Cultural Differences

I had the distinct privilege of ‘volunteering’ for a Kindergarten field trip today. In what can only be described as a very unfortunate misunderstanding, I’d sent the classroom coordinator an email that said something like ‘I can possibly help with the field trip if you have absolutely no one else in the universe willing to do it,’ and she thought I’d said ‘yes! I’d love to traipse through the forest with 111 five and six year olds!’

Once I realized I’d been ‘committed’, I couldn’t find the nerve to bow out. Which is why I was standing in the school hallway at 8.10 this morning with a woefully inadequate Starbucks short latte in my hand. I was technically supposed to arrive at 8.05 for my volunteer briefing, but the line at Starbucks was very long. And I refused to surround myself with 111 Kindergarteners for more than six hours….without some caffeine in my system.

Our destination was the Kamp Kiwanis just outside Calgary. Ostensibly to immerse our city children in ‘nature’. Mostly, the immersion involved playing a handful of very strange games that, to me, seemed no more enriching than if I’d taken the boys to Edworthy park and sent them on a stick hunt.

I was paired with a lovely fellow volunteer and we had seven nature-lovers-in-training in our group. We had roughly two hours to play five somewhat repetitive games. Given the limited Kindergarten attention span and the chilly weather (really, June, not quite 60 degrees?), the games did not take up quite as much time as the camp counselors had expected. So my volunteer mom and I found ourselves with twenty minutes to ‘burn’ before we were supposed to show up for lunch.

We decided on a game of ‘Duck, Duck, Goose’ while I escorted three of our charges to the washroom. When we returned to the circle, all the kids stood up and made the circle bigger to accommodate the additional participants. We sat patiently as one of the girls walked around the circle, tapping heads with her hand, ‘duck, duck, duck, duck, duck….goose!’ she yelled as she patted me on the head.

I hadn’t played ‘Duck, Duck Goose’ in a very long time. Semi-thrilled, I jumped up and began to chase Kate around the circle, back to my original spot.

‘What are you doing?!’ the fellow-volunteer-mom looked at me quizzically.

Um, playing duck, duck goose?

‘You’re supposed to run in the opposite direction,’ she insisted. And I, being low on brain power these days, mentally tried to figure out what she was saying.

It seemed like she was saying the person who yells ‘goose’ runs in one direction and the tagged person (the ‘goos-ee’) runs in the other direction…… to see who makes it back to the original spot first.

Confused, I stammered, ‘that’s not how they play it in the States,’ while I racked my brain to recall if I’d actually played the dumb game in the States. Or if that was in South Africa. And, wherever I’d played it, if we’d run around the circle in the same direction, or if my waning memory had let me down.

‘Well what’s the point of THAT?’ she asked. ‘You’re just chasing each other?!’

I wondered, silently, what the point was of running in the opposite direction. Running past each other, as it were.

‘That’s just how they play in the States,’ I explained. Sticking to my guns.

‘Well, they’re all playing it the same way!’ she insisted, pointing her head at the gathering of kids.

And I was confused again, still, because I thought I’d said ‘in the STATES’….as in…AMERICA. (Not as in…CANADA.) In an effort to explain that I’m not some loony Phoebe-type person who runs with arms flapping in the wrong direction….for fun.

7 thoughts on “Cultural Differences

  1. You were totally, completely right. In the U.S., where the game is played properly, we run AFTER the tagger, NOT in the opposite direction. Nicola right. Canada wrong.

  2. Yes, I agree, you were the tagger!! That was a very special conversation. I would have been annoyed. You handled it nicely! Props to you Goose!! Hey did you try calling me today? I saw a weird number and thought it could have been you.

  3. Huh. As a canadian, with a terrible memory, and a loathing of most sports and games in general, I have to say that when I played the goose tag game, we would run in opposite directions, and part of the “fun” was to bump into the other person when you passed each other, in hopes that they would slow down or fall down even, and then you would be able to make it back to the empty spot first. Luckily, I was not popular, so I was hardely ever chosen to do the running 🙂

  4. Do Canadians seek head-on collisions? Running against the tagger seems a recipe for injuries (much like the often injurious Red Rover).

  5. Well, I have to apologize. When I read this yesterday, I silently snickered about Mrs N playing the game “wrong” and thought her American friends would chide her about not remembering how to play kids-games. 🙂 So, this evening I googled it. According to wikipedia, us Canadians like to play “Extreme duck, duck goose”, who knew?!

  6. ‘Extreme’ duck duck goose is right. It seems downright dangerous to have two kids running towards each other rather than just chase each other. Maybe the American way was devised to avoid lawsuits. (Where’s that wink emoticon….) I told another Canadian this story today and she gave me the same look as my volunteer mom: ‘you have to run the OPPOSITE way’ she chided me.


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