|Americans enjoy their high standard of living by waiting in a bread line (mid 1930s)|
Thursday, November 25, 2010
Sunday, November 14, 2010
Hundreds of millions of people speak English as a second, third or fourth language around the world but most who’ve never lived in an English speaking country speak a fairly artificial academic form of the language that is from nowhere and yet can be understood anywhere. Obviously such people speak English with accents so upon meeting them you can tell quite clearly that they’re foreigners anyway. But even when they write you often realize that the person is not a native speaker because their grammar is too perfect, “with whom am I texting?”!!! or they use a combination of British and American vocabulary “I had spilled some fizzy-drink in my trunk” (which would sound bizarre to both a Brit and an American). There’s nothing wrong with this of course. They’re just missing the experience of speaking an authentic local English that is actually from somewhere.
The phenomenon of “world English” is societal and generational as much as it is linguistic. I’m always amazed to meet people from one European country who have a close friend from a second European country with whom they can only communicate in English despite it being neither of their native languages. Communication in English is the norm even with college educated people of my generation from different Eastern European countries. A generation ago such friendships, business contacts and romances would have occurred in Russian. An even more stunning example of the strength of English is the fact that it is becoming normal in Europe for two people from different countries upon meeting to defer to English, even when one of them speaks the others non-English mother tongue.
With the strength of “world English” and the development of several competing standard Englishes, native regional and dialectal variations of the language are in a precipitous decline. Regional accents are not as strong as they used to be. Grammatical quirks are being leveled out by exposure to mass media and strangely enough, by exposure to non-native English speakers who possess knowledge of a much more normative form of the language. While the average American two generations ago would have known only his own local dialect, today an educated person needs to possess a knowledge of the standard language and knowledge of a local dialect is considered superfluous at best. Although the differences between varieties of English in America are slight compared to variations found within other languages (with the exception of Ebonics/African American Vernacular English which is quite distinct), I still feel that something is being lost with the decline of regional accents. So to highlight some of these accents, especially for speakers of “World English” who use English on a daily basis but mostly communicate with fellow non-native speakers, I’ve found some audio-clips of many varieties of American English. Although Southern American English is mocked both in the US and in Europe (especially because of its association with George Bush), some varieties of these dialects are my favorites and I chose these clips with the additional goal of highlighting the linguistic diversity of the southern states. So without further ado here are some great examples of American accents.
North Carolina accent.
Atlanta Georgia accent
Philadelphia accent. As I mentioned in a previous post, different neighborhoods in Philadelphia have their own accents (just like NYC and Boston). This is especially true among older lifelong residents. This accent could be Kensington, or Fishtown or (a long shot) South Philly. My own accent is closer to a North-East Philly accent with some interference from having lived in New Jersey for four years now. Nonetheless, few if any people from outside the city could distinguish my Philly accent from a South Philly or Kensington accent.
West Virginia accent. (Speaker is black.)
The famous Brooklyn accent.
Canadian accent: Americans and Canadians can generally tell each other apart but some Americans from the northern Midwestern states speak dialects that sound like regular Canadian English, with the only difference being a few hundred telltale Canadianisms. The stereotypical difference is that Canadians pronounce about like “a-boot.” In reality they say “a-boat”, instead of the American “a-bout.” Canadians also pronounce several dozen words like British English. Among them are progress (pro-gress), controversy (con-trev-esy), schedule (shed-ul, not American skedule), and lever (leave-her). Canadian spelling btw is nearly halfway between British and American.
For a bonus here’s a real Lithuanian Yiddish accent in English. In New York you hear Hasidic Jews who speak English with pronounced Hungarian Yiddish accents but it’s becoming rarer and rarer to hear English with the telltale Litvak lilt. This was an accent I grew up hearing all the time.
For those of you interested in learning more about English in the United States, the following are some links from a website about a great PBS series on the topic:
Here is a quiz from PBS with which you can test how well you can locate American accents
Information on Ebonics/African American Vernacular English.
Tuesday, October 26, 2010
3. Here is an update in the form of a short video report from Emory University about their Yiddish program.
Need more good news from the Yiddish world? I'll be writing the second half of this post in the coming weeks and I'll write a similar post in Yiddish highlighting stories and resources about current events in the Yiddish world that are only accessible to Yiddish speakers.
