I had a strange realization just as my Virgin Atlantic flight took off from Los Angeles bound to London last week. I was listening to the directions - all in that lovely internationally sounding female British voice. I overheard my fellow passengers chatting - most in that British accent. Flight attendants also all in that British accent. Finally, the captain came on and welcomed everyone on the flight that would take them ... "home."
Home?!?! What shock then! Los Angeles is my home! From my perspective, this flight is taking me away from home!
That's when the epiphany came. _I_ was the one with the accent. I was the foreigner.
As I've walked these London streets this past week. Managed my jetlag (brilliantly, I might add), met with people, had conversations, eat, go to the office, go to stores - all the normal everyday things I might do at home, I've been aware of my foreigner status. I've made no effort to try to blend in. I've made no effort to change my LA (recently strongly influenced by Texas) style. I'll bet, I'm the only person walking around the London Bank district in black cowboy boots. They're just my favorite pair of shoes at the moment and I couldn't bear to not bring them with me.
What fun is it being a foreigner if the whole time I'm trying to fit in - trying to smooth over my standing-out? Squashing my California expression? Does a rock star change their style when they are traveling to fit into the local look? I don't think so.
The point of all this a awareness. The conscious choice to stay attuned to my culture, while in another culture. This goes for corporate culture too.
When I send emails from my corporate account, the British English spellcheck always catches specific words, trying to convert them into their British spelling. This is a strange thing for me - because for some words, I already use the British spelling (thank you International Flight Attendant Mom). But for others, I use the "American" English and refuse to change the spelling.
It was a cute thing at first... and it's certainly helping me learn differences between American and British English. But if I ever start saying/using "maths", will you please shoot me with my own gun?
When I was a teenager, "banished" to grow up in Iowa - the great plains - the MidWest - farm country; I used to entertain myself in the afternoons by driving the open roads. I'd spend hours exploring gravel roads, barely paved paths, of course at as high speeds as I could push my teenager-safe car to go - I would listen to new-wave rock and think about other places. Exotic, cultured, foreign places. Places like Europe, Africa, India, South America.
One day it hit me (after I had returned from six months in Brazil, so full of saudade I could explode) - this place I lived in - where I freely drove to Hell and back. Down to the Mississippi on a midnight lark. Racing trains, kicking up dust on gravel roads, triumphantly stopped on the bridge overpass, waving as the train passed under. Hiking old Indian paths in the forest, barely visible, picnics in old horse thief caves (long since collapsed). These "boring" "normal" "unexotic" places to me - were to someone else ... quite exotic. And these were grand adventures.
It's about perspective. Where you stand when you look. Isn't that magic? That the same object, the same experience, the same thing... can be interpreted dramatically differently?
Who can say, which perspective is "right" or "correct" - rather than "is."