Often times, when we think of culture collisions, we think about visiting a foreign country. A Spaniard traveling to Canada, an American in Paris (quick joke for my theatre friends), or a native of China moving to the United States. However, we seem to forget about the cultural incongruity happening domestically. And it's way more common than it appears.
This past week, I was in Laguna Beach, California, visiting one of my best friends, Clair. Clair and I met in college, and clicked instantly. We both were artistic people, loving theatre, music and culture. We spent every night together at school, eating Oreos with peanut butter and watching Netflix. Our personalities meshed incredibly well, and yet, the best part about her was how unlike any of my other friends she was. She intrigued me, with her views differing from my own. Her upbringing differed vastly from my own, something that was always brought up in conversation. We spent countless hours describing our houses, high schools, and friend groups, both of us so interested in hearing about experiences nothing like our own.
When we parted ways at the end of the semester, I was so sad to leave the best friend I had made in college, but I felt better knowing soon enough, I'd be relaxing beachside in California with Clair, getting to experience her everyday life for myself. But, I was absolutely unprepared for just how different life here is compared to that of which I live at home. I knew some things would be different (e.i, Clair is vegan, I have a deep appreciation for fried chicken. Clair lives five minutes from the beach, I'm in a land locked state), but I didn't realize how different things would be on a cultural and social level. Despite the fact that Clair and I are in the same demographic, in some respects, we could not be more different.
The language in itself was somewhat of a barrier. I call Clair's mother "Mrs. Lauren," because I was raised to always address adults with a title. Apparently that isn't a big thing here, because Clair's mom was both surprised and delighted. People also seemed so interested in my "accent" (which I used in quotations because I don't hear it at all), and it was a highlight to them when they heard me say "y'all." It was both funny to me how interested they were in hearing me speak, and so strange, making me almost feel like a totally unique creature that was being observed.
Another thing that really surprised me was topics of conversation. Let me preface this by saying I come from an extremely liberal family, which is uncommon in my hometown. My family is very candid and open about things, but even so, it was surprising to me that during a dinner out with friends, everyone was talking so openly about their personal lives. Everyone seemed to know everyone's business, discussing who's hooked up with who in front of me, a stranger they have known for all of 10 minutes. It was a little strange at first, and I felt almost like I was intruding on a private conversation. Not to say that college students in Tennessee don't discuss the same things (we definitely do), but I do think there is a little more discretion, and those more intimate topics are treated with more delicacy.
However, despite all of the differences that occur between Clair and I's perceptions of social culture, the common bond between us is the love for each other, and the appreciation of our differences. I had an absolutely amazing time with her in California this past week, and thoroughly enjoyed being fully immersed in her lifestyle. Sometimes, change can be for the best, and exposure to new culture is so important. So here's to our differences, Clair, and tell your family that I'll be seeing y'all soon enough.
Clair and I in Laguna Beach, smiling because we found a restaurant that serves both meat and tofu.