Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Lecram gave the opportunity for readers to submit a question for him to answer in a post. My question and his answer were...

What do you wish the average American, who has very little clue of life outside these United States, understood about migrating to this country and life in other places?
Lime… of course you would ask the esoteric question. The short answer is… Americans, get over yourself! lol! The more diplomatic (and longer) answer is to first become aware of how and from where your own family got here. We all have a “root” homeland rich with history, culture and tradition. I think exposing oneself to one’s root culture is paramount and a wonderful first step to appreciating the world outside our comfort zone. For instance, you may be an Irish decedent and celebrate St.Paddy’s Day… but the hamlet in County Desmond will still be a foreign experience. I guess what I’m trying to say is… understanding begins at home… and where home once was is a great place to start.

Like I said in this Friday 55, I've always been fascinated by all the novelty that exists out in the wide world. the blogosphere has been an amazing way to get little tastes of places I might have missed otherwise and I have always wanted to be a part of the cultural sharing that goes on (Hence the year and a half of Trini Tuesday posts, which will still occur, just not every week.)

At the same time I think Lecram has a good point about learning one's own heritage. Mine is a bit confused since I am Greek by birth but Pennsylvania Dutch, which is really German, by upbringing. I was adopted at birth but I was always rather aware that I didn't look like the people around me. I can remember having to do some project at school about my heritage when I was young. I asked my mom what our family ethnicity was and what my personal ethnicity was. I don't know if there is something that the millennia of history imprints upon Greeks regardless of whether or not we grow up in the culture, but even without knowing much of anything about it I felt a little swell of pride about being half Greek, hehehe, maybe it was just the excitement about finally knowing. As a child the only way I knew to embrace that was digging into the mythology. I read every Greek myth I could find. I have found out, however, that unless you are Orthodox, speak the language, and have some relative back in Greece, a lot of the 'real' ones consider you rather suspect and not worthy of identifying yourself as such. I had one Greek exchange student tell me I probably didn't really have any Greek blood at all but was more likely Turkish. Erm...I may not have grown up in the culture but I do know enough to recognize that shy of being extremely vulgar that is about the worst insult a Greek can think of. Regardless of what the 'authentic Greeks' think it's a part of my heritage and a part I'd like to explore to a much greater degree than I have had opportunity.

The Pennsylvania Dutch part of my heritage is the part I identify with most strongly. I was soaked in it like bread and butter pickles or chow chow in brine. There was no escaping the German sensibilities along with the farming culture I was surrounded by. Most people think of the Amish and Mennonites when they think of the PA Dutch but that is only one small subgroup of the larger culture that encompasses modern people as well. There was also the spoken dialect that I heard while growing up and if not the dialect, the thick accent that almost always elicited the comment about being 'a dumb dutchie.'

The sad thing is how prevalent this notion is not only among those who come in contact with Dutchies but among the Dutchies themselves. My parents both came from families with a strong PA Dutch background, in fact my grandfather spoke the dialect. However, the older generation often did not want the younger generation to learn the language so as to avoid being called 'dumb dutchies' and so they could speak secrets amongst themselves. These days it is extremely rare to find a person outside the Amish and Mennonite community and under the age of 50 who can speak the dialect at all. My parents were extremely strict about our language usage and if my brother or I dared use local slang, pronounced something with an obvious accent, or lapsed into the ferhoodled (Yes, that's a PA Dutch word for confused and I love it.) syntax of a dutchman we were immediately corrected in no uncertain terms.

Now I agree that it is important to be able to function in standard English, but there are certain times when poetic license and cultural expression just beg for expression. When my young daughter came in from playing and her uncombed hair stood out from her head in all directions and gleamed with a sheen that could only come from having protested during regular hair washings such that their effectiveness was negligible it was much shorter to exclaim, 'What a stroobly mess!' than to go through the extended description I just provided. Stroobly is more than merely being uncombed but it doesn't cross over quite to complete filth and total negligence. There is no English equivalent for it. It is a very good word. Feel free to adopt it for your own usage. Honestly, I think it took going to Trinidad and learning to function in their slang to be able to get past a lot of the negativity about my own linguistic culture that had been beaten into my head as a child.

