"I just don't get ___ " "I can explain that to you. But I just don't get ____"

The rules are simple here. One poster names a popular aspect of his country’s culture that he doesn’t understand: not something he’s vehemently opposed to, but something whose allure escapes him. The next poster tries to explain the first poster’s item, then moves on to something HE doesn’t understand. Begin your response with “I can explain it.” End your post by asking about the thing you don’t get.

Simple enough?


I just don’t get sports. I mean watching sports, not playing them–though I’m not much one for either. But I enjoy playing chess, for instance, so I can understand the competitive urge, even if the idea of hitting the basketball court leaves me cold.

But why people WATCH sports is a mystery to me. And it’s not that I haven’t tried–I have. When my coworkers at the auto dealership realized that I hadn’t a clue as to the rules of football, they decided to take me to a sports bar and convert me.

But it didn’t work. Oh, I appreciated the free drinks, and it was fun to watch the cheerleaders when the camera was on them; but as for the game itself, I just couldn’t get into it. True, having to have the rules explained to me might have contributed; but I understand why and how basketball is played as it is, and that bores me too, along with baseball and soccer and every other sporting event other than women’s volleyball, which I appreciate for reasons having little to do with athleticism.

Anybody want to explain it to me?

I can (try to) explain sports.

Sports are like fiction, but less predictable. There is a plot, and characters, and a setting, and it’s very unreal and escapist. On top of that, while you might be able to guess what’s going to happen, you can’t know. You can watch a million games and never actually know precisely what’s going to happen next, unlike regular fiction, but it’s also safe, not so emotionally draining. The characters also change all the time, so the story gets tweaked.

Add in the thrill (for some people) of competition, city/state/national pride, a sense of identity, long histories, statistical fun, shared memories, and nifty t-shirts, and you have sports!

I just don’t get flip flops. They look incredibly uncomfortable and dirty.

I can explain it. It’s a combination of Zen purity and Tribal belonging that grabs ahold of the Inner Being and makes it One with the Cosmos.

First, the Zen: Baseball is the best example. The grass, the sky. You throw the ball, you hit the ball, you catch the ball. Like Go, simple in theory, staggering in its implications and permutations. Or take the mind-boggling skill of the Lakers at their peak. Magic’s blind passes to a team-mate he couldn’t see, but he knew would be there. The fast break that rivals Three-Card Monte in complexity. Etc., etc.

The Tribal: Man yearns to be part of a Group. We are categorizing creatures. Our “tribe” (the US) has gotten too big to identify with cleanly, so we look for substitute groups to belong to. Sports teams fill this niche beautifully. It doesn’t matter what I do, or who I am, or what I make…I can root for the Dodgers and be an accepted member of Big Blue.
I just don’t get modern cooking. I mean, what’s with the “baby quail stuffed with mango chutney and sauteed in lark’s vomit, with pine-nut glaze in a buffalo aspic”, let’s see how many disparate flavors we can jam into one dish and call it nouvelle dishes that pop up everywhere a trendy chef lands. Quit with the “unique” and make with the “good.”

As far as everyday wear I agree. Now if you just need something quick to slip on for the beach or to run out to get the mail or something they are wonderful. I’ve seen people wear them in the shower at a day spa or gym. Quick on and off for those times when you need something on your feet but shoes aren’t practical.

Skald took my sports one, I still don’t get that. Here’s another, I don’t get the obsession with owning a car. I choose not to buy one at this time because I don’t really need it, public transport gets me to work and my BF has one for other times. Why do people think less of you for not owning a car?

I’m going to guess you’re an American (because I’m too lazy to look it up) and explain. I too have spent most of my adult life carless–but our national obsession with them stems from one of our national myth: the unmatched virtue of freedom.

(I’m not using myth in the sense of an untrue story; I using myth in the sense of a culture’s way of looking at the world.)

When you’re riding the bus, or the subway, or the train, you’re subject to the schedule–and often the whims–of other people. Your local transit authority, the bus driver, the other passengers.

But in a car you have autonomy–or, at least, the illusion of autonomy. You leave when you want. You arrive when you choose. You stay as long as you choose. During your transit you’re cocooned, forced to share your personal space with no one else. And because of another of our national myths–the disbelief in causality–you can fool yourself that there is no connection between amount of gasoline your SUV consumes and the price of a barrel of oil, or the political situation in the middle east.

Yeah, I can explain that. But I just don’t understand decaffeinated coffee. What is that, some kind of sick joke?

Because you’re running directly contrary to American cultural expecations of what an adult is. American culture emphasizes independence and spontaneity, the idea that anyone can do whatever they want with their life, and can change direction at a whim. The two driving pressures on teenagers (especially teenage boys) are get a car so you can make out in the back seat, and get a car so you can drive away and find yourself.

