Something I appreciate about the United States is the subcultures that make up one cohesive “American” culture. I love to compare and contrast the things I experience here with what I am used to back home in Minnesota. When I first started working at Walmart, I noticed that everyone uses “sir” and “ma’am” to address others. Even people who are older than me call me ma’am. It took me a while to remember to address people this way, and I felt rude. I have one coworker who says “ma’am?” when he wants me to repeat myself.
The cultural differences are small, but persistent. No one uses the phrase “talk to.” Every day when we arrive at work we are greeted and told to “get with” our department managers. I’ve also noticed that people don’t say “hey” or “hello.” Almost everyone I meet says “how you doin’?” To me, this feels rude, because I’ve noticed that no one expects a response. People will be walk past and greet me in this way, and before I even reply, they’re gone.
Every Thursday evening, we have an event that we call a social. We dress up and do fun activities. The first social we had was called The Low Country Boil. We all dressed up, either as Southern Preps, or Southern Hicks. We put corn, potatoes, onions, shrimp, and sausage into big pots and boiled it. As we waited for the food to cook, we had a carnival where we tried to throw plungers into an old toilet, throwing knives, and got temporary tattoos. Then they pushed a bunch of tables together, covered it with a paper table cloth, and dumped the food on top. I’m told that it’s some type of tradition to eat off of the table in a big group, with no dishes or utensils. It sure makes for an easy meal!
We finished the evening off with a watermelon eating contest, karaoke night, and a dance party. The evening was a fun opportunity to embrace and exaggerate Southern culture. Even though the differences between my culture at home and here are very minimal, culture is something that intrigues me wherever I go. I find it interesting to compare the things that seem rude to me (asking how I am without expecting a response) and the things that may seem rude to others (addressing them in a less respectful manner). It all comes from perspective.