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PT and the Greater Good

Why aye! Jammy Dean got a canny four day holiday, aye?

Published December 29, 2009 4:12 PM by Dean Metz
When I worked in New York, one of the modules that I taught during orientation was cultural competency. New York is still a melting pot of cultures, which could have someone in an Asian home, a Muslim home, an African-American home, and an Orhodox Jewish home, all before lunch! We prided ourselves on the work we did to adapt to each home we entered.

Frankly, I didn't expect the culture here in England to be that much of a challenge. Wow, was I off base about that!

The title to this week's post translates into "Oh yeah! Lucky Dean got a good four day weekend, don't you think?" The dialect is either Geordie or Macam, I'm still not sure which, as the boundaries blur in the area I live. May my higher power help me if I accidentally call a Geordie a Macam or vice-versa as there is a huge rivalry between the football (soccer) teams as well as the two towns of Sunderland and Newcastle. I know nothing about soccer, but I'm going to have to learn fast in order to establish any rapport with the clients. Patients recoil at being called "sir" or "ma'am" as that is "too posh for us!" For me it has always been the default greeting as a sign of respect; not here!

This is not the Britain from Merchant Ivory films, more like the characters from The Full Monty. They value an increased personal space (don't get too close!) but will tell a very racy joke without batting an eye. One can't discuss "Urine" or "Bowels" but instead one asks "How's you're waterworks?" When I asked one older patient about how she managed washing up, she told me that her son does the dishes. "Washing up" refers not to personal hygiene, but rather kitchen cleanliness here.

As the saying about the US and the UK goes, "Two countries separated by a common language." I'm having a heck of a time negotiating the language, the social protocols and the new realm of "football."

So until next time, "Why Aye! Happy new year, pet! Ta, cheers, and Tyrrah!"


Happy New Year and Merry Little Christmas to you.....

Janet Pares January 6, 2010 9:03 AM


Watch "My Fair Lady" : )  Have a great new year.

Jason December 30, 2009 11:46 PM

Hey Janey, I learned the gesture you described when I insulted a bartender by asking for two more drinks with the same gesture and nearly got thrown out of the bar! It is amazing how much we think translates and how much actually means something else, something that can actually get us into trouble.

All in all it is a very rewarding experience! It is wonderful to live in a community so different from the one I have known, to be welcomed by those in the community, and to see first hand how big this world really is!

Happy New Year to you as well. Cheers, Dean

Dean Metz December 30, 2009 1:45 PM

A couple we know went to Ireland 9 months ago.  They were home over Christmas and shared some of their experiences.  One of the biggest obstacles was exactly what you shared.  The man relayed an incident that occurred on the plane on their way over there.  A young Irish boy of about 8 kept turning around to look at him.  Each time the boy looked, the man would hold up the peace sign to his chest, his palm facing his chest.  The boy would quickly turn back around.  The man just figured the little fella was shy.  It wasn't until they landed in Ireland and took part in a three session culture class that he learned the gesture he gave the boy is the equivalent in Ireland to the most offensive American hand gesture, only times two!  In Ireland have to count with your palm facing away from you to avoid being perceived as obscene.  Which they also find odd seeing as what is considered one of the worst verbal expletives in America is a commonplace adjective in Ireland, without any apparent negative connotation.

You can't tell someone you'll "pick them up" as that language is only used in the red light district.  You have to tell them you're coming to "collect" them.

They said many of the words sound the same, but their meanings are worlds apart.  It really is just like learning a new language.

Their other big adjustment was the food.  They said it is rather bland and lacking in variety.  How is the food in England?

Happy New Year!

Janey Goude December 30, 2009 1:32 AM

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About this Blog

    Dean Metz
    Occupation: Staff Development Specialist
    Setting: New York, NY – Newcastle Upon Tyne, Great Britain
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