how we think. Personality has been demonstrated by research on identical twins to be highly heritable (and why do you think breeders of performance animals, especially dogs, select for certain personality traits?) and selection pressure in different parts of the world obviously is going to make one trait or another more common, depending on what selection pressures exist. So yes, there is a genetic basis for culture, given that a culture is the agglomeration of all the personalities in it.

      But that doesn’t mean we have to be ruled by it, as Sarah amply demonstrates. We can rise above.

    • I was always asked if I was Norwegian… even though the Scandinavian sides of my family (two that I counted and maybe more) came to the US in the mid 1800s.

  28. Sarah, your experience is tangentially familiar, if only because the day after my wife and I got married (in 1993) we moved from Utah to Washington State. Now, this is not nearly as difficult as moving from, say, Utah to Japan, or Utah to Russia, but there was still a degree of culture shock. Not to mention I was 19 years old and had never lived outside of my parents’ house before. Reality hit me like a dump truck on the interstate! I definitely went through a period where I desperately wanted to go home, to where things “made sense.” And then, many years later, when I did move back to Utah, I was a fish out of water again. Now? I sort of feel like I am split between both places. I wish I could combine the best aspects of both. Probably, when my parents are gone, and my wife and I have the means, we will move back to Washington State again — provided we can afford acreage on Whidbey Island.

  29. Terrific commentary. Sarah, one little part of the immigrant experience which I’ve observed over and over is: Little kids (almost always girls) picking which language to answer their mother in in order to zing her. I just saw it yesterday with an Israeli mother. She was speaking Hebrew to her 6- or 7- year old daughter, who was being pissy and to magnify the effect answered her mom in English.
    Mom managed to turn things around, at which, with a very different tone of voice, daughter switched to Hebrew.
    I once knew a family with three girls. One wouldn’t speak the mom’s language to her no matter which language she was addressed in, one wouldn’t speak English to her no matter what, and the third spoke whichever one suited her at the moment.

  30. After reading this post, I understand why I was considered strange long before I knew I was an Odd. I was born in Canada of American parents. I learned to speak in Canadian English… We left when I was three years old. Everywhere we went after that I was told that I had an accent. That I spoke wrong or moved wrong. All of my brothers and sisters after me were raised in the States. Even my thinking structures are slightly different than the rest. I had to adapt… but never quite did it.

    Then I left the US and followed the military. When I came back about 15 years later I didn’t recognize the culture. So I had to go through it again– acclimatization. Doesn’t quite seem fair–

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  32. Anyone else notice a change in personality with language use change. My wife insists I have a different personality when I speak French.

    • I become… weird in French. For one, my voice goes up two octaves. For another I get hyper-feminine. It’s sort of like being possessed. gestures change, things that make me laugh change, my LAUGHTER changes.
      My husband rather likes me when I speak French, though.

  33. For the record, the “Ugly American” in the book of the same title (Marlin Brando played him in the movie) was the only US diplomat who actually learned the culture and language of the people he was working with, making him the hero of the piece. Strangely, the meaning of this phrase has become totally inverted.