Friday, December 30, 2011

A Foreign Language

I have never lived in another country where the native language wasn't English, except on a short vacation, which doesn't count. I do not speak another language, unless you count three years of high school French, dusty from 30 years of non-usage. However, two years ago I did move back to the New York City area for six months.

In the New York City area the culture is so different from California, where I make my permanent home, that it certainly qualifies as a "foreign" to me. They claim to speak English here, but sometimes I wonder if the California bay area and the New York metropolitan area are even part of the same country.

I know that I am in New York as soon as I board the shuttle from JFK and hear the airport traffic cops yelling at the vehicles. "Hey buddy, MOVE IT!" said with a New York attitude and a New York accent, difficult to translate to the written page.

When my sister came to visit me in California, she was amazed. "Are they always this polite?" she asked me after returning from a simple trip to the grocery store.

And so, as I visit the east coast for the holidays this year, I am constantly asking myself if I can see myself living back here, an eventuality which I am more and more certain will one day happen the older I become.

The cold grey winters, the wariness of strangers, the conservative politics, the old dilapidated buildings, the small minded attitudes, the rudeness of strangers....it all seems so depressing to me. While it is true that everyone speaks English, it is the general attitude that seems so foreign to me.

I miss the California sunshine, the cultural diversity, the friendliness of Californians, the liberal politics, the diversity and acceptance of alternative lifestyles.

Even though literally we all speak English, figuratively speaking, we do not speak the same language at all. And I am at a loss for how to translate.

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