'Have you heard of a butterfly called "monarch" ' asks Alan, musing over a crossword.
'Durr, yeah' I reply.
'Well, I've never heard of it'
'What? They're everywhere - the most popular butterfly - can't you remember them from your childhood?'
'Nope - I can remember orange tips, and cabbage whites...'
So I Googled it and found that it is indeed the best known butterfly - in North America - sigh.
It has been ages since I made a cultural error like this, of course I used to make them all the time as a child. It made me very unsure of myself. My mum was very keen on feeding garden birds and so I knew all the names of them in England.... then we went to America and this was what Robins now looked like:
I didn't get on very well at school, though, either with the children or the teachers. It is amazing how much cultural knowledge you need to survive as a child. In school in America I was a real dunce because my handwriting was all wrong, I knew no American History or Geography, I didn't know the songs. I didn't even know how to pledge allegiance to the flag:
I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.I got the hang of it... I had no idea what it meant, but I duly said it.
All this has had two impacts on me. Firstly, I don't understand patriotism at all. It is just tribalism - why is my country any better than anyone else's? Secondly, I see all the cultural norms and mores as relative and broadly irrelevant. In England you look down on people who clear their noses by sniffing and spitting, in China they look down on people who use handkerchiefs. Who is to say which one is right?
No wonder I never fit in properly!
Monarch Photo by RunnerJenny
American Robin Photo by Runner Jenny
English Robin Photo by Sergey Yeliseev
Cardinal Photo by hart_curt
Blue Jay Photo by tuxthepenguin84