Looks Like I’m in Europe Again…
Alternative Title: Adventures in Cultural Studies
It turns out I’m not in the United States.
As I look around at the birthplace of the American Revolution and the cradle of much of our origins, all I can notice is how drastically different it is than Indiana. You wouldn’t know that we’re of the same nationality. There are the small differences (they LOVE Dunkin Donuts and we’re more “cup o’ joe from McDonald’s” folks) and then larger (they can’t figure out how to lay out their highways). But their personalities and the way they live their lives are very familiar; just not to my home, but to somewhere else…
Culturally, I’ve discovered New England to be just like France.
1. They are frigid folks. I’ve been warned many times to be “wary of the cold- weather and people”. The French are infamous for their unfriendliness; it’s even been called “xenophobia”. It is very much the same here. It’s not just that they don’t smile at people in the streets, like we do in the Midwest, but strangers are just that. Strange. They are too be avoided.
2. Friendships develop much slower. In France, you need years and years of relationship before you consider someone a close friend. Once my ridiculous former room mate tried to say how she was friends with a French student, and the student responded that she wasn’t even “friends” with the people she’s been living with for years yet. In Boston, told to me by a Bostonian, it’s a “minimum of two years” before friends become friends. In Indiana, it literally only takes a friendly conversation before you invite someone into your homes and treat them with close familiarity.
3. But- once those friends are friends, they are the most truest and fiercely loyal of friends. In France, you keep every friendship you have. There is no “we are no longer friends”. In Boston too, once you are friends, you are together through thick and thin. I’m not saying that Midwest people are flighty in their friendships but they are nowhere close to the intensity of these two places.
4. People have hard times assimilating and developing relationships in France and New England. They find it difficult to get used to the unfriendliness and the strict “let me go on with my business, and you with yours” attitude. But in the Midwest, due to our open and honest nature, many people relocate here to live.
5. Introversion runs deep in both France and Mass. I used to think that I was an introvert stuck in an extrovert culture in the Midwest but here I see that I was merely playing at introversion. These people are so deeply invested in their own lives and the ones they choose to like, and I can’t yet tell if it is a bad thing. Hey, this is only an analysis not a critique.
While these differences exist, sometimes even in the extremes, the toughest cultural discrepiency I’ve experienced so far has been these characteristics in the Christian community. Common character traits you hear about the community that exists at Christian colleges include “warm”, “welcoming”, “intentional”, and “accepting”. New England society, from what I’ve seen, has yet to find a way to connect these two concepts. I’m staying optimistic that it exists somewhere. Just not with the student populace at Gordon.
Well, that was a fun musing.