Sunday, September 5, 2010
|Roma family in France after being sent to a new temporary camp.|
Wednesday, September 1, 2010
I knew all of this before I left for Spain but I never gave the matter much thought while I was there. I noticed that the AVE* trains went significantly faster than their American counterparts and were so quiet and smooth that I felt like I wasn’t really on a train but rather on some sort of hovercraft. I quickly learned that a trip from Valencia to Madrid would take about 3 hours and a trip from Barcelona to Madrid would take about 4.5. Nonetheless I didn’t put much thought into the distances involved nor did I compare them to more familiar US geography because after all I thought, America is big and Spain is small. I really didn’t have a sense of the magnitude of the differences and their impact on daily life until the Philadelphia Inquirer ran an excellent four part special on the topic around the same time that a serious illness in the family turned my life upside down.
After getting back from Spain in late June I began a night-class at Rutgers main campus (New Brunswick, NJ). I don’t drive. New Brunswick is only 53 miles from Philadelphia but to get there I had to take two very slow trains (the Pennsylvania based SEPTA’s R7 to Trenton NJ, then the NJ Transit Northeast Corridor Line to New Brunswick). On a good day this is a 2.5 hour trip one way. On a bad day it’s a four hour trip. On a really bad day (say when someone decides to kill him/herself on the tracks, something that happens some 20 times a year in NJ), the commute can take six hours. So in short I had to leave home at 3:30 for a 6:30 class and hope for the best. When a relative took ill in NYC and the situation required lots of attention from my family including overnight stays, I found myself effectively living in three cities at the same time. Within a span of a month I ended up spending more time on trains than I normally do in a whole year. The obscene amount of time spent bounding back and forth over NJ in slow trains gave me plenty of opportunities to ponder the differences between the Spanish and American train networks.
There are two different train companies that provide service between Philadelphia and New York. Between the two firms there are a meager five routes available, which run on one set of tracks (so they’re not really “routes” in the traditional sense but rather trains that make different combinations of stops). Both companies are owned and operated by government agencies. SEPTA is the public transportation agency for Southeastern Pennsylvania (most importantly covering the Philly metro area) and NJ Transit provides buses and trains within NJ and to some bordering areas of PA and NY (conveniently including routes ending in NYC). To get to NY by train from Philly the cheapest route is to take the same combination of trains I take to Rutgers but to continue on the NJ transit train until Manhattan. The NJ transit train from New Brunswick to NYC usually takes 90 minutes (occasionally there are express trains that take 45), so added on to the original time it takes to get to New Brunswick the full trip from Philly to NYC, a mere 86 miles, ends up being 3.5 to 4 hours. The price all together is $27 to $33 dollars. The other option is Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor line, which depending on the train selected makes only 1 to 3 stops and takes about 1.5 hours. These trains, run by a federal government agency, usually cost between $70 and $140 dollars. If the same routes were served on the Spanish AVE train, the trip would only take 37 minutes and would cost about 20 Euros, roughly 35 dollars. Since I cannot afford to take the AMTRAK, the difference would amount to me being able to get to NYC in 1/5 of the time. This would enable me to live in Philadelphia and work in Manhattan, or even to occasionally attend Yiddish events in the city without a four hour commute both ways (something I occasionally do as is). On the Spanish system my friends who live in Pittsburgh would be able to commute home in some 2.5 hours, rather than the current 9 to 10. The impact that this would have on daily life, as well as on towns lucky enough to get a stop along the high-speed route would be astounding. Considering the fact that many Philadelphians commute daily into Manhattan using Amtrak (1.5 hours, 70-140$ both ways), it’s not unrealistic to imagine that on a truly high speed network it would be possible for someone from DC to commute to NYC (or vice-versa) every day. But high-speed rail in the US remains a dream and a far off one at that. The current rail system is here to stay, along with its barely hidden class conflicts (un)neatly tucked away in the corner.
SEPTA/NJ Transit vs. Amtrak.
Officially, America has no social classes. Everyone from the janitor to the billionaire is addressed as “sir.” Working class people, especially blacks, often dress more elegantly for church on Sunday than their upper class counterparts. There are few institutions that reject members based on their ethnic or religious origins or how much money their family had five generations ago. American English does not have class based accents like British English (with the exception of one acquired upper class accent which is rare these days), and in theory all a person needs to enter what Americans would consider the “upper class” is money. So in the general American conception of class, money itself is class, not a family’s historical prominence nor what pastimes they’d chose to spend their money on (say, investing in racehorses/polo vs. season tickets for NASCAR) . Some of these class barriers that ostensibly don’t exist re-appear, however, when one compares Septa/NJ Transit with Amtrak.
