As an Massachusetts native, I grew up walking and talking like a New Englander. I love the Red Sox, I have seen Plymouth Rock, and when I think of the beach I imagine the dirty brown “sand” along the coast of Cape Cod. Heck, my favorite mixed drink is a Cape Codder, which is cranberry juice and vodka.
I love New England, born and raised in Western Massachusetts. I love the Northern weather and beautiful autumn weather (my favorite time of year). I remember cursing at the “leaf peepers” who came every fall to admire the breathtaking autumn scenery. I even liked the snow… I mean everything except shoveling the driveway.
But seven years ago I moved down South. Way down South, the panhandle region of Northwest Florida.
Maybe you have heard of Panama City Beach, a city where a lot of the spring break college students migrate to every March and April. I don’t live in “PCB”, but I’m less than an hour from it in a town that you could mistaken for one of the backwoods towns in Alabama. Some locals call these parts “lower Alabama“. Five minutes from the state line, it is fitting.
Apparently, one definition of the area states calling this location of my new home “Lower Alabama” is correct. In slang term at least.
“Lower Alabama is also a pejorative slang term used by some Floridians to refer to the part of Florida directly south of Alabama, especially the area around Pensacola, and eastward to Destin and Panama City. This is often jokingly shortened to “L.A.”, though this term is also used extensively by Alabamians too.” (From: Wikipedia)
Culture shock is the personal disorientation a person may feel when experiencing an unfamiliar way of life due to immigration or a visit to a new country, or to a move between social environments. I experienced a pretty significant amount of culture shock for almost a year.
“I’m fixing to make dinner”?
“You’re going to fix supper? What’s wrong with it?”
Now I understand that “fixin’” replaces “going to”.
The slang was completely different. It took me some time to find a “packie”. They sold beer in every gas station and “super market”, so I managed without having to find a liquor store.
I was not used to calling my elders by “sir” and “mam”. I am very polite and was raised with manners, but most older adults and role models (teachers) were addressed with their respective suffix (Mr., Mrs., Dr., etc).
The way I talked and the words I used amused the local folks. At first I was against adapting my mannerisms.But as saying “ya’ll” became more familiar I began adjusting and making more friends. I started to fit in after a while, but it did take more than is apparently “normal”, according to Wikipedia’s explanation of the four phases of culture shock.
The people here, in the area referred to as “Lower Alabama” calls Northerners “yankees”. However, those Northerners who end up staying – an outcome of the adjustment phase of culture shock – earn the title “damn yankee”.
I have held onto a lot of the New England culture – I still root for the Boston Red Sox and New England Patriots – but I have integrated a lot fo the local culture into my daily life.
Culture shock can create anxiety for some individuals. But for myself, that has faded away as well. I feel at home, and am beginning to have more patience towards the laid back nature of every day life.
I didn’t escape the frusteration of the “leaf peepers” though. Now I deal with the overhaul of traffic during the summer months.
And now, when I go back North to visit I experience a phenomenom refferd to as “reversed culture shock”. Not to mention my friends and family asking me “what?”, when I forget to use the right phrase during conversations.
“I mean ‘what did you say’”
to be continued?