Thursday, February 24, 2005

Breaking Down Stereotypes, One at a Time

Tonight was another BI Social Club event. (Remember Quiz Night from November?) Tonight's plan was bowling. I'd say roughly half the company showed up in teams of 5. We met in the bar and had a pint or two before we started. I was mingling with the folks and, to a one, they all asked me if I was a good bowler. Anyone who's ever bowled with me can tell you that the answer is a resounding no. Let's face it. If my 9 year old nephew can kick my butt, there's a problem with my technique. So I'd confess that I was not just bad but downright awful, and I can't tell you how shocked people were. One person even confessed that the office rumor was that I was some sort of bowling ringer, what since bowling is the national sport of the US. I set him straight and explained that our national sport was actually WATCHING bowling. He seemed to believe me. (I think he thought Kingpin was a documentary.)

So we hit the lanes, and my team did fairly well. I even broke 100 in my first game. (I returned to true form with a 76 in my second.) Every time I approached, I could hear my PE teacher's voice in my head..."Straight wrist. Watch your approach. Don't loop your arm in your backswing! Aw, Mind! Pay attention!" Didn't help any more now than it did then.

But the whole evening made me reflect on the drive home about the number of stupid questions and odd assumptions I've encountered since I got here. Here are just a few of the ridiculous things I've been asked or told in the last few weeks:

  • How big is your car at home? (Much surprise when I owned up to a Mazda 626.)
  • Do you own a gun? (apparently they presume it's mandatory.)
  • Do you have KFC in America? (Yes, they meant Kentucky Fried Chicken.)
  • Are there gangsters in Minnesota? (Came after a discussion about the Godfather)
  • Driving in Milton Keynes must feel normal to you. (This is because Milton Keynes is structured on a grid, which Brits consider very American. Never you mind the ubiquitous roundabouts that people take at 40 miles an hour and the whole driving on the left side of the road business with a steering wheel on the passenger's side of the car.)
  • You used to live in Seattle...doesn't it rain a lot there? (Yes, and you live in England. What's your point?)
  • You should go see Jerry Springer - The Musical. You'll love it. (?)
  • There's a good Mexican restaurant in Stony Stratford.
  • Don't go to Bletchley alone. It's a bit rough. (That's like telling me to avoid Robbinsdale.)
  • And my personal favorite....WHY DID YOU VOTE FOR GEORGE BUSH? (Good question, wrong person to ask.)

2 comments:

Pam said...

THIS is why it's essential for Amerricans to go abroad. Without meeting actaul Americans, people end up with the wildest assumptions about us. You might think you're going abroad to see the sights or to do some work, but regardless of your initial motiviation, you're also going abroad to act as an Accidental Ambassador. It's part of your job as an Accidental Ambassador to let as many people as possible know that you're not a pistol packing Republican voting SUV driving McDonald's eating SOB. God be with you.

Sonja said...

Right Pam. And if you can't leave home, consider hosting an international student. I have a client, Nacel Open Door, that works to find host families for foreign students. Length of stays range from 3 weeks to a whole year. Students come from all over the world - Asia, Latin America, Western and Eastern Europe, as well as the traditionally Muslim countries.