Septa service itself is socially stratified. All routes either originate going downtown or leaving downtown. Every train passes through the same three downtown stations, no matter its final destination, making some of the routes considerably longer than they would be if they were designed to get people from point A to point B as quickly as possible. This feature was built into the lines to transport middle and upper-class Philadelphians with white-collar office jobs from the suburbs or outlying city neighborhoods to Center City (downtown) and West Philly (where the universities are congregated). Neighborhood to neighborhood transportation is mostly provided by Septa bus service, whose passengers are solidly working class. Some of the trains do attract a more working class clientele, especially the R7 to Trenton which is my first train to New Brunswick/NYC. This is because most of the businesspeople traveling to/through Trenton are going to NYC and hence using Amtrak. NJ transit trains have more business people but still have a predominantly working class ridership, especially during off-peak hours.
Septa trains are noisy, usually filthy, and have absolutely no amenities, not even bathrooms. Seats are not individual but rather double or triple. Eating is technically not permitted but people bring their lunches and dinners aboard all the time. Copies of the Daily News or the Metro are left behind on seats. NJ transit trains, by comparison, are much nicer. Passengers are generally quieter; the trains are cleaned more regularly. All of the trains have bathrooms. There are individual seats and even electric outlets to plug in computers or charge cell phones. Eating is strictly prohibited but drinking is permitted. Riders can often read left behind copies of the Metro, NY Post and Daily News as well as the more highbrow Philadelphia Inquirer and New York Times. Unlike Septa passengers NJ transit riders are provided with designated waiting areas at the major train stations. But even with these extra comforts neither company comes anywhere near matching Amtrak, which compared to its competition is like a limousine being rated against a donkey cart. The guts of Amtrak trains are basically modeled after passenger planes. There are individual seats that recline, space for every passenger to plug in electronics, lots of clean bathrooms, and even a dining car! Most of the passengers are businesspeople whose trips are being written off as business expenses or are being paid for directly as part of their fee. There are few children and few people not in suits. Instead of CD players (remember those?) or I-Pods most of the riders have touch-screen computers on which they are editing work related documents. If they don’t have computers they are most likely reading a business related document or reading the Wall Street Journal. (Other than the aforementioned activities most people are sleeping which of course has nothing to do with social class). Upon arrival at the station(s) Amtrak passengers are segregated from NJ transit or Septa passengers. They get their own waiting areas which are separated from the rest of the station by walls and curtains. The “rich man’s waiting lounge” can only be entered after the appropriate ticket is checked by what basically amounts to a bouncer.
As for the routes themselves, the Northeast Corridor lines only have two tracks dedicated to each direction. The faster traveling Amtrak usually takes the inner track seeing as it only stops two to five times. The slower Septa/NJ transit trains take the outer track which meets the platform at every station. Amtrak (and hence the federal government) actually own the track, which NJ Transit (and hence the state government) leases. When Amtrak trains take the outer track they always go ahead of the NJ transit trains so as to avoid the Amtrak train catching up with the NJ Transit train (which would delay the Amtrak train or cause a collision). This in effect delays the NJ transit train should it become necessary for an Amtrak train to travel on the outer tracks.
This parasitic relationship with the working class trains being subservient to their wealthier counterparts usually works well enough assuming nothing goes wrong. However, between the aforementioned frequent suicides and a summer full of terrible weather, much has been going wrong as of late. And the results amount to open class warfare that is blatant, obvious and at times Kafkaesque.
I got caught in the middle of one of these “battles” a few weeks back after a storm knocked down a tree, taking some of the track-signals with it. The signal problems stopped all traffic for a good hour and twenty minutes. I had just taken an exam the night before and as such had schlepped my ten pound dictionary and my laptop along with me. I planned to catch an early express train to NYC that would have gotten me there in roughly 45 minutes to visit my relative in the ICU. After that I would high-tail it back to Philly on a Megabus. I arrived at the New Brunswick train station around 10:30 to find about a hundred people waiting for the train. I was informed that not a single train had come or gone for an hour but no announcement was made and the two workers at the train station knew nothing. Among the people waiting for the various trains which had never come were conductors who were supposed to begin work on these very trains. Even they had not been informed of the signal problems.