You can only do what you like and be spontaneous if the bus schedules allow it, or if your BF feels like giving you a lift. Most people will see that as a sign immaturity, or worse, as a sign of being willing to let other people dictate your life.
Also, many people have bad experiences with non-driving or non-car-owning friends- friends who beg for or demand lifts from one place to another, who need you to spend an extra half hour on the road just to get them to an event or party, and then who don’t even think to chip in for gas. So some people may be assuming you’re a leech.
Now, what I don’t get - the intermixing of celebrity with politics. Why do people think that it matters what Bruce Willis thinks about gun control? Why do people believe that because Don Henley can write pop songs, he has a better grasp on environmental science?

I can explain that.

Coffee tastes good. Decaff, (to me), tastes just as good, and the taste is all I’m interested in. After giving up caffene I find that I can sleep regularly, wheras before I’d maybe catch 4-5 hours, then need some more caffene to catch up ad infinitum.

But I just don’t get nightclubs.

Overcrowded, a cover charge to get in, inflated drinks prices and music loud enough to blow your head off. I understand the argument 'It’s the best place to meet [wo]men, but theat doesn’t explain why they want to be there.

They don’t require clean socks or bending down to fasten anything. And, for those of us who would rather go barefoot than wear shoes, they’re the closest we can get to that and still be able to go to most restaurants and stores, or for that matter walk outside without worrying about stepping in various nameless horrors.

But “unique” is just a matter of thinking of something that no one has done before (perhaps for a good reason). “Good” requires actual skills.

I just don’t get people who have a dishwasher, but don’t use it. I understand it if they’re washing something that shouldn’t go in the dishwasher, or trying to save water or electricity or whatnot, but some of them don’t seem to mind doing dishes. I put off doing dishes even with the dishwasher, because doing dishes and other household chores sucks.

I can explain that. It’s the lack of ambiguity.

Let’s say I’m in, say, Starbucks, killing time while waiting for a job interview. A winsome young blonde notices that we’re both reading books by the same author, and we embark upon a conversation; it lasts half an hour, and it’s clear that we have a ton in common. However, moments before I ask her out, she mentions that she’s married; she’s engaged in this conversation out of sheer affability, not horniness.

Now, suppose I’m at Sensations, a local nightclub. If I spend the same amount of time with a similarly winsome lass, it’s because she thinks I am as winsome as she is and is interested in doing something horizontal.

Now, I don’t mean to denigrate the first sort of interaction. (I actually ended up going out with the first girl for several months.) But whether you’re a woman or a man interested in meeting someone for short-term romance, it’s helpful to be in a place where a high percentage of the patrons are interested in the same thing.


Now can somebody explain dog-owning to me?

Let me take a stab at night clubs…

They places that allow you to do three important things all at once… Listen to Music. Drink Alcohol. Engage members of the opposite sex. Everyone there is there for atleast two of those reasons. And one of those reasons (alcohol) allows doing the other two much easier.

I don’t get why so many people accept crappy chain restaurants… Olive Garden, Applebees, Red Lobster, etc. The food is never great. Don’t kid yourself. It is never going to be a great meal. It will most often be good/middling. So many people just accept that. There are people over the age of 12 whose favorite restaurants are these places and that saddens me. Put some effort into eating well I say.

Here’s the scary truth: there are places, usually suburbs or small towns, where those are the best restaurants around, at least if you don’t want to drive for 30 minutes or more to go to dinner (most of us don’t). Or they might be the best Italian, seafood, or whatever restaurant in the area. Not every local restaurant is better than the chains (cite: watch Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares sometime), nor does every area have a local restaurant of every type that someone might want to go to. Some people would rather have mediocre Italian food than no Italian food at all.

I had an experience like that with Starbucks, growing up in the suburbs in Maryland. Starbucks was my favorite coffee for a long time, because the only coffee I’d had before that was crappy restaurant coffee (except for even worse instant coffee at home). I can’t hate Starbucks to this day, pretty much no matter what they do, because they showed me that there was more out there in the coffee universe than diner coffee.

I don’t get football rioters (either European or American). I’ve heard the drinking that goes on during the games cited as the reason for this. I still don’t get it- people drink at other times, but don’t start riots. Your team wins -> ??? -> you start a riot, damage property, and the like. I really don’t understand what step 2 would be there… :confused:

Crappy chain resaurants are fairly quick, cheap and you know what you’re getting when you go in. It makes it easy when traveling to say “oh, there’s a Olive Garden.” and know what you’re going to spend and what you’ll get.

For someone like me, eating is a neccessary evil and I don’t like spending a lot of time or thought on it. Chain places cater to that.

I can explain that.

People like what is familiar. They like knowing exactly what their food will taste like. They’d rather have mediocrity than take the chance that the food is bad. Or, more likely, “Weird”. Non-chain resteraunts can be hit or miss, and if you’re not someone willing to gamble with your dinner, then you go chain.

I don’t get the whole “cheap-and-disposable” thing. I’d rather buy high quality & reliable and have it for a long time, as opposed to constantly new and cheap. Like my Dad gets the cheapest car he can find, and then gets a new one when it dies in a few years. It’s less money in the long run to invest in, say, a honda, and drive it for a decade. This view often comes with a sanctimonious attitude about how I’m “wasting my money” on whatever it is, as if there’s no difference between a solid oak table and a veneered or plastic finished MDF table.

