At the age of 25, I left the East Coast and drove to Alaska. As a queer brown woman from central Jersey, I was in culture shock for weeks. After three months of living here, I’ve pinpointed the ways that I stand out from Alaskans around me in style, manner, and politics.
1. I talk too fast, I slur my words.
As a fast-talking East Coaster, I have had a lifelong habit of screening my friends by whether they can keep up with my pace of speech. Sometimes, I connect with a new friend but get hung up on their slow speech patterns. I generally cannot carry conversations with slow-talkers. In my first few days of orientation at my job in Alaska, though, they explained that a large portion of Alaska Native elders simply speak slower than most Americans are used to. They may take longer to answer questions. They are not afraid of silence. This quality of speech, and my habit of speaking fast, is noticeable because of these cultural differences. Here in Alaska, I often need to repeat myself two or three times in order for people to understand me because I talk so fast. I have learned to pause for a longer time after I ask a question because the response time is delayed. It sometimes seems like people take a breath every few words when speaking. I have always recognized my desire to be surrounded by people who speak at a similar pace, but now, I’m working on actually slowing down my own pace of speech. Or, at least becoming more accepting of slow talkers.