Yankee finds herself on southern ground

Lindsey Fontenot
July 6, 2010
Thursday, July 8
July 8, 2010
Lindsey Fontenot
July 6, 2010
Thursday, July 8
July 8, 2010

I’m what a lot of people down here would consider a “Yankee.” But I’ve never donned pin stripes and could really care less about Derek Jeter, which is the only “Yankee” reference I ever understood. However, after being transplanted 1,327 miles southwest of everything I know, I’m beginning to realize just how “northern” I am, as I seem to stick out like a sore thumb everywhere I go.

“You’re not from around here, are you?” seems to be the question of choice since I’ve been here (32 days).

If I had a dollar for every time I’ve been asked that question, I’d have enough dollars to get me a “Box” from Raising Canes every day for at least a week. Not that I’m complaining, those chicken fingers are impressive.

But to answer that question, no. I’m not from around here. I was born and raised in a suburb of Central New Jersey about an hour outside of New York City (but anyone from the north will tell you it’s simply referred to as “the city”). We don’t have drive-thru chicken finger joints. And if we did, all of the employees would be ridden with teenage angst and look like they’re about ready to set the place on fire. All of the customers would be complaining about the lack of diversity in the menu, because you need at least 20 different kinds of sauces at minimum. Nobody would be smiling. Oh, and you could bet all the money in the world that it would be open 24 hours.

So, I’m having what I’ve playfully dubbed “Cajun culture shock,” and I’m taking you along for the ride.

In other words, I’m learning to find my way through the impossible-to-pronounce-but-extremely-common Cajun last names (that almost always end in a silent “x”…and I never took French), colloquial phrases like “down the bayou,” that make me think of the Allman Brothers (“Ramblin’ Man” anyone?) – and just the overall Louisiana culture that is somewhat of a conundrum to me at the present moment.

A month ago, “Cajun” was synonymous with that burning sensation I got in my throat as a result of eating spicy chicken with that label. I have a bottle of “Cajun Seasoning,” in my spice rack at home – that’s about as far as I ever thought it went.

Forgive my ignorance, because I was mistaken. Imagine my surprise when I move to Louisiana only to find there’s such a thing as a Cajun people, with Cajun accents, who actually speak Cajun.


No really, what? You’re going to have to speak slower, because my Yankee ears are having a hard time understanding you – and people have always told me I talk fast. No disrespect, of course, because there are plenty of “northern” phrases I’ve used at work only to have my co-workers reply, “what does that even mean?”

I just don’t quite understand yet, and it shows. I asked a man I was interviewing last week what his last name was.

“Boudreaux,” he said.

“How do you spell it?” I asked.

He looked at me funny.

“What do you mean, how do you spell it?” Dramatic pause. “Girl, you aren’t from around here, are you?”

Another dollar for Raising Canes’ “Box” fund.

No, Sir, I’m not. But I’m glad it took you more than five minutes to figure that out. The first person I talked to down here figured it out in less than 30 seconds. Progress?

I’m hoping next week I can hold off that question for about 10 minutes. It’s all about the baby steps, and for the record, I haven’t misspelled Boudreaux since.