Thursday, December 06, 2007

I'm beginning to think that culture shock is a lot more subtle in a country that isn't necessarily your homeland, but they speak the same language, than in completely foreign country with a different native tongue. If that makes any sense. In addition, you might also have the advantage of appearing physically different than your adopted home. For example, if I - an anglo-saxon, blue-eyed, blonde - were living in say, Japan, people could just take one glance at me and assume I was not from there.

In Scotland, however, being a Canadian with Euro mutt heritage (Scottish, Irish, Welsh), I look like everyone else over here. Culturally, however, I sometimes feel like I am still an outsider.

I know that the "Canadian returning to their heritage homeland" angle might be getting a little tiresome but the more I feel like Scotland is my home, the more I am reminded that I am still a "foreigner".

Take for example, day-to-day interactions with strangers: a couple weeks ago, Paul and I were shopping in a hip clothing store that seemed to only carry men's stuff. Wanting a new pair of shoes for myself, I approached the sales guy:

"ummm, do you have any girl stuff?"

The sales guy blinked a couple times and said, "Just Uggs. Sorry."

Now, perhaps my face betrayed my manners and I grimaced at the word, "UGG", but I thanked him and walked away. And just when he thought I was out of earshot, I heard two sales guy mock my accent and say, "LIKE OH MY GOD". I didn't say anything - mainly because I was too shocked - and Paul and I left the store (AFTER Paul bought a pair of fancy shoes too)!

I told Paul what had happened and he said he was sorry and bless his wee Weegie soul, he offered to go back and say something. I declined but damn, it just cut me up. I suppose more than anything, I suddenly felt like a foreigner and self-conscious about my accent. I'm sure they assumed that I was American (WHICH HURTS ANY CANADIAN TO THEIR SOUL!!!) and so, it was ok to mock my accent.

I also feel like a cultural outsider at times because my small-talk is total pish. See, Glaswegians really value what they call "chat" (i.e. witty small talk) and talk about people "having" good chat or "giving good chat". Now, some people might find this hard to believe but I can actually be quite shy - especially when meeting new family and friends of Paul's, for example. Add to that my anxiety about my perceived cultural "otherness" and Toronto-accent. So, I'm pretty hopeless next to some chatty Glaswegian lettin' rip with witty one-liners.

In the end, maybe that's why Madonna adopted a shitty English accent when she moved to the UK? Maybe she was just trying to avoid possible cultural embarrassments - rather than say, attention and validation because she is an annoying douchebag?

5 comments:

lilalia said...

I feel for you. The real cruncher is when children start to mimic your accent. Ouch! The plus side is that you can freely choose to adopt or reject any of the numerous social rituals and restrictions and expectations.

SharClark said...

I'm really sorry that happened to you! That sucks. Don't think I'm offended or anything, but I take it Americans are kind of looked down on? Not that I'm surprised...

Jennifer said...

Lilalia - I know what you mean. For example, people are into Christmas cards (i.e. sending and giving them to other people). I don't do that - at all - and have forewarned others at my work (and friends) that I don't "do" xmas cards. I guess they pass it off as a Canadian trait.

Sharclark - I don't think Americans are looked down on per say; I think it's the countries foreign policies that are more frowned upon. I think they were just mocking my generic North American accent.

Pascale Clerk said...

That was just a rude thing to do, especially when you deal with customers. Not a good example of Scottish friendliness.

Katie said...

It's hard to keep up with the Glesga banter. I never quite managed it myself.