Wednesday, March 05, 2008

The Delicate Art of Ethnocentrism

I hadn't actually met my downstairs neighbor until a few minutes ago, when I was out on my balcony and he wandered off of his porch to say hello.

I've always thought he was Cajun, on account of the few times I've overheard him talk and the barbeque and what not. But as I'm speaking with this guy (who's sipping what's obviously not his first glass of wine of the evening), I start wondering if maybe he's from somewhere else. His English is pretty good, but his accent is just thick enough to where I'm missing about every fifth word he says.

So we're chatting away, with me speaking slowly and using simple sentence structure, and he mentions that his company is transferring him back to Latvia. And I'm thinking, Oh, okay, he's Eastern European. That explains the minor communication issues we're experiencing, although how could I mix up Cajun and Latvian? What kind of asshole am I, anyway? Why am I always making these weird, baseless assumptions about my neighbors?

And then he says something else about going back to Latvia, and I realize... he's not saying "Latvia."

He's saying "Lafayette."

As in, Lafayette, Louisiana.

Home of the Ragin' Cajuns.

So I was right the first time.

But I still feel like an asshole.


Lisa Adams said...

*laugh* I'm guilty of doing that on occasion hon *grin*. Of course, you were right which should count for something.

Anonymous said...


Don't feel bad. I think this happens to us all. I'm a Cuban girl living in Miami, a super diverse city. I can't usually tell where people are from just from accents.