I had an a-ha moment today about living in a culture not my own.
We moved from New England to the middle of Missouri a bit over 16 years ago. I have always felt like an outsider. And my adjustment here was hard. Early in my marriage, I mentioned to my husband (born here) that it was hard for me adjusting to lining in a culture not my own. He poo-pooed my comment saying it was still the United States and I was just being a New England snob. I thought maybe he was right and tried harder to fit in. Sixteen years later and I’m still having a hard time fitting in with my neighbors. I have so little in common with the majority, conversations rarely proceed past the weather.
Today I read an article that delineates North America and Northern Mexico into 11 distinct cultural sections. I was born in New York City, spent my formative years on Long Island. Then I went to college and lived in New York City for nearly a decade. After which I moved to Southern Connecticut before moving here. Looking at the map, I feel vindicated. I also have a better understanding why I want so badly to move 30 miles north. Jefferson County, where I settled, not only has me living in a culture not my own, but one that is diametrically opposed to the one I lived in a majority of my life.
Encompassing the entire northeast north of New York City as well as parts of Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota, Yankeedom values education, intellectual achievement, communal empowerment, and citizen participation in government as a shield against tyranny. Yankees are comfortable with government regulation. Woodward notes that Yankees have a “Utopian streak.” The area was settled by radical Calvinists.
A highly commercial culture, New Netherland is “materialistic, with a profound tolerance for ethnic and religious diversity and an unflinching commitment to the freedom of inquiry and conscience,” according to Woodward. It is a natural ally with Yankeedom and encompasses New York City and northern New Jersey. The area was settled by the Dutch.
Missouri is separated into two of the 11 cultural areas. There is one closer to the above, and that is where St Louis is located. However, the area further south, where I am now, is closer to the deep south. According to the article this area, “is intensely suspicious of lowland aristocrats and Yankee social engineers alike.” Well no wonder.
Colonized by settlers from the war-ravaged borderlands of Northern Ireland, northern England, and the Scottish lowlands, Greater Appalachia is stereotyped as the land of hillbillies and rednecks. Woodward says Appalachia values personal sovereignty and individual liberty and is “intensely suspicious of lowland aristocrats and Yankee social engineers alike.” It sides with the Deep South to counter the influence of federal government. Within Greater Appalachia are parts of Kentucky, Tennessee, West Virginia, Arkansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, Indiana, Illinois, and Texas.
The culture that encompasses St Louis is still different from the New England roots that make up my philosophy and outlook. However, it is more cosmopolitan in its outlook and general views. Plus it includes parts of New Jersey. Which is where both sets of my grandparents lived and where I spent many of my summers while growing up.
Settled by English Quakers, The Midlands are a welcoming middle-class society that spawned the culture of the “American Heartland.” Political opinion is moderate and government regulation is frowned upon. Woodward calls the ethnically diverse Midlands “America’s great swing region.” Within the Midlands are parts of New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Iowa, Kansas, and Nebraska.
Having an article to point to really doesn’t change anything that I’ve felt all along. But it sure is nice to know I’m not a crazy person or an elite snob! I’m just living in a culture not my own.