So, all this rambling just to say in the coming weeks there will still be some Trini Tuesday posts. You can also expect some Pennsylvania Dutch posts now and again because I do think there are a lot of misconceptions about the culture if there is knowledge at all. It will be a little way for me to get back to some of my roots.

Now feel free to ask about things you'd like to learn about or tell me something interesting about your own heritage.


S said...

Id like to tell you that my hair is very STROOBLY right now.

And, Im first, BB

S said...

Well we have a couple o castles in Scotland! Thats kinda interesting.

Other than that...my mother grew up on a pig farm in Canada and my father, in Venice Beach, CA.
What an odd combo.....

More weird words, Lime, more!

lecram said...

LOL... perhaps I should have edited that line to read "We all have a root" homeland or 5..."

I'm flattered that you posted my reply... but more pleased than punch of how it may incite the Tuesday posts here! :)

Cheers and thanks for the question.

barman said...

I love this a lot. My Mom grew up in a house where they spoke Polish. That is a bit of a struggle as people were always accusing people of Polish decent of being dumb hence the Polish jokes you here (or at least heard) all the time. I took them pretty well as I knew first and for most people of Polish decent were not dumb. It was more a language barrier than anything that made them appear that way. Secondly I knew the jokes were just stupid. I mean most of them you could just insert any nationality in that you like and it would not effect the joke. My Mom, however, does not appreciate those jokes at all as I think she was persecuted by kids when growing up. Kids can be so mean.

The sad thing is I have never explored my Polish or French haritage at all. We never observe either in our home when growing up. I wish we would have. I suppose it is never to late for me to change that for myself.

Charles said...

Not to be overly critical of Lecram, but "you may be an Irish decedent and celebrate St.Paddy’s Day…" would imply you may be some sort of ghoul or undead zombie. :D

Ah heritage, a sticky subject. When questioned, I merely reply, "Ahm an Amurican." It seems the only reason people want to know our heritage is to hold it against us. Screw 'em.We are what we are, knowing more or less won't change it, unless we make it change. Then again, even after the change, we are what we are. Accept it, deal with it.

lime said...

s, nice usage of a new word for you ;) castles huh? how cool would it be to go see them!

lecram, yes 5 would be more reflective of the mongrel pedigree so many of us have

barman, if your mom got picked on i can understand her not finding any humor in those jokes.

charles, certainly there are those narrow-minded folks looking to divide. i'm just looking to see and celebrate what makes us interesting.

airplanejayne said...

When my sister and brother-in-law got married, his very proper Chinese aunt asked me, "Are you pure?" At first I didn't understand the question (morals? ethics?) When I finally understood that she was asking about heritage, I gulped and answered (quite honestly), "We consider ourselves to be..ummm....Heinz 57 -- sorta a bit of a bunch of different spices."

Auntie Sylvia laughed. And, btw, loves the Heinz 57 married to her beloved nephew....

Beach Bum said...

Great post! My hertiage is clouded by a mix of Cherokee, German, English, and Scot blood lines. My grandparents were born into tobacoo sharecropping families in 1919 for my grandpa and 1921 for my grandma. They were what would be now called third-world poor and if I heard the story right when they moved away from marion, SC right at the start of WW2 indoor plumbing was a miracle.

Cooper said...

What's up with the PA Dutch? My good friend and roommate from college was given up for adoption by his PA Dutch family (he since got back in touch with them and visits his many relatives often).

lime said...

apj, that is a priceless cross cultural exchange/misunderstanding. thanks for sharing!

beach bum, lol, my mother was born in 1943 and didn' tget indoor plumbing until she was a teenager AND she lived on the main street of her hometown. crazy huh?

cooper, i was placed for adoption by a quaker birth mother who was impregnated by a greek man. my adoptive family (who i consider my real family) is Pa dutch.