At this point it was nearing 90 degrees but despite the heat people were in good spirits and finding humor in the situation. A half hour later an announcement over the crackly loud speaker informed us that no trains were running (duh!) and that train service for NJ transit would resume on the outer tracks in 20 minutes. As the first station is about 30 minutes from New Brunswick I decided to flee to the air-conditioning for the next fifty minutes. The station itself soon became hot, however, after another hundred or so people arrived and I decided to go back onto the platform, where about 150 people were now crowded. Babies cried, adults whined and everyone pushed and shoved in hopes of clearing a little personal space. I found a railing to lean my 20 pound backpack on. Three elegantly dressed white women, all wearing pearls, ended up next to me. One was in her late 20s and the other two were middle aged. The younger woman, clutching a purse which even empty was probably more valuable than my computer, looked at me nervously and said “we’ve never taken NJ Transit before, is it usually this crowded?” I could barely contain my laughter and explained the unfortunate predicament to them. “How long do you think it will be until the trains start running again?” chimed in her mother, pronouncing every syllable of every word in a way that revealed a boarding school upbringing (think Catcher and the Rye). I told them that I didn’t know but that we probably wouldn’t get on a train for another hour at least and it wouldn’t be an express like they had counted on. “But we have theater tickets!” they protested. “We didn’t drive only because we saw an advert(!) that said we could take this train specifically to get to the Broadway matinees.” I politely told them that there wasn’t a snowballs chance in hell that they’d get to NYC on time and that they should take up the issue with their State Senators. I went into my usual spiel about how the federal government paves highways, makes airports but does not support trains. They looked at me dumbfounded and asked if I knew where “management” was. Management. MANAGEMENT! This time I couldn’t control my laughter. I stopped laughing for a moment, choked out an apology and began laughing again. First off, I explained, the people who manage the trains aren’t in a station. And even if they were they certainly wouldn’t be in New Brunswick. Secondly, the sizable New Brunswick train station only has two employees at any given time because 80% of them were replaced with vending machines a few years ago that sell the tickets in their stead. The remaining two employees are there to sell ticket packages and to absorb the various complaints about the trains that should reach “the management” which runs the trains from some hidden place.
Still, despite my explanations and protestations, the women decided to complain at the ticket counter and dragged me along. The oldest of the three, twirling a bead of her pearl necklace and staring at the employee responded to his answers by saying “but couldn’t you do something, this is absolutely dreadful.” The ticket-man, a black kid my age with a rural southern accent said “I reckon t’at ‘bout describes it Mam.” I went back on the platform, right in time for the first of the Amtrak trains to whiz by.
Amtrak trains in New Brunswick can be downright scary. They go by on the inner tracks at about 130 mph and can be heard a mile away. The fast wind, dust, and wall of sound are disorienting no matter how many times you have experienced them. It can be downright terrifying to stand 20 feet away from anything going by at that speed but when you throw in its weight and mass a feeling of utter helplessness often sets in. The experience is made worse for me, however, because a friend of mine threw himself in front of one of these very trains my freshman year and every whizzing tornado of steel is a reminder of his senseless action.
“Trains are runnin’ again” someone said stating the obvious. More people crowded onto the platform and I occupied the time trying to estimate their number. I decided upon 350 persons. Then something downright terrifying happened. Without any warning an Amtrak train raced by us on the tracks closest to us at about 100 MPH, passing less than a foot from the people on the edge of the overcrowded platform. Lots of us screamed. People grabbed their children or their wives or held onto any available surface for dear life. Still, three or four dozen people were knocked over by the wind and a panic started. The train was gone nearly as soon as it had arrived, leaving behind a cloud of profanities and leaving the people closest to the edge to look over the gap to see if anyone had been struck by the train. To the surprise of many in the crowd, myself included, nobody had. If there had been but on person leaning an arm over the platform, or a skirt that extended an inch too far the person would have been torn to shreds without even noticing that something had happened.
