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Thread: U.S.A. Culture and Language Help

  1. #111
    Amanda Vega
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    It truly is a regional thing; like dory_the_fishie, I, too, live outside Atlanta, and have done so for me whole life, and here, politeness is a big deal. This rule is repeated through the Carolinas - where I attend camp every June - and Tennessee and Kentucky - through which I take a trip once a year. At my school, all teachers, administrators, staff, everything, are generally called 'sir' or 'ma'am.' Students, as addressed by teachers, are always Mr. and Miss.
    However, in Chicago, where the majority of my family is from, and where my parents are from, I rarely hear formal addresses like here in the South - the reason I never used them much. Because of my parent's background, as a young child I was not raised to use sir and ma'am and similar addresses, but once I entered school, I began to out of the understanding that it was a sign of respect. However, the majority of my friends, who were almost all raised in the South, are always extremely polite to everybody. Basically, even if it's a stranger, here, you treat everybody with the respect you would use when talking to a teacher or trusted adult.
    In New York City and other areas along the Eastern Seaboard, another area I go to often, most of the people you would associate with as a tourist, like shopkeepers, taxi drivers, etc., are also polite. They may not call you sir or ma'am, but they will treat you nicely, smile, and generally do whatever it takes to make you comfortable.
    In California, I see less of this, and no, I'm not stereotyping. Most Americans won't talk down to strangers, or anyone they don't know extremely well and associate with often, but in California, there's a lot less, well, Southern hospitality, I guess, than there is in the South. Obviously. The people are fine, and they don't talk down to you or anything, but they're not going out of their way to show respect. (No offense to California - this is just my personal experience, I'm sure that there are many wonderful people there!)

    Generally speaking, most Americans are fairly polite to strangers, as well as authority figures. This is rarely carried through to people like parents, friends, etc. It does very a lot by region, though. In the South, you treat everyone as if they're the person you hold in the highest respect in the world. Some areas, like, in my experience, the Midwest, everyone's your best friend, and in some areas, everyone is a customer. There's a lot of freedom, but yes, as a general rule, we're all pretty polite. The difference is really how it's manifested.

  2. #112
    alexthecheesepuff
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    I live in the suburbs in the Midwest (er, used to, I suppose), and as teenagers in a rather high-middle class (not extremely fancy, but very decent) school, none of us would be caught dead saying 'ma'am' or 'sir'.

    Of course, this is just my personal situation. We're not all mean-spirited (though of course, many of us are, like any place). Like, I'll personally help an old lady cross a street, but I wouldn't even think about calling her 'ma'am' or 'sir', or needless to say, curtsy. My friends and I just weren't taught to say 'ma'am' or 'sir'.

    But again. 13, 14, 15 year old teens who go home and play Guitar Hero all day. Even situation is different.

    I think the formality lies more within the adults and as stated before, the South. For example, a Target helper may come up to my mom and ask, "Can I help you find something, ma'am?" And like Amanda Vega said, its more of the polite niceness, without the 'sir' and 'ma'am'.

    Hope that somewhat helped,
    Alex

  3. #113
    Wizengamot Hufflepuff
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    The fic I'm writing is Marauder Era (70's) so does that make a difference to the 'politeness' thing.

    Also do New Englanders have a different perspective on life from other Americans? California's been mentioned as less polite so I wondered if there were any regional characteristics for New England (thinking in terms of Boston/Cape Cod here). Is that even New England?

    Another question (nearly done). I gather that American high society used to be based around 'old families' who could trace their ancestry back to the Mayflower. Is this true? I believe they have a name but not sure what it is.

    Thanks

    Carole
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  4. #114
    Inverarity
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    Quote Originally Posted by Equinox Chick
    Also do New Englanders have a different perspective on life from other Americans? California's been mentioned as less polite
    Hey, now!

    (Well, okay, that's kind of true.)

    Yes, there are significant cultural differences between different regions of the U.S. Much greater than between different regions of the UK, in my opinion.

    so I wondered if there were any regional characteristics for New England (thinking in terms of Boston/Cape Cod here). Is that even New England?
    Yes, Massachusetts is definitely New England.

    The stereotypical New Englander is taciturn, businesslike, and while they may consider Californians rude, Southerners in turn consider New Englanders to be cold, blunt, and inhospitable. ("Yankee" used to refer to New Englanders, but now Southerners tend to use it to refer to any non-Southerner.)

    They subscribe to the "Puritan work ethic," in which financial success is a sign of salvation (it's not that making money means God favors you, but that if God favors you, you will make money). They tend to be perceived as more materialistic, more invested in work and financial success.

    It should also be noted that traditionally, New Englanders don't talk about money, and the richer you are, the more gauche it is to talk about it.

