1. “You’re different in Boston.” Thus claims my husband born in Argentina. At first, my rebuttal was, “What do you mean? I’m not different!” However, after 25 years, I think Oscar is right. When I arrive in New England, self-reliance and independence take control of my days and my ways. Social interactions are framed by organized schedules and mutual expectations. My productive demeanor dispels idle camaraderie, just as wintery winds discourage seaside strolls. Except for shivering when the mercury falls to zero, I resume northern habits without noticing. And yet, someone who lives with me in a different locale can clearly see that I have donned puritanical practices, along with my winter coat.
2. “Do I look OK?” When in Buenos Aires, I examine myself with a critical eye before going out on the street. My fashion sense ratchets up in a city where cosmetic surgery is a booming business. I don’t buy Botox or silicone implants, but I do upgrade my packaging. My faded jeans and flannel shirt, worn without hesitation in the States, are replaced with tailored slacks and a crisp white blouse. I dye my hair, apply make-up and wear size 10 instead of 12. I emulate the dress code of my southern friends and understand the peer pressure that produces look-alike teens at the local mall. In the mirror, I see a woman who enjoys her more glamorous look. And yet, when I transport my fashionable wardrobe back to Boca, it gathers dust in the closet!
3. Momentary Morph. Recently, I was visiting my mother in Massachusetts when her cable box was being replaced. Detecting a Brazilian accent beneath the installer’s professional English, I spoke to him in rusty Portuguese. We chatted while he finished connecting the wires, with Mother looking on. After he left, Mother declared, “I have a new box and a new daughter!” Seeing my puzzlement, she described my bantering with the Brazilian…my gestures, facial expressions, rhythm of speech and laughter. “You became a different person right here in my living room.” Although my mother had read my novel, Until Brazil, and heard about my many business trips to São Paulo, neither of us knew that I had a Brazilian persona. My metamorphosis, triggered by language rather than latitude, was invisible to me and a shock to the woman who knows me best.
These stories make me feel like the teenager who is moody with her parents, but charming with her friends. Having different personalities surface in different contexts shouldn’t surprise me. But it does. When my spontaneous behavior mimics the people around me, I realize I am not so stable and predictable after all. Those diverse cultures within me are determined to express themselves. And my internal GPS knows exactly where to find them!
What is your latitude/attitude story?
I would love to hear it as comment (or reply) below.
© Copyright 2012 by Bethe Lee Moulton
Photo credit: PNetzer / Photocase.com
Bethe Lee Moulton
Author of Until Brazil
Blog Hostess at The Cultures Within Cafe
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