- An older cousin married a guy from the South, and he called a supermarket "cart" a "buggy"
- My Canadian cousins use the terms "washroom" for "bathroom," and "variety store" for "convenience store"
These people were all speaking English, and overall we didn't have trouble understanding one another. The differences were subtle; however, as a child, I quickly picked up on them. It was just enough "data" for young me to make the assessment: WEIROs!
As an adult whose work has focused on fostering intercultural communication, it's embarrassing to admit to the fact that these small language differences caused me to feel some distance from these otherwise lovely people. I knew that I spoke correctly. I thought they used some kind of low-fidelity copy of my language. And I thought they were missing something. I asked myself, What's wrong with them? How is it that they don't know the *right* words?
(Clearly, I was missing a big piece of the story as it relates to the many regional varieties of English, and all the glorious diversity of accents, words, and grammar. I was also missing perspective on diversity dynamics...fortunately, that would come later in life!)
These examples are personal to me, but perhaps you have a similar example?
The most striking examples of prejudice can show up when we interact with "others" who are, on the surface, not that different from ourselves. (My cousins share my DNA. They speak English. We have the same last name.) Based on my expectations and assumptions, (e.g., I thought we'd "speak the same language"), I felt discomfort with the differences that showed up in our everyday interactions.
What similar experiences can you share?