    Another question (nearly done). I gather that American high society used to be based around 'old families' who could trace their ancestry back to the Mayflower. Is this true? I believe they have a name but not sure what it is.
    There's no real name for "people whose families came over on the Mayflower." In some circles they might be called "bluebloods" or the like, but that's not specific. "Mayflower descendants," I guess. Some families do take pride in that, but American high society has always been based much more around money than class. There is something of a distinction between "old money" and "new money" (with families coming from "old money" looking down on the noveau rich, of course), but there has always been more class mobility here than in the UK. You might get looked down on by some snobby bluebloods, but for the most part, if you're rich enough, you can buy your way into the upper classes, since we don't even have aristocratic titles you have to purchase.

  5. #115
    emily_the_poet
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    I don't think the Mayflower had anything to do with anything in America's social hierarchy. As Inverarity said, the New Englanders tend to focus on their financial gain to establish their place in society. However, the older your money, the more respectable you are. Those who struck gold in the Yukon and California were all treated as "new money" because they had only just entered the circle.

    Boston and Cape Cod are at the bottom of New England. Almost mid-chesapeake, but not there yet. And, correct me if I'm wrong, I've heard nothing good about the mannerisms of people from Boston. Never gone there myself, but my mom said that the people were rather cold and standoffish and at times rude... I suppose that this could just have been because she was from out of state, but I'm not sure.

  6. #116
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    The fic I'm writing is Marauder Era (70's) so does that make a difference to the 'politeness' thing.
    Well, it depends who you're writing about. 60s-70s are getting into the hippie generations, so young people at that time would probably be more willing to question or scorn authority than today. I don't know if that's what you're referring to, but there would definitely be a more rebellious attitude among the younger generations, especially during the early 70s.

    Also do New Englanders have a different perspective on life from other Americans? California's been mentioned as less polite so I wondered if there were any regional characteristics for New England (thinking in terms of Boston/Cape Cod here). Is that even New England?
    Boston...I don't know much about Boston, except that my brother refuses to go there because he dislikes the Red Sox *rolls eyes*. I actually haven't heard much about its inhabitants being rude...if you want rude, go to New York City. Bump into someone there and say "Excuse me" and you're more likely to get the finger than an apology. I still love it to death, though . Cape Cod has always seemed pretty laid back to me, probably just because it's more of a vacation-type place.
    In terms of the whole 'ma'am'/'sir' thing, I'm a New Englander and I would never call anybody either ma'am or sir. If I don't know their name, I would just say "Excuse me." If they were one of my friend's parents, I would say Mr. or Mrs ___, or if I knew them well, I'd just call them by their first name. I would say that New England is much more laid back in terms of social politeness than the South, in particular.

    Another question (nearly done). I gather that American high society used to be based around 'old families' who could trace their ancestry back to the Mayflower. Is this true? I believe they have a name but not sure what it is.
    Um...I've never encountered this, actually. Perhaps that may have been the case a very long time ago...possibly during the late 1700s or early 1800s, but in terms of more modern society, such deep-rooted ancestry isn't the defining factor of social class anymore. Social class is, like others have said, much more determined by money than anything else. There's a family in our town who had an ancestor on the Mayflower, but they're not really different than anybody else. If you're looking for something to define 'high society', I would go with money or occupation more so than ancestry.
    Eliza

  7. #117
    Inverarity
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    It should also be noted that nowadays, the only people who'd be expected to really care about their ancestors coming over on the Mayflower would be amateur genealogists, who might consider it an interesting bit of historical trivia.

    Actually treating your Mayflower pedigree as if it were important, like it makes you some sort of aristocrat, or more of a "real American," would be considered by almost everyone to be pretentious, elitist, and not a little bit racist.

    (Which is not to say there aren't some extremely old and traditional families who still do just that.)

  8. #118
    Josh
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    This may seem really trivial, but honestly it's related. Do you have Haribos in America, and what are the major sweet/chocolate producers, or do you tend just to have local brands?

    Thanks!

    ~Josh

  9. #119
    Third Year Slytherin
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    Hershey is the really big one. Aren't Haribos the German gummi bears?

    Smiles,
    Luna

  10. #120
    Evester
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    I can answer this! Yes, Hershey is the biggest.

    Also for chocolate: Ghirardelli, Godiva, Nestle

    For candy, there's Mars, Incorporated, which makes M&Ms, Skittles, Starbursts, etc. as well as chocolate bars.

    For chips (or crisps I think it is in the UK) there's UTZ and Frito-Lay which makes loads of different types including Doritos, Pringles, etc.

    LOL. Now I sound like a candy-holic, but I grew up in America, so I know my candy.

    ***

    I've never heard of Haribos. And yes, there's usually the big producers that make all the different brands of candy/chocolate/chips.

    Hope I helped!

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