Othr-Newcomrs-art - 2/23/03
"The 'Other' Newcomers" by Lady Wilhelmina Catharin de Rochelle. About and for those folks transferring from one SCA group to another.
This article was submitted to me by the author for inclusion in this set
of files, called Stefan's Florilegium.
These files are available on the Internet at:
Copyright to the contents of this file remains with the author.
While the author will likely give permission for this work to be
reprinted in SCA type publications, please check with the author first
or check for any permissions granted at the end of this file.
Mark S. Harris
AKA: Stefan li Rous
stefan at florilegium.org
The 'Other' Newcomers
by Lady Wilhelmina Catharin de Rochelle
Much has been written on the care, feeding and assimilation of newcomers to the SCA. We welcome them and nurture them and gently guide them into an understanding and appreciation of life in these Current Middle Ages. That is right and good and as it should be in order for our Society to grow and flourish.
But what about those other newcomers? Every group has encountered them. The ones who already know the rules and customs, often have the titles and awards, but are aliens from a - horrors! - Different Kingdom! These are the ones that can, and usually do, have the hardest time adjusting.
They appear in our midst full of new and 'better' ways to do things, sometimes they scoff at our laws or even attempt to change them to better reflect what they are used to back home. Does this sound familiar? Is this perhaps you? This article is written for this breed of neo-newcomer. The transplant who wants to fit in and be welcome in their new home.
First, allow me to offer a bit of background on myself. I am an SCA veteran. Been in since 1986. I am also a military veteran. Which means I have had to move quite a bit. I also took a couple years off from the SCA to fight a real war - then went back to a group full of totally new people who didn't know or care how important I had once been there. I have had to learn new customs, cultures (SCA and Mundane) and ways of doing things over and over again. I have alphabet soup after my name. I have autocratted major events. I teach Period things. I have held several offices in the SCA from Shire Chronicler to Seneschale. I have been called up in Court numerous times. I am matriarch of a large Household.
What does all this mean in my prospective new home? Not a darn thing!
I will have to start virtually from scratch and build my reputation all over again in a new Kingdom. In one move I even lost my Laurel and my Pelican Mistresses! Now I have to start the whole apprentice/protégé process over again. What if no Peer wants me? What if these new people don’t care about what I teach? What if they think my garb looks silly? The things I worry about…….are mostly just that trivial, but can have an impact when joining a new group far away!
Each branch has it's established customs. Each Kingdom has it's own ways of doing things. Just because something was taken for granted in Kingdom X, it may well be unheard of in Kingdom Y. How is one to know how to behave in a new place? How do you keep from committing a major faux pas? Trust me, first impressions are the ones that get remembered. What follows is a list of suggestions that I have found will ease the transition. These are presented in no particular order.
#1: Volunteer to wash the dishes. I’m serious, I have found this to be the number one way to win friends and influence people. The best camaraderie is to be found over a steaming pan of dishwater. The second best? Volunteer for midnight constabulary. I have always signed up for this least desirable shift - I hear the best stories, sip the best mead, get serenaded by wandering minstrels coming back from the privy, people bring me hot coffee, it’s great! Think such things are beneath you? Think again - I once had a Senior NCO who always did the pots and pans in the field and he was the most well-respected person I ever worked for. A Duke who does dishes is an exemplar of humility and you can’t help but admire that.
#2: Got a bunch of "danglies"? Been around long enough that you wear enough ribbons around your neck to weave a rug out of? That is good, congratulations. Now, when getting dressed for your first event in your new home….DON’T WEAR THEM! Pick one, maybe two that are really important to you and wear them, but leave the vast bulk at home. It looks presumptuous and like you are trying to impress the peasants. Not a good way to start off. Of course if you are a Peer wear your medallion or belt or whatever - just don’t go for ostentatious display of every nit-noid thing you ever got. This also applies to your ‘alphabet soup‘ - got an AoA? Great, you can introduce yourself as “Lady So‘nSo”, but refrain from introducing yourself as "Lady So‘nSo‘, Companion of the Blue Thumb, member of the Starkers Runners, Protégé to Mistress SelflessMartyr and holder of the Sacred Chalice of Reeks" - put it on the Rolls Ethereal if you must and the really curious can go look you up to see if your all that. And if you are all that they will recognize it soon enough through your manner - don’t cram it down their throats right from the start.
#3: Got a really great suggestion for how to improve things? Did they do it this way in your old Kingdom and you just ‘know‘ it will make it better here? Keep it to yourself. No one likes to be told they are somehow inferior to someone else - and suggesting they do something “different” implies exactly that, even as a well-meant suggestion. In the SCA Inter-Kingdom rivalry is rampant. Save your suggestions until you know these people better, and maybe by waiting you just might find out that their way is just as good or better than the ‘other’ way. One more thing here: Look up and read your new Kingdom’s laws and especially it‘s Sumptuary Laws if it has any. You‘d be amazed what some of them are. Take nothing for granted, especially circlet‘s.
#4: Before you move subscribe to the local area email list. But don’t post at first. Just lurk and learn. Reading the posts will give you a feel for the local politics, atmosphere and culture. After awhile you can cautiously start to join in, let them know up front that you are going to be moving to their area soon and want to fit in. Be friendly, be courteous, be honest. This is a tactic I have found to be invaluable, but a very strong word of caution is in order here. From time to time you may find a heated discussion going on about what a lout Lord So’n’so is, or how evil House Whats‘its are. DO NOT, no matter how strong the temptation is, no matter how well you may think you understand the situation, don’t EVER get involved via email. I have seen this before and it was a disaster. Emotions are impossible to read over email, what may sound like sarcasm to you gets taken as gospel by another. You can find yourself in a very bad position very fast by responding to a subject you do not, and cannot over the ‘net, understand. Once you arrive and get settled in to your new group, you can start learning all the local politics - right now you are only trying to get a feel for the customs. Ignore the flame wars if they crop up.
#5: Remember why you are in the SCA. Sounds simple enough. But really remember. For me, it is because I have met the finest people I have ever known here. By "here" I mean in the West Kingdom, in the Principality of Oertha, in the Kingdom of AnTir, in Meridies, on the Internet, in every place I have visited. Invite people to share a drink at your fire, offer to help with anything, be friendly and willing to learn new ways. SCA people are fun, friendly, welcoming and just plain neat to hang out with - we already know that. And that is true wherever they choose to live, work and play.
In closing I just want to say that moving to a new place can be fun, exciting and scary, meeting new friends and learning new customs can be wonderful and is well worth the effort. Never forget that you are the Stranger in a Strange Land - it is up to you to fit in and make it that wonderful experience.
Lady Wilhelmina Catharin de Rochelle is an 11th century Briton, current Head of House RavenOak, she is the daughter of a French Merchant and a German lady who eloped to England to escape a wrathful father and to better ply their trade. She runs the family business now, having learned the trade from her father, who disappeared while off on the Third Crusade. She also hires out as a mercenary archer at any time.
Susan Patch is the proprietress of "The Brigands Cache", an SCA merchant business specializing in camp furnishings. She busies herself with raising children, Shih Tzu’s and constantly making things for the Household’s SCA encampment and members. She also hires out as a mercenary archer at any time.
Copyright 2003 by Susan Patch, 3988 Colville Road, Loon Lake, WA 99148. <brigand at brigandscache.com>. Permission is granted for republication in SCA-related publications, provided the author is credited and receives a copy.
If this article is reprinted in a publication, I would appreciate a notice in the publication that you found this article in the Florilegium. I would also appreciate an email to myself, so that I can track which articles are being reprinted. Thanks. -Stefan.