A Karmic Sandbox (karmasoup) wrote,
A Karmic Sandbox

Culture Shock

Failure To Communicate

They say you can take the girl out of the South, but you can’t take the South out of the girl. To a large degree, this may be true. While there are many parts of the South I have been happy to leave behind, there are certain elements that will always remain with me, despite the fact that I have now spent more than half my life in the Great White Frozen Tundra that is the North American Midwest. And yet, though it may be my Southern upbringing that taught me good manners and social graces, down home family cooking, manipulative charm, chameleon vocal persuasion techniques, and the ability to throw a world class shindig to suit characters from any walk of life, I had never really actually thought of myself as Southern.

That is, until I got up here.

You see, I’m from Florida, and, to me, that’s East Coast. Oh, yes, I know the place is overrun with tourists, whiteheads, refugees and transplants, and, I’m sure there’s plenty of bubbas in the backwoods, but if you really knew the culture of some parts like I do, I’m sure you’d understand. I think Florida, being right on the corner of the country, got the best of both worlds, the way you weed out all the aggressive tendencies when you mutt two distinct dog breeds, so that you’re left with a sharp, trainable, loyal household pet.  

Likewise, natives born & raised of Floridian soil (and there are darn few of us, believe me), are bred with the best blend of characteristic traits between
Southern Hospitality, and the edginess of an Eastern in-yer-face, do-it-yourself, taking-care-of-business ethic.

So, yep, that was me… I had all I needed from those worlds… which means I say what I mean, and I mean what I say, and I expect everyone around me to also, but, hey, at least I do it with a smile, diplomacy and tact, DAMMIT.

   And then, I moved.

In just another part of the continent, my whole world was turned upside down, and suddenly, knowing how to talk to people meant nothing anymore... it was like I'd had a stroke and landed on another planet.

People often asked how I was able to so easily adjust from the southernmost to the northernmost state of our union.

    My answer? I didn’t.

Oh, the weather? That part was easy.

With a good foot or so of insulation of my chest, I’ve lived here two decades now, and but for a few of the harshest sideways winds at insane MPH, I’ve barely ever even had to close my coat all through winter. And the summers? Please. I laugh at the Minnesotans who complain about their 56% humidity. 56%... Really? That’s bad? Sure, 10,000 Lakes creates a lot of moisture in the air, I'll grant ya, but it doesn’t come anywhere near to touching the soak that can be put on to hang in it by the battles that rage across the panhandle between the Gulf and the

So don’t talk to me about weather. I’m fine with
Minnesota weather.

And the dialect?  No problem!

It's not just about colloquialisms.   Every knows there's going to be natural differences between opposite quadrants of a country.  For example, it never occurred to me that I said, "y'all" until I moved up here.  It was just the most natural way of speaking to a group of "all of you," as it's a contraction for "you-all".  In Minnesota, they say, "you guys," which I find irksome in general, but particularly when it's used in reference to a gathering of only females.  But, I'm happy to adopt the local vernacular when it makes more sense... for example, I now refer to soda as "pop," as they do here, whereas in Florida, it was always "Coke."  I went along with that custom during that stage of my personal developmental history, never really thinking about it, though, looking back on it, it does seem rather silly... a conversation in a person's home might come out something like this:

     "Would you like a coke, hun?"

          "Why, thank you kindly, darlin, I do believe I'll take one."

     "And, what kind of coke would you like, m'dear?"

          "Well, now, that all depends, sugarplum... what kind do you have?"

     "Oh, let's see... We've got Pepsi, Diet Pepsi, Sprite, Dr. Pepper, A&W Root Beer, and I think I saw an Orange Crush floating around here somewheres the other day... oh, heavens, yes, there indeedy 'tis!  So what's yer pleasure, pet?"

          "I think that unleaded Pepsi would suit my insides best, sweetheart, and bless my stars and your little ol heart for getting it to me, you precious thang!"

