We were invited to a ‘cocktail evening’ the other night, a sometimes rare treat when you are the new kids in town. Friends of friends from Durban contacted us and we eagerly accepted their invitation to join them at their home for some drinks after 6pm. When we arrived we found a small but multi cultural group; a french intern leaving after a year working here, a swiss couple new in town setting up a new branch of the company they work for, another American couple which included one real life Atlantan and our hosts. The genuine local offered to pose for photographs with us because it is so rare to meet someone born and raised here in Atlanta.
After the greetings and introductions were done one of the first questions asked was ‘How are y’all enjoying it here in the States?’ My response (after inwardly doing a little ‘he really said y’all’) was along the lines of – We are loving it so far, we grew up watching television shows about growing up in the American suburbs and now we are living the dream.
I always think Australians have a little window into both British and US culture through the television of the 70′s and 80′s on our tv screens and on more than one occasion in the past I have used that knowledge as a reference point to provide translation services in a three way conversation between citizens of those countries.
Moving on, after two wines and a champagne I was standing completely still in the backyard and simply fell over while talking to the charming Swiss lady who was five months pregnant, not drinking at all and possibly wondering what she had said that was able to blow me over. Its just my inbuilt ‘clumsy gene’ inherited from my mother’s side of the family and embarrasses me, my husband and my kids (even though they have it too) on a regular basis. After the stunned silence and everyone but my husband offering to help me up – which took a while as though I didn’t break the champagne glass, I did splash it into my eye so I couldn’t actually open it due to the stinging sensation (don’t recommend rinsing eyes in champagne), my other half finally appeared to haul me to my feet and said to our host ‘After we catalogue the injuries here you’ll be hearing from our lawyers’. There was a millisecond of silence before the hearty laughter. Phew. It just seemed like an ‘American’ thing to say and luckily everyone had a sense of humour. It may have been a had to be there moment but it moved the people on from the falling down part to a new conversation about litigious America, and the French intern’s hopes to find someone to sue in the next two weeks before she left town. Thank you husband.
Another thing we discussed which is just like the tv promised it would be are the mail boxes and the mail system here in suburbia.
First of all, every bill you receive comes with a return envelope for you to write a cheque (true story) and pop a stamp on the front and return.
The stamps, could you get any more ‘American’*? Or what us folks that didn’t grow up here think of as ‘American’.
Our mail box looks like this. See the little red lever on the side?
You put the letters you want to send inside
Then put the lever up like this – the mailman TAKES THE MAIL from your mailbox and posts it.
So cool, too exciting and tres American, to us anyway.
After 9 years living in different countries with no actual stand alone mailbox I may be just excited to have one. If you ask WAFYO what her favourite thing is about our new house she always says the mailbox and she is not kidding. For me it makes it just like tv.
* American – to clarify is not a derogatory term, just a term used to describe something that really has no other way to refer to it, that we associate with the way we see American culture as an outsider. You may have to be not American to truly get it.