divided by the same language part 2
October 10, 2006
The culture shock on my first visit to the States continued when I entered a shopping centre (I don’t know what you call these) and saw a stern notice saying ‘No Strollers’.I naturally immediately quickened my pace and sped past the shops as if I was on the last mile of the marathon, anxious lest my speed should drop to the point where it coud be considered ‘strolling’. It was only when I noticed that nobody else was racing round the place that I suspected I had misunderstood something. Another misunderstanding came when I heard a news item on the TV about ‘some pacifiers being withdrawn’. I assumed this concerned the UN peace-keeping force in the Balkans and was surprised to see pictures of perfectly healthy looking babies. When I told my American friend that in England if we wanted to keep a baby quiet we got it to suck a dummy, for some inexplicable reason he started laughing. Later, he invited me to ‘wash up’. Now I’m quite happy to help friends wash the dishes but as he had the latest model of dishwasher displayed proudly in his kitchen I asked him why we didn’t use that. Then there was the first time I entered an office and a young man came bounding out proclaiming ‘Hi, I’m Randy’. I didn’t know whether to flee or tell him to go and have a cold shower. I was similarly puzzled when I asked a young lady how she was feeling and she answered ‘good’. It was with difficulty that I was able to resist the temptation to tell her that it was her health I was enquiring after not her morals. Then the first time I hired a car I discovered that it is not only elephants that have trunks, that a flat is not somewhere you live and that a tailpipe was not some form of smoking accessory but what I called an exhaust. After a few trips I thought I had pretty well mastered the language. Then just as I had learned to ask for a ‘cookie’ not a ‘biscuit’ I suddenly discovered that ‘cookies’ are not snacks at all but things your computer picks up when you visit certain web sites. I guess I’ll have to start learning all over again.