Prepublishing this Saturday night, over at Ksenia's, waiting for news about the blizzard...20 to 30 inches they say. That's a lot.
January 23, 2005
I helped Ksenia a bit in the kitchen. It was nice to be useful, and it really is one of those things I should've joined with Mo in doing, especially when I saw her having a grand old time when her brother joined in for a special meal but I have to say, my opinion that at least on a regular basis it's more trouble than its worth still stands...the shopping, the chopping, the cooking, the cleanup...the end results can be nice, and there's a certain visceral pleasure to it, but still...
A Few Hints About Everyday American Life
It seemed like a pretty decent introduction to America, written for Soviet Jews, Russian on the right-hand page, English translation on the left. This is just a sampling from that section. I liked the thing about the smiles. The "Americans usually make appointments" thing struck me as a little antisocial. Maybe we SHOULD all be like on sitcoms, just dropping in. On the other hand, who wants people dropping in if you're doing something embarassing?
- Americans never use patronymics. Many Americans are given middle names at birth, but these are not usually used in either salutations or conversations.
- Men often shake hands with other men on seeing each other, but seldom hug and kiss. Women occasionally shake hands with other women, or may embrace. Men and women shake hands, the woman usually making the first move.
- The smile is very important in America and is used in greeting both friends and strangers.
- Americans usually make appointments with other people, even with good friends. Except among close neighbors or in small towns, people seldom visit one another without a forewarning or an invitation. Also, if you receive an invitation to a home, it is best to check beforehand with the host/hostess about which members of your family are invited. Some invitations, for example, may not be intended for the children in the family (or, perhaops, not the adults!)
- When your signature is required, it normally means both your first and last names (in that order), with some degree of legibility. Further, it should be noted that in the U.S. a signature carries much importance and reflects on one's honor. The same is usually the case with a handshake by which many business arrangements are concluded.
- In bars, cafes, and small shops, normally first you eat or get your merchandise, then you pay, The reverse is often true in the former Soviet Union.
- In virtually all American cities, public buses are entered from the front, not the back.
- Do not be surprised if you see a fair number of left-handed people. American schools do not prohibit the use of the left hand for writing. And in some cities there are even special shops for left-handed people!
- Try to plan your budget very carefully, The U.S. is a highly consumer-oriented society; there is little problem with availability or diversity of goods. Also, with loands, deferred payment plans, credit cards and checking accounts widely available, it can be a temptation to spend beyond one's means and to try and catch up later.
- You are likely to find that most Americans are eager to try to understand even heavily accented or even incorectly spoken English. Use English at every possibility and do not be unduly afraid of the listener's reactions.
I was also struck by the left-handed issue. After I read about the "special stores", I further surprised Ksenia by pointing out that there could be special left-handed scissors...she had me try that thing where you clasp your fingers, and the thumb that ends up on top is supposedly the thumb of your dominant hand, but it doesn't work for me...it feels much more natural with my left thumb on top. (Like a lot of kids, I was ambidextrous for a while.) Try out that finger clasping thing and let me know on the comments section if it works for you or not....