Now, mind you, there's a great deal of Southern flair all rolled up into that dialogue, as there is in any Southern conversation, but, you get the general idea, and maybe you can see how it was easy for me to switch to the generic "pop."

So, what then...

The culture?  The pace?  The options?

     No, it's not about the cities, either, becase I really DO LOVE this town

Minneapolis is this bastion of redemption in an otherwise barren desert of emotionless cookie cutter carvings, who don’t want to admit to each other that they’re anything but two-dimensional. And it can only be so primarily because it houses a rather large population of transplants, and we tend to cling to each other, out of desperation. Ya know, I actually don’t think I have even one real friend that was born and raised of native Minnesotan blood who didn’t grow up in the Twin Cities, and the only reason those slip by is because the melting pot effect absorbed enough of their otherwise Minnesota nature to not allow it to impact their overall personality.

You see, I still can’t figure out how a nice, progressive city teeming with history, art and culture like Minneapolis ended up in a socially backward place like Minnesota

I don’t really know what the people of Minnesota have to blame their way of communicating, or rather, lack thereof, on (oh, that was disgusting grammar, wasn’t it?  It's a good thing I'm not from around here, or that might actually bother me enough to try and correct myself, but, where I come from, that's just normal, perfectly acceptle, everyday chatter.). I get the impression that the majority of the state’s populace was colonized by Swedish and Norwegian immigrants. I don’t know too many folks from Sweden or Norway, except the ones I’ve encountered in LJ, and those seem sane enough. I’ll agree the climates might be relatively similar to what we experience here in this winter waste er, wonderland, but, what part of their culture makes them so dang bottled up and incapable of outwardly expressing whatever’s really going on with them?

Around here, they call it “
Minnesota Nice.” I refer to it as “Minnesota ICE.”  Or, when I’m feeling less charitable, Minnesota Passive Aggressive.

Maybe generation upon generation of bundling up inside to stay warm just addled all their brains until they forgot how to STOP bundling, and just kept ON bundling, from blankets and coats, to woodstock and canned goods, and eventually thoughts, emotions, and genuine human interaction. Somewhere along the line, Minnesotans Forgot How to Say “No.” They don’t remember how to get angry, or feel like they’re allowed to, or should.

But the problem is NOT that they don’t FEEL… it’s just that They Can’t SHOW It.

Minnesotans, especially folks around the Twin Cities Metro area, will swear to you up and down til the cows come home (drunk, and past curfew, with half their shoes missing, and their tails tied in knots, though they can never remember quite how it got that way, as usual) that the movie FARGO was unfair in its perception of The Way They Talk. Trust me, it was polite.

Which makes matters all the worse for outsiders.

Why? Because of course they do feel. We all do. It’s natural. You CAN’T stop it, no matter how deep you bury it. And, so, to counteract this, and, to still be able to understand one another, without emotion, Minnesotans have developed THEIR OWN LANGUAGE.

Don’t believe me? They did! They even Wrote a Book about it!  You’d think natives of MN would be ashamed... heck, I would, if a book more or less publicly accused me of being Unable To Be Straightforward.  But, no, they proudly wave it as a banner of who they are as a people.

So, what does this mean for you and me?

Well, if you’re someone like me, who actually DOES speak your mind, who actually DOES say what you’re thinking, then you’d better be prepared for Minnesotans to treat you like anathema, because, they really don’t kindly to such things around these here parts.

Where I come from, if you ask me a direct question, you get a direct answer, even if you suddenly realize you wish you'd rather not have asked.  But, around here, people expect you to not be able to look them in the eye, and be honest about what is really happening with you.  They DON'T really want to know what you think of their blouse.  They DON'T really want to know how you're feeling (not that I'm actually in the habit of saying unless I know someone well, but, that's an entirely different matter altogether).  And, if you should happen to be animated, speak boisterously, gesture with your hands, or, heaven forbid, express a *gasp* emotion in public, you might have as well just pissed in their corn flakes or killed their best friend's dog, because you're effectively a social pariah now.

