Wednesday, April 24, 2013

A book about Americans, part 4

I'll jump ahead a little in my notes now. (I'm afraid Bogdan did something to my notes anyway. It looks like a bunch of them are gone?) This made me smile:
Air conditioners are absolutely everywhere: in any house and building. They work in elevators and in cars, in the metro and in public restrooms, in stores and offices. Summer is a time of widespread bronchitus and colds, brought on by sudden changes in temperature outside and, let's say, in the cars.
The fact that there is AC everywhere is definitely something that Russian visitors to the USA would be very interested in and should know. But Zlobin could have gone farther. He could have explained to those theoretical Russian visitors that Americans don't believe that their bronchitis and colds have anything to do with the weather or AC. Recently I was talking to a friend about that, and she asked, "But don't American doctors warn them, at least?" She was horribly shocked to find out that even American doctors are ignorant of the great dangers of changes in temperature and drafts.

Even though it's a little thing, it really is a huge cultural difference, and it has a really big effect on life in the other country (and least for Americans in Russia; maybe not so much for Russians in America) and understanding each other. I can't tell you how many times I've been in situations where someone wanted me to go tell an American guest that he's sitting by the AC/fan/open window or gate. They push and push. I finally give in and go tell him. He says, "Yes, it feels so nice!"  (Okay, that's a hypothetical conglomeration of something that has happened many times; maybe not an actual, factual report of any one occurrence.) Anyway, if I were writing a book about America for Russians, I would make a big deal about this part of life: if they complain to a waiter at a restaurant in America about the AC, they're just going to get a blank look. And it's going to be everywhere they go.

Oh, and as a Russian/Ukrainian cultural note, I recently learned a new problem that can be caused by a draft or exposure to cold. To the list of colds (of course), bronchitis, aches, strep throat, angina, hiccoughs, infertility, ring worm, kidney infection, and any other kind of infection, I can now add that cold can cause a potty trained child to revert!

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