Tuesday, September 28, 2010

A Note on the Queen's English and Greeting Cheek to Cheek

Here in Finland, there are a lot of native Finns, and other Europeans who speak English. In fact – some of them speak it quite well. However…many of them – especially the Finns- speak the queen’s good English. Within the first two days of me being here, I was asked which corridor (hall) I lived in, and where the end of the “Q” (queue=line) was multiple times. Not only that – it is completely normal for me to hear somebody speaking English with a British accent on top of their already present Spanish/French/fill-in-the-blank accent. It can be quite amusing, but I’m beginning to notice that the vocabulary is slowly creeping into my word bank. Not because I’m trying, but because the way that words are used around me is slightly different. Another surprise for me was when I went to my first Introduction to Finnish History course, and had problems understanding the teacher because of his heavy British accent (he studied in Oxford for 8 years). However, the biggest shock was when I heard a Finnish girl speaking American English – it was so out of place that my jaw nearly dropped. When I asked her about it, she said that she’d watched enough American television shows to have picked up on our accent. I also heard that in Finland, English teachers teach that the only proper English is British English. I don’t understand how that is possible though, because Britain has so many different accents even inside their borders. I also have to admit that I find that rather offensive. Especially since foreign students who are struggling with English say that an American accent is much easier to understand than a British one. I’m not saying that one accent is better than the other, I just think it’s sad that my accent is looked down upon so heavily in the school system here.

Also – the method of greeting in most places outside the US is completely different. One or two kisses by the side of the face are generally well accepted. As United States citizens, I think we learn about that in whatever foreign language/culture class we have. I can assure you, however, that if after a week of being in a foreign country, four different people from four different cultures have done it, you might end up in a small bubble of culture shock. It’s not debilitating at all, but it comes as somewhat of a surprise. By now, I have had more people from more countries do it, and it’s still new to me. I absolutely love the custom though, because I think it shows friendship and amiability. Another interesting bit of information I’ve discovered on this topic, is that some countries don’t know that we don’t typically do the cheek to cheek greeting in the United States. I found that very interesting. When people ask me how we meet and say goodbye in the states, I can’t remember. Does anybody else know? Is it a hug? Do we have any physical additions to our everyday greetings? Some people shake hands with me thinking it is my custom, but I feel that is more of a formal meeting and leaving action. But who knows…

Anyhow – those are just a couple of my observations of Finland/the cultures surrounding me.

1 comment:

  1. We usually just say "hi" and wave... or we smile and nod... or we shake hands... girls who are friends tend to hug... guys slap each other on the back or do the "can I crush your hand" handgrip. No kissing though. Not in Amurca. You're so glad I'm here for you. I can tell. Love you! sk