When I raise an eyebrow, all that indicates is that something caught my attention enough to give me pause.  I'm not saying what the pause might be... I could be contemplating any number of thoughts... I'm just thinking.  But, around here, I'm outwardly showing that something is going on on the inside, and, that's trouble.  People will get a wild-eyed scared look on their faces, and practically run screaming for the hills like they're afraid my next action is going to be to whip out the pick axe and go on a postal rampage, because, after generation upon generation of them studying each other to try and interpret what they really mean (since no one will ever come right out and SAY it), they generally tend to assume that whatever they can actually visibly SEE is happening, must be happening at the boiling point times TIMES FIVE-HUNDRED-EIGHT-NINE (Fahrenheit).

With me, though, like I've said before, like I meant then, and like I'll mean it every time... what you see is what you get.  No more, no less.

It's all true.

One of my interpersonal shortcomings can at times be that I'm too honest... but, to counteract that, I've taken it upon myself in my adult years to speak to people with discretion, and tact, and to be diplomatic as the situation warrants whenever possible.  This is a learned skill... more people really should develop it... if they did, the whole world would probably run a heckuva lot smoother.

But what's also first among my personal priorities is integrity.  So, really, is it any wonder that NONE among my true friends are native to Minnesota, when none of them actually ever be truthful with themselves, much less to each other?  You can dress it up with a lot of different words... Politically Correct, Inoffensive, Socially Acceptable, Ambiguous... it's all the same.   Did you know that if you look up antonyms to words like straightforward, candid, and direct that you will find words like deceitful, devious, dishonest, tricky, and wily?  It's true.  No matter how you paint it, Passive Aggressive behavior is all about perpetuating a LIE.

And as far as not offending people?  Lying to me OFFENDS me much more than anything you can ever think or feel about me.  Hell, you could tell me to my face that you FUCKING HATE MY GUTS, but, at least I'll respect you, and as far as I'm concerned, we've got no problems between us, whether I like you or not.

No, I think I'll stick to my friends from other places (I seem to connect best with other East Coasters, and Southerners, but especially New Yorkers), and leave the Minnesotans to themselves, because, how can I ever be friends with a person I can never trust?  I may or may not live here for the rest of my life, and I'm sure I'll always love Minneapolis, but Minnesota gets a big fat F in my book... for Failure to Communicate.

LJ Idol | Season 6 • Week 15 -

This post has been brought to you through an association with the online writing community forum, LJ Idol.
If you have enjoyed this entry, please feel free to speak your piece, share the love, and pass it on....
                                                                                                                                   ...and thanks for stopping by.
Tags: culture shock, fix this, flocked, highlights, kms, lj idol, lji6, non-fiction, nsfm

  • A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood

    RIGHT HAND MAN Any memories from more than a couple decades ago would naturally seem like another world from now — even if our…

  • Some Like It Hot

    ACCESSORIES 63 days... the vans have all gone but the streets are still here they cry out for justice. Though faded from sight…

  • What is WRONG with you???

    LEGACY I don’t suppose I’ve achieved enough success in my life yet to consider mine a rags to riches story, but I can certainly…

  • Post a new comment


    default userpic

    Your reply will be screened

    Your IP address will be recorded 

    When you submit the form an invisible reCAPTCHA check will be performed.
    You must follow the Privacy Policy and Google Terms of use.
← Ctrl ← Alt
Ctrl → Alt →
← Ctrl ← Alt
Ctrl → Alt →

  • A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood

    RIGHT HAND MAN Any memories from more than a couple decades ago would naturally seem like another world from now — even if our…

  • Some Like It Hot

    ACCESSORIES 63 days... the vans have all gone but the streets are still here they cry out for justice. Though faded from sight…

  • What is WRONG with you???

    LEGACY I don’t suppose I’ve achieved enough success in my life yet to consider mine a rags to riches story, but I can certainly…