The situation repeated itself another eight times over the next two hours that I was stuck there. (Obviously we all stayed far away from the edge of the platform.) While some New Jersey Transit passengers waited five hours to board a train (I waited four), the Amtrak trains were run with minimal interruption. A person arriving in Trenton or Philadelphia at 11 am for an Amtrak train wouldn’t have even noticed the delay because their train ran on schedule. But because of the extra trains sent to pick up the stranded Amtrak passengers, and the fact that Amtrak trains are never halted for NJ transit trains, Amtrak used all four tracks for its own trains for a full two hours. This left the poorer NJT riders stuck outside in 90 degree heat while Amtrak riders waited for their trains in air-conditioned private waiting rooms that only they were permitted to use. And as the (mostly) working class people baking in the sun looked at the trains whizzing by carrying the rich in a luxury we could not afford, I began to wonder what exactly was going through everyone’s minds. They knew, of course, that we were being delayed an additional two hours so that Amtrak passengers wouldn’t be inconvenienced. “Why don’t they split it up,” a kid asked his father in Spanish. “Why don’t they let one stop for us and then one fast train go by?” I looked at the two of them and said in Spanish “cariño (dear/little one), that would be taking turns. The rich don’t do that.”
A few minutes later the three rich ladies thanked me for talking to them (I have no idea why), and told me that they were going home. “Next time we’ll drive to Trenton and take the Amtrak train. Or maybe we’ll just bite the bullet and park in New York” one of them said. Then the one with the Holden Caulfield accent looked at me and said “I’d recommend you try Amtrak next time. Unfortunately most of the people here probably couldn’t afford it.” I didn’t know whether to laugh, cry, or punch her in the nose. Instead, I told her that I couldn’t afford it either and wished them well. I wondered if they had learned anything from temporarily finding themselves on the losing side in open class warfare.
1. AVE is an acronym for “High Speed Spanish.” It is also a pun because AVE in Spanish means “bird” (think “avian” in English.)
2. The word “advert” is archaic. The woman’s whole diction would have sounded educated forty years ago but now sounds quite unnatural. This was the stereotypical upper class WASP accent of a bygone era.
Sunday, August 8, 2010
Now that I am safely back in America I can write more honestly about my experiences in Spain, especially things about Spain and Spaniards that I was not impressed with. Growing up I often looked askance at many aspects of American life all the while assuming that Europeans were more sophisticated, intellectually curious and oriented towards social justice and social welfare than Americans. This may be true of some places in Europe (Norway/Sweden for instance) but it is certainly not the case in Spain, where from my own experiences I’d say that the average Spaniard is slightly more ignorant than the average American and is far less concerned about social welfare or treating people well than the average American. Spaniards, of course, think Americans are stupider than they are but it’s really hard for them to judge us when they don’t speak our language or understand the culture. Ignorance, however, doesn’t particularly upset me. It was trying at times when people asked me a question and then immediately got bored with the answer. For instance what follows is a typical conversation. I’d usually have one like this a week:
Guy down the hall: Where are you from?
Near NYC, about two hours south…..
Oh, so you’re from New Jersey with the others.
Well, I go to college there but I’m from Philadelphia, in Pennsylvania.
Oh. (Feigning interest.) So that’s where the north lost the war?…
Your civil war.
No, the north won, the north was the USA. The south split off and attacked us.
Oh, whatever, I mean that’s where the war was.
Not in Philadelphia, no.
But in New Jersey?
You mean Pennsylvania, yeah there were some battles there.
So that’s when Washington was the general?
No, you’re thinking of the War of Independence. That was 85 years earlier.
(Looking annoyed.) So are you going to see Manchester United here?
Of course, most Americans only have a vague sense of Spanish history and I’ve even run into Americans who confuse the US civil war and what we call “the revolutionary war” (it’s “the war of American independence” in Spain and England.) But who’s keeping score? As I said, ignorance doesn’t particularly upset me. What did really upset me about Spaniards, especially the Spanish middle-class was their complete lack of concern with social-welfare. The most glaring issue that immediately comes to mind is Spain’s disgusting treatment of its Roma, who are literally treated worse than dogs. I had never experienced entrenched racism at all levels of a society until my time in Spain. To tell the truth I had never seen or experienced anything close. But much more revealing of the Spanish mentality is their treatment of fellow Spaniards from a lower social class, specifically the complete and utter lack of respect they show them. A very telling example I can give is how the cleaning ladies were treated in the dorm where I lived. I shared a suite with three Spaniards who had their own rooms and an American with whom I shared a larger room. This was in a fifteen story freshman dorm which had some 300 people living there. Unlike dorms in the US which are on campus and run by a single college/university, Spanish dorms are privately owned and house students from different universities. As the dorms are privately owned and essentially compete with each other for students, Spanish dorms are fancier than their American counterparts. This is most noticeable with the extremely high quality food which is served cafeteria style in the dorm itself. But this fanciness also extends to how the dorms are cleaned.
