Wednesday, June 29, 2011


When I mention the word "chile" what do you think of? Possibly you think of llamas and alpacas, but I don't mean the country. I mean what sort of food do you think of? I've spent most of my life living on the east coast and both of my parents are east coasters, so I immediately think of Texas Chile. You know, beef, kidney beans, basically meat soup. Well, here in New Mexico, that's not what people think of. I had a conversation the other day that went like this.

Woman: My daughter doesn't like Chile.
Me: I don't blame here, I don't either.
Woman: And my son will only eat green chile.
Me: Oh, you mean red or green chile. Sorry. I agree with your son. I
like red chile but not green chile, it's too chunky. I thought you
meant, you know, real chile. You know, meat soup. I don't like that.
Woman: Real chile? Honey, that's not real chile. That's Texas Chile.
Me: Oops. Sorry. *confused*

In my world, supposed "Texas" Chile is real chile. It's the only chile I had ever heard of until I moved here. For those of you who don't know about New Mexican food, red and green chile are essentially sauces that go on your New Mexican food. If you go to any New Mexican restaurant and order anything they'll ask you if you want red or green chile on that. Red chile is essentially a red sauce. Green chile is chunkier, with vegetables. But to me, these are sauces. Chile is a meal in itself. But red or green chile is not. It's like ketchup: good, but not by itself.

Now, if I was living in another country, I would expect weird things like this to happen. I just find it strange that small culture shock events like this can happen within the same country. Theoretically we all speak the same language and have the same culture, but that simply isn't true.

So that's the purpose of these Western Wednesday posts. I'm a southern girl living in a Western, New Mexican world. I've only been here a month and its already strange to discover how different New Mexico is. It's also strange to experience people's prejudices against the south. So on Wednesday, I'll share what I experience in this dry, desert, so different from my native humid forests.

Have any of you experienced culture shock in America? I would love to hear your stories!

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