A First Time for Everything

Posted in Australia| Culture| France| Japan
As a travel writer, I naturally write about my experiences as a foreigner in a foreign land.  My adventures (and sometimes misadventures) trying new foods, visiting new locations. learning new customs, puzzling through new languages.  I am always the wide-eyed, protagonist learning new things as I go along.

But if I think about it, it is also fun to be on the opposite side of that coin. To watch as friends from overseas observe American traditions for the first time. Ones they have read about, heard about or seen on American TV programs and movies, but never experienced in person.  Little cultural quirks that I take for granted.  In this vast country, incidents like this can happen even when you travel from region to region in the U.S., but I’m particularly interested when those incidents involve people from other countries.

Have you ever found yourself amused or surprised by what visitors associate with your home country? Things that you may take for granted or never even knew were unique to your culture? Here are a couple of past and one very recent example that I got to witness first hand.

The Wizard of Oz – Growing up, it was an annual tradition to watch the Wizard of Oz on television in the days leading up to Thanksgiving. I’m not sure why it became a Thanksgiving tradition, but there was always a television station that showed it.  My freshman year at university, a friend from Switzerland came home with me to Maryland to celebrate the holiday rather than flying home. We sat down to watch the Wizard of Oz and it was so interesting watching someone see for the first time a movie I knew practically by heart and that was so common here in America.

Chinese Take Out – My family and I had a good laugh when a friend came to visit from Japan. When asked what she wanted to eat for dinner, she asked if we could order Chinese food for delivery. Came to find out, it was not because she really had a love for Chinese food, but rather because she wanted to have the experience of eating out of the quintessential white Chinese food boxes which she alway saw on American TV shows and movies.  

Red Plastic Cups – Now that Toby Keith has written a whole song dedicated to the Red Plastic Solo Cup phenomena , I suppose it is not so obscure any longer, but the first time a friend (I belive she was from Australia) asked if we could buy some red plastic cups for a party we were having, I was kind of curious as to why. I had no idea that in other countries, the red plastic cup was a symbol of a proper American party.  Who knew?

Pumpkin Carving – this past weekend I had two friends visiting from Paris.  Though the concept of Halloween was not totally foreign to them, neither of them had ever carved a pumpkin before. So last night we rolled up or sleeves, got out a couple of sharp knives and ladle for scooping out the pumpkin guts and next thing you know…

The delicate surgery begins

Great job, guys!  You’re naturals. 

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