So much of this transition from my familiar surroundings in the sunny south to my new home in the Brew City has been more seamless than I could have ever imagined. I love our new apartment with its old world charm and our bustling neighborhood and the friendly Midwestern conversationalism that rivals that of Southern hospitality.
Yet despite everything, there are times I still feel like a fish out of water, like this state is a foreign place and not under the same red, white and blue umbrella of the U S of A.
I’m used to sentences that drip slowly, like honey, from their speaker’s lips. Like those listening have all the time in the world to drink in those long, drawn out phrases and the vowels that linger a little too long on the Is and As and Os. Those vowels are stretched out like taffy, and they taste almost as good.
I’m used to phrases peppered with ya’ll and to verbs like comin’ and goin’ missing those hard, gritty Gs that just make sentences sound a little less friendly and a little more harsh.
I’m used to sweet tea, made with so much sugar it might take the mean right out of ya. It’s offered all day long, all year long, and it’s the ultimate friendly gesture to offer somebody a glass.
I’m used to ballet flats and sandals worn most of the year. In the winter, you might catch us wearing a pair of Sperrys.
I’m used to winter months sprinkled with days during which the sun paints the world yellow and temperatures soar to 70 degrees.
Here, so much is different.
The accents here aren’t what I’m accustomed to. Yet they’re delightful in their own way. The signature Wisconsin accent is crisp like an apple, with rounded, purposeful Os.
Ballet flats are out of the question in this cold. Here, everyone wears boots. There are so many boots. Boots with heels, boots without heels, tall boots, short boots, functional, rubber-soled boots and dressy high-heeled boots.
And here, the drinks are served hot. Or they’re the type brewed with hops and they warm you up in a different way.
There’s snow on the ground that lingers and coats rooftops and sidewalks alike in a sheen of glossy white. Yet, unlike the south, life doesn’t come to a complete standstill because of snow. Children go to school, adults go to work, cars continue to brave the roads. People do not flock to the nearest grocer to stock up on bread and milk.
Anytime you move somewhere new, even if it is right here in the States, there’s so much to learn, so much to take in: the vernacular, the cheesy local car and furniture commercials, the notable names, the historical fiction that causes laughter and eye rolls in conversation.
There are days when I feel I’m fitting right in and then there are days when I know I’ve slipped and let out a “heyyy, how ya doin'” and I’m the farthest I could possibly be from being local in anybody’s eyes.