In the US student rooms are cleaned twice a year at most. Nobody makes your bed or cleans your shower or scrubs your floor for you. You clean your own room, dust your own shelves, and mop when necessary. In Spain, student rooms are treated just like hotel rooms and are cleaned/made up twice weekly. Some students also pay a little extra to have the maids do their laundry and sheets for them. While all of this was a bit shocking to me being an American, what really stunned me was finding out that few of the Spaniards even knew the names of the maids. One day the cleaning lady who did our floor came by and asked if she could come a few hours early. I said that I’d ask my suitemates and told them “(woman’s name) wants to know if she can come at 2.” “Who,” they asked. I repeated the name assuming that they had not heard me but they still remained confused. “(name),” I said “the woman who makes your bed every week!” They look at me dumbfounded and so “oh, the cleaning lady, yeah that’s cool.”
I thought we treated our cleaning ladies badly at Rutgers. Occasionally (let’s say every other week) a pizza would be left out on a table. Empty soda cans often wouldn’t quite make it into a trash can and would lie on the floor. On one occasion (and in two years I mean literally one) someone made a complete disgrace of a bathroom, tearing the whole place asunder with what basically amounted to a one man riot that was like a physical manifestation of a joke a five year old would get slapped for telling. People who vomited in the bathroom (and this happens weekly in American colleges) usually cleaned up their mess themselves or bullied someone else into doing it. In any case, it was rarely if ever left for the cleaning ladies. Everyone knew their first names and many of us knew how many kids they had, where they were from and what other jobs they worked and they learned our names and room numbers. That is just the kind of basic niceties that are expected in America. Overall, however, I thought that we were badly behaved. After all food sometimes got left out, occasionally toilet paper found its way into toilet balls and once someone decided it would be clever to, let’s just say, inappropriately use a shower. I wondered if the women would be treated this way if they weren’t immigrants but were, let’s say, poor native born Americans. In any case, I certainly thought the situation would be much better in “civilized” Europe. As we say in Yiddish “whose dream do you think you’ve woken up in?” or as they say in Philly “like hell.”
Not only did the Spaniards not know the names of the people being paid to do everything for them, they didn’t even acknowledge their presence when they walked in their rooms. No hello, no thank you, no goodbye, no “have a good Easter.” Nada. Far worse was the fact that the brats in the dorm where I lived purposefully trashed the place to an extent that would be simply unimaginable in the US. Students (18,19 year olds!) threw rotted food against walls, dropped watermelons down the staircase, lit firecrackers inside of cakes, broke ceilings and glass inside of elevators, spilled soda and vodka and left it spilled overnight, graffitied, tracked pizza and tomato sauce over several floors and left broken glass bottles on stairs and handrails. Most of these bromas, pranks as the students referred to them, were weekly occurrences. When I once dared to ask someone to consider the cleaning ladies as he took a bottle of ketchup and smashed it against a wall and smeared its contents all over, he looked at me and said “hombre, es que les pagamos a las mujeres” (dude, it's that we pay the women). “No”, I said, “your parents pay the owner to pay the women and they’re people just like your parents or Aunts.” He looked at me, shocked, and said “no, they’re ignorantas (ignorant/uneducated women) who are the children of peasants who mismanaged their land.” Well, what is there to say to such a thing?
In the US, on the east coast at least, the vast majority of cleaning ladies are foreign born. I thought that any disrespect they received originated in racial prejudice and/or was due to their being immigrants (I don’t give generalized ignorant/stupid behavior enough credit sometimes). In Spain, where such people are treated far worse than they are in America, they appear to be mistreated due to their social class. I don’t claim of course that what I was told by one prick is representative of middle class Spaniards or even semi-typical. But the complete and utter disrespect with which the dorm residents treated these women was near universal and never questioned. Whether this situation was unique to one university or a microcosm of typical Spanish middle class behavior is unclear but I’d venture to guess more towards the latter than the former. In a nation where children often live with their parents well into their 30s, where laziness is not only socially accepted but a time honored tradition, and where a stunning sense of entitlement prevails despite a 20% unemployment rate, rudeness is practically a patriotic value among the middle class. I have my own complicated theories about how this came to be that I will cover in further blog posts, but for the time being I’d like to hear from any Spaniards (in English or Spanish) who would like to refute, explain, or agree with anything I’ve said.