Written 1 Nov 02
Whenever I take a plane somewhere, I am struck by fear near the time I land. Not over crashing, although I occasionally get tense and nervous. This other fear is a cultural fear. A fear of being out of place. Take one Seattle boy, and plunk him down midst the Southern, Creole, and cajun put that is New Orleans and I am seized by the fear that I won't fit in. That I'll pronounce New Orleans wrong. That I'll show up and violate customs. That I'll offend and be rejected. There's little doubt that I'll mess up my words. There's also little down that residents of the city are used to dealing with out-of-towners who do not know local culture. Visitors have practically converted Bourbon Street into one big long excuse for amateur soft-core voyeurism porn. They can't be particularly about it, but they have resigned themselves to the transformation and are at least making a profit. Nevertheless, I aspire to be cognizant of local custom.
I had this fear on my flight to Puerto Vallarta, and going to Amsterdam two years ago. Curiously, I did not have the fear on my drive across Canada in 1997 not on my trip to Breckenridge in 1992. My theory is the drive provides a way to assimilate the culture more gradually. Though not to necessarily learn things better, but instead to take to heart that the locals do not shoot strangers who mispronounce "beignet."