Paul Champagne said...

I am of both French and German descent. I would of course like to hide the French part, but with my last name that is impossible. I speak both French and German as well as some Italian, Portugese and Spanish. I will however never speak a foreign language in the United States. I save my linguistical skills for when I travel. Since I do not expect people in foreign countries to speak English (unless of course I am in England)

Queenie said...

My Father was half Italian and was adopted, something I didn't find out until he died. I have tried to search my family tree, but the adoption was ilegal so I can't get very far. I now use it as an excuse as to why I love my food, all a bit STROOBLY don't you think???

Tommy said...

(Pop culture reference alert (just so folks don't think I'm racist))

I was born a poor black child ...

HA! I kill me!

You know, I read that whole post and the only thing that stuck out at me was that you want to explore your Greek side. You know? I'm always willing to take one for the team. Just sayin.

The Zombieslayer said...

Slightly changing the subject, I really think Americans should be foreign exchange students. Best way to learn of other cultures.

My heritages are too many to list.

Dorky Dad said...

I'm Norwegian. I'll tell you what I won't be asking for from them -- recipes. Norwegians eat lutefisk. Ick.

Joeprah said...

I love learning about my family history and my wife's since it helps me paint a picture of what my daughters are all about. For instance one name on my side of the family translated from Czech to English means "Big Mouth" and another means "Smooth." I also have a German surname that translated means, "Treasure or Dear." I am not sure what that all means...except that we are smooth, big mouths and treasures...but that was obvious. ;)

G-Man said...

Half German
Half Scotch
Half Baked..Love this one Limey..Love you too!

lime said...

paul, i think you can still take pride in your french heritage, whether or not you agree with current french policies. i admire your ability to converse in so many languages.

queenie, wow, that's quite a story!

tommy, lmao! the jerk! i didn't even need the hint. so yer saying you'd fly me to athens? huh? huh? zat what yer saying? :P

zombie, it is definitely an eye opener to live abroad.

dorky dad, i think every culture has its delicacies that others find revolting.

joeprah, that's pretty funny. interestingly my mom's maiden name and my dad's family name mean roughly the same thing in german even though they are different names. they both referred to musical ability, however, my folks did NOT make beautiful music together.

gman, hal germa, half scottish, all friend

MONA said...

In India it is not just regional [ the difference] but also casteist.

Chalo, I can take some poetic license to utter some of my cultural terms that have no English equivalents either.

Arey Yaar, Thank you for having started this!

MONA said...

In India it is not just regional [ the difference] but also casteist.

Chalo, I can take some poetic license to utter some of my cultural terms that have no English equivalents either.

Arey Yaar, Thank you for having started this!

Jeni said...

Unless I missed it somewhere along the way, I think I am the first to mention being of Swedish ancestry - half Swedish/half Scottish. My Dad's parents both immigrated from Scotland at early ages while my Mom's Dad came over from Sweden when he was seven but her mother was born in southwestern NY of parents who immigrated from Sweden, met in NYC and married there. My kids now -a mixed ethnic bag for sure -Scottish, Swedish, German, French and Irish! We celebrate a few things relating back to my Swedish roots - a few food items my Grandma used to make along with a festival at our church in accordance with St. Lucia Day every year on the Sunday closest to December 13th. But, most of the foods I cook at home tend to be along the Italian, Oriental or Slovak ethnic lines. Go figure!

Theresa said...

Stroobly, now that just rolls off the tongue. When I was growing up I never felt completely American, because both my parents were Dutch. We kept some of the traditions they had in Holland, and somehow I always felt different from the other kids, not "bad" different, just different. I don't really feel Dutch either, just a little bit. Now that I live in Spain, I have adopted Spanish customs but I will always be a foreigner. Is that good or bad? I don't know, but at least my kids are bilingual, and they know a bit about American and Dutch culture.