I have lived in the same house, in the same city, in the same state for my entire life. So when it comes to cultural exposure, I’m quite lacking. I knew back in Massachusetts that people did different things in different ways around the country, but I didn’t quite grasp the extent of this fact until I was put into a place where different people from different cultures were placed into close living quarters.
I will never forget the first day I asked someone where the bubbler was. The person looked at me like I had two heads. A bubbler, for those of you who don’t hail from Mass., is a water fountain. I knew a bubbler could also be called a fountain, but I thought that the term bubbler was a widely known term. This was surprising, but I still didn’t know how different Mass. culture is from everywhere else. Over the course of the first few months being here I had many more similar moments. “Wait, you don’t know what a frappe (milkshake) is?” “Jimmies (sprinkles) is racist?” “So don’t I?” (Translates to So do I) That doesn’t even make sense.” As time went on, I started making a list of all the words I used that were considered odd by everyone else.
I experienced culture shock. My entire life, I had just assumed that all of these terms were commonly used. Well, they are commonly used, just not outside Massachusetts. It had never dawned on me that the way I talked would be so radically different from everyone else in the country—OK, I knew about “wicked,” but that’s it. I was also taken aback by other things people said that would never be uttered where I’m from. I never really thought that “hella” was something people actually said; I almost insulted my neighbor the first time I heard him use it and laughed, I was just caught so off guard by it.
Whether you realize it or not, you are going to start picking up different habits from all of the people around you. Since I’ve been here, I’ve slowly lost my Boston accent, even though I tried not to. I guess if living at RPI has taught me anything, it’s that there are people who come from vastly different backgrounds, and you have to appreciate that. Learn from them, and you will become exposed to more culture because of it.