Over the years we have hosted a dozen or so foreign exchange students. One for an entire school year, others for two to four weeks at a time. They have all been a blessing to me, though one was thrust upon me at as an ‘emergency placement’ a few days after I had just given birth to our youngest so I probably wasn’t a very good hostess. Hungarian guest, I hope you forgive me.
Thinking back to each one, I can easily correlate communication problems and cultural differences to dealing with my husband’s Aspie idiosyncrasies and traits. If I am fascinated with foreign friend’s differences, I should be able feel the same about my hubby’s differences. Perhaps this is why many Aspies do well in foreign cultures. Their ‘differences’ are chalked up to their ‘foreign-ness’.
We all ‘see’ the world according to our own particular backgrounds, experiences and viewpoints. In the U.S. we vary from region to region. Ever the melting pot of the world, we adopt differences in language, culture, and beliefs from those we come in contact with. Each one of us can have a huge impact on those around us.
I remember vividly the first Australian students we hosted. They were the same age as our oldest son, and stayed with us for two weeks, going to school with our son and touring the Seattle area on weekends.
The first morning after their arrival, the boys all trooped in for breakfast.
“Ummmm! That smells sooooo good, Mrs. L!” they chorused. “What’s for breakfast?” my son asked.
"Sausage, eggs, and biscuits with gravy!” I announced, juggling plates of fresh sausage patties, towel covered baskets of heavenly homemade baking powder biscuits, bowls of fluffy scrambled eggs, and gravy boats of creamy white sausage gravy to the table. Yes, I love to cook. Doing dishes, not so much.
As I turned back to the kitchen I caught looks of pure horror on the faces of our guests. “What?” I asked, thinking that due to the time difference that perhaps they weren’t ready to eat a big meal yet.
The three Australian boys eyed each other cautiously. “Nothing, Mrs. L,” one of them said. They all sat down with my kids and my husband. Plates and bowls were passed. When the first biscuit basket was opened by my son (who promptly piled four huge biscuits onto his plate), one of our guests erupted.
“SCONES! It’s just scones! They call scones 'biscuits'!!” He was beside himself with joy.
Our family members were astounded. It turned out that in Australian what we call a ‘cookie’ (as in chocolate chip or peanut butter) is called a biscuit. What we call biscuits are called ‘scones’. These were both ordinary English words which we all knew and used regularly, but with totally different meanings. They can even have completely different pronouncations, as we found with the word scone. We said "skŌhn" and they said "skähn"!
Those poor boys thought we expected them to put gravy on cookies! No wonder they were shocked. We all had a great laugh, and from then on it became a family joke for any future Australian guests.
Thus is the constant world for those with Asperger Syndrome. So many words have totally different meanings and contexts. If those words get scrambled they become meaningless. How hard it must be for my husband each day.