I think I’ve learned more about culture in my short time here than I ever have in any other country. I think it must be because I understand everything people are saying, nearly everything anyway. I’m technically in ‘The South’, confederate flag baring, hill billy, gun toting south so sometimes people can be difficult to understand.
People here are so nice. I don’t think I’ve ever been to a developed country where people are so friendly.
People say excuse me when you’re not even in their way. I was waiting to buy a ‘soda’ at a ‘diner’ and as I stood at the counter the waitress said ‘excuse me’ so I moved out the way, looking to my side at the same time and seeing that there was more than enough room for her to get past, then a second later a guy did the same thing to get his stuff from the counter in front of me, there was enough room for him to get it already but he just thought he would excuse himself first. This has continued happening since as well. Strange people these Americans.
The niceness isn’t limited to customer service either, which is beyond excellent in every ‘store’ and restaurant I have been to, the people in general are just nice. In shops people will pass and start talking about the most random things. My Workaway host David had a t shirt with the name of a town on it and a guy in the hardware store started asking about the town. We went on a short hike and instead of saying hello as they pass, they’ll make a comment on the scenery or weather or whatever.
I like the way they greet each other here too. I really get sick of the European culture of kissing everyone you meet. Getting up close to someone you don’t even know and touching your face on theirs..why?Saying hello to ten people, should they be female, and you have to go and kiss every one. I find it so intrusive and time consuming, awkwardly waiting your turn for the kisser to work their way round to you and rub their face on yours. Why is it necessary to go and kiss everyone on the cheek twice when you see them, what’s wrong with ‘hi’. When I was introduced to the hosts wife at this Tennessee Workaway it was first thing in the morning and she was sitting on the porch in her dressing gown. She said hi how are you and we started chatting. Didn’t get up, didn’t hug or kiss or any other unnecessary touching or ceremony. And it was good, even the men barely shake hands here which is fine as I have sweaty hands and they’ll never know. It’s just more chilled here, no fussing about manners and what you ‘should’ do in whatever situation.
Moving on. I’ve been learning about the food culture here. We passed a ‘Bojangles’ restaurant and I asked David what these ‘chicken biscuits’ were.
‘Well, it’s chicken in a biscuit’ he replied in his usual blunt American way.
‘Well in England we dip biscuits in tea, not put chicken in them’
‘Hmm, how to explain a biscuit. We’ll go get one’
I had the cheese and egg biscuit. It was like the cheese and egg you would expect from McDonald’s, between two pieces of a scone. I guess the meat and chicken ones are nice, although looking at David’s chicken one, maybe not, it still looks like floppy fake egg and cheese with chicken in there somewhere. Nothing else either. I thought there might be some sort of salad or sauce to make it a bit more edible but these guys were basic. Anyway that’s American ‘biscuits’ for ya’ll: a scone.
That reminds me, this morning while we ordered our pizza I decided to try something else I consider very American: root beer. It was all nicely bottled and I was looking forward to it. Unfortunately to me it tasted a bit like fizzy medicine. I finished it so as not to offend America, but I would have preferred to put it in the bin.
On the subject of fizzy drinks, this is the first place I have come across that has Coke addicts. People addicted to coca cola, or other fizzy drinks for that matter. I was surprised to find out that this was a thing and when trying to quit drinking coke, the drinker would get headaches which made them want to start drinking it again.
And then the next-level service here…
We go to lunch at a restaurant in Elizabethton Tennessee. Waitress walks to the table ‘hi I’m Brandeen and I’ll be helping you today, it’s such a great day isn’t it do you guys want anything to drink?!?’
In my English head: ‘firstly its too hot today. Secondly what are you helping me with, I assumed you were going to wait on me, and serve me. Thirdly you gave me the menu less than two seconds ago how do I know what I want to drink’ of course I said none of this
The Americans at the table with me reply with various greetings and exclamations about things which are also great today
Me: ‘I’ll have a lemonade please’
Waitress ‘ok fantastic I’ll go fix those drinks for y’all just let me know if you need anything I’ll be here. And have you been here before? if not I can read you the history of the house’
U wot m8? I kept my mouth shut, I don’t want a history lesson I’m hungry.
Waitress ‘ok well I’ll leave a menu here it’s got the history of the building on the back there’
We get our food and after ten minutes I hear another waiter at the next door table, I can’t help but zone out from my tables conversation and focus on the waiter
The couple at the table are asking about how to make a dish on the menu
Waiter – ‘well, I’m the worst cook you will ever meet, but for this one…’ He then proceeded to go in to specific detail of the timings, temperatures, reasons for certain ingredients and everything else possible to make this dish perfect, the couple stopped him mid way and asked him to write it down, which of course he agreed to do, more than willingly.
So the people are incredibly friendly and social, no fuss, no BS, bla.
For now I am about a month in to a two month workaway at an aquaponics farm. We have nearly finished building the structure for the greenhouse, and will be building more stuff from wood soon. My woodworking has improved massively as David generally leaves me to it, and I have been picking his brains pretty much non-stop about how the aquaponics system works. The tomatoes and lettuce are growing really quickly and since arriving I’ve had a thing for watching the plants for ages, and smelling the tomato plant stems…it reminds me of my grandads greenhouse. Anyway I have a whole post with everything I’ve learned but that will be posted when I leave here.