What Kind of Social Punishment May We Impose
The more I travel, the more I recognize similarities among my Southern culture and others. This was never more apparent than my years spent on a lovely Pacific island known as Guam.
In many ways, it was like my small Southern hometown, but relocated in the tropics. For instance, family and church are important, especially since most people growing up there never leave. Granted, the church is very different, but the priorities are similar. Children are sugared to death in the South and sniffed to death in Guam. Superstitions are strongly held beliefs. Cock fighting and riding in the back of a pickup truck can provide a Saturday night’s entertainment. We dip snuff and chew tobacco. They chew beetlenut. They love Spam like we love butter. There is great fried foods inboth places and everyone is welcome… even us Haoles.
Even with all of its similarities to the South, Guam was also the place I realized some very real differences.
For instance, the phrase “moderate difficulty” as it relates to hiking ( aka boonie stomping) means something totally different to islanders. I quickly discovered ( a little too late, I might add), the island version means take a machete: you will get hurt, you may die.
Another tidbit for the newbies: When someone from a neighboring island offers you fish and asks if you have somewhere to keep it, please know a full size cooler or refrigerator freezer will simply not do. There, the term fish apparently means one fish exceeding 50 lbs, head still on. The head alone won’t fit in your freezer.
When you catch a fish in Guam, you can slice it up and eat it raw on the boat if you want. In the South, you better batter and fry it first because we call that raw stuff bait. Yes, poke (pronounced “pokie”) has very different meanings depending on where you are, but I won’t get into that here.
The most memorable differences, however, are those from neighboring nations, whose culture and language differ greatly from mine. I doubt in the continental US I would have ever been asked by a client, “what kind of social punishment may we impose?”
One must embrace these differences and take these moments in, savoring them as the imagination runs wild. Before delivering the bad news to the client that social punishment is not an acceptable response to a perceived wrong, allow co-workers to enjoy these moments and assist you in conjuring up social punishments. It will quickly go beyond shunning to “Let’s tie dead cats to his back and send him into the town market chased by someone dressed in a rooster costume.”
I love the things that make a place or a culture quirky to me and realizing the things that comprise my idea of normal seem crazy to someone else.
Viva la difference!