Cheap and disposable works well for those of us who know we aren’t going to be as good about taking care of our things as we probably should be. I get cheap nonstick pans instead of expensive ones, because I know I’m going to leave them in the sink for days at a time, put them in the dishwasher even if I shouldn’t, use metal utensils with them when there’s nothing else clean, and so on. That way, when I wreck whatever it is, I just go to Target (or wherever) and get another cheap one. It saves me having to be careful when I use it.

I don’t sneer at people abuot how they’re wasting their money getting nice things, though, unless they are getting them for me (they should know that I’m too clumsy and careless to have stuff like that).

I’ll have a go at dog-owning. Dogs are versatile and can fill a wide range of human needs, but if you are talking about wanting them as pets and companions, it’s because dogs are, for the most part, extremely friendly animals who care what their owners think. Human beings are also social animals, so we’re wired up to want others to like us, and dogs are wired up to like their people. It’s a win-win if you can put up with fur and drool and the occassional chewed shoe. Besides, walking dogs is great exercise and a good excuse to get out more.

Now, somebody explain reality television shows to me. Especially the obviously fake ones that make their participants come off as venal, greedy, shallow, malicious and stupid.

I like your uber-chic example of the baby quail, the kind of thing you’d see on Iron Chef America.

However, I’m here to defend the kind of modern cooking that borrows spices and methods from other cultures, in order to find delicious variations of drab, familiar dishes. Celery doesn’t belong in chili? Says who? I recently cooked Pad Thai for the first time, and it was an adventure. As a lad who grew up in central Indiana, I think that’s pretty cool.

My first goal is “good,” of course. I know some folks who go through their lives eating the same six or eight dishes with no variation in spices or technique. That’s boring.

What I don’t get is golf. Guys who aren’t rich go out and pay $25 to $70 per game in green fees, and that doesn’t even count the gambling at $10 per hole.

I can answer that. It makes you seem unreliable. Not because of public transportation, but because you couldn’t get your act together to buy a $1,600 beater. It’s nothing deep like an American need for freedom or anything like that. It’s just that homeless people, college students and losers take the bus, so you’re tainted by association.

(I know, I’m horrible.)


I don’t get how anyone could be decisive and instantly know what they want. Everything, is always a tough choice for me even down to what I choose at a restaurant for lunch.

I just want to add that I meant this in a “weighing in with my opinion that I know has exceptions,” rather than a, “you’re a homeless loser” sort of way.

Well, some level of unique is rather essential to standing out in the insanely competitive restaurant biz, but ideally it is really good too, assuming you’re of the sort of diner that is automatically turned off by things they didn’t eat as a kid. Lots of times the stuff that sounds like a bizarre mish-mash turns out to be no stranger a contrast than honey-barbecue is, but it’s still an uncommon idea or using tasty stuff you don’t find at the local supermarket.

But as for the really weird stuff, the true haute cuisine and whatnot, that’s aimed at people who really, really, really know food. Surely you’ve got some hobby where a minute intricacy that would be invisible, meaningless, or completely inane-sounding to someone less well versed in the subject, right? Whether it’s the finer points of your favorite sport, or your own strong feelings about how model trains should be put together, or what makes one killer guitar solo that much more killer than another, there’s inevitably a small but fanatical “expert level” of interest that seeks out the height of the art form. When it comes to food, many of these people don’t just already know what those ducks brains in Portuguese aspic taste like, they already have strong opinions on how firm those brains should be, and are very anxious to know what they’ll be like when paired with durian custard once you put the idea in their head. Sure, it’s extremist and a little silly, but no more so than obsessiing over the implications arcane and ancient baseball stats or what makes the best racing engine or the tiny details that go into high level computer game design.

Appealing to these uber-food-fans is important, not just because many of them are professional judges and reviewers, but because they’re so adept at distinguishing clever and good-tasting (for people who are already comfortable with that level of ingredient) from weird for weird for weird’s sake. The good stuff then gets filtered down into stuff that’s more accessable, and lo, a new food trend is born that, in thirty years, may be seen by the typical person who doesn’t know much about food, as “the good stuff” that people should be making instead of the new latest weird thing.

Can someone please explain the appeal of the show Friends to me? Cruel shows, like Seinfeld and Married With Children I get, and the really, really weak, Everybody Loves Raymond stuff is clearly just aimed at morons, but a lot otherways clever folks with good taste seem to really like Friends, and I just don’t get it- it combines the insipidness of the worst “nice” sitcoms with the unkindness (but none of the schaddenfreude) of “mean” sitcoms, seemingly canceling out the appeal of both.

I’m just not a picky eater, and in fact I tend not to be a picky person about a lot of things. So I can make a decision and simply not worry about alternative because they don’t matter.

This is for the small stuff, not the big stuff. About the big stuff I’m a wishy-washy fool.