Feeling inordinately self-conscious of my Americanness has been something with which I have been grappling ever since I started to travel. Sometimes this self-consciousness verges on apologetic or even ashamed, but I’ve decided that’s really unnecessary. My culture happens to be my culture like anyone else’s. I don’t hold any of my international friends accountable for their nation’s bad laundry. I still haven’t gone to the Burger King in the city centre because I think… “Oh God; if I go to Burger King, then inevitably they will assume I’m an American tourist who thinks that deep-fried homogeneity is more desirable than an infinite amount of local cuisine, or anything else for that matter.” It seems like there’s just a big old mine field of American stereotypes every step I take. But rather than cower in my anxiety over my Americanness and appear just plain neurotic, I think I’m going to have to allow myself American moments. And people will see my “Americanness” in a variety of different situations that may not even be fair. I have, however, obtained an actual ethnography of the English people and this has guided me in understanding the natives a bit better. It has helped me to avoid too many faux pas.
Watching the English by Kate Fox has been a very fascinating and enlightening read in many regards. Of course not everything is universally true, but it has given me some idea about potential faux pas, which, I have no trouble committing in my own country… let alone in this strange land. ONE faux pas, apparently, may involve criticism of the [English] weather by foreigners. SO before I tell you about the cold and rainy, yucky past few days, I wanted to acknowledge my awareness of the potential faux pas here, and show my American friends how to avoid seeming too rude.
In her chapter on ‘Weather Talk’, Fox explains the potential error in criticizing or crassly belittling the natives’ weather:
“… we treat the English weather like a member of our family: one can complain about the behavior of one’s own children or parents, but any hint of censure from an outsider is unacceptable, and very bad manners. Although we are aware of the relatively undramatic nature of the English weather– the lack of extreme temperatures, monsoons, tempests, tornadoes and blizzards– we become extremely touchy and defensive at any suggestion that our weather is therefore inferior or uninteresting. The worst possible weather-speak offense is one mainly committed by foreigners, particularly Americans, and that is to belittle the English weather. When the summer temperature reaches the high twenties, and we moan, ‘Phew, isn’t it hot?’, we do not take kindly to visiting Americans or Australians laughing and scoffing and saying ‘Call this hot? This is nothing. You should come to Texas [Brisbane] if you wanna see hot!’… Size, we sniffily point out, is not everything, and the English weather requires an appreciation of subtle changes and understated nuances, rather than a vulgar obsessions with mere volume and magnitude.’ ”
The weather was not fun at all these past few days. For the first few weeks that I was here, it was very warm and lovely.I just stopped taking my jacket with me when I went out because I didn’t ever need it. But last week everything turned cold and soggy-sad. I’m quite alright with it; I just would have liked to have packed more sweaters. I’m sure it will get much worse, but I feel like everyone back home in sunny Denver has been waiting to hear about the bleak and dreary rain. Well, folks, it does exist. Yes. But there is a sort of cozy charm about it. I was walking home from doing my grocery shopping yesterday and came upon this, though:
Isn’t that great?? Someone just… gave up. And this is their tragic monument. Laying on the side of the road. When it’s blustery the cold does go right through you, it’s true. Reminded me of the IAJE Jazz conference in NYC. In January. But not that bad… yet.
Today could be better. Probably just cloudy. But take a look at this forecast:
Rain, rain, rain, rain. :) More tea and more umbrellas for me! <3