I just started reading River Town, by Peter Hessler, and thought this passage right at the beginning was interesting.
I often heard remarks like this, [that all the women of Fuling had a reputation for being beautiful due to being from an area with both water and mountains, or that people there had bad tempers because it was hot and there were mountains,] and they suggested that the Chinese saw their landscapes differently than outsiders did. I looked at the terraced hills and noticed how the people had changed the earth, taming it into dizzying staircases of rice paddies; but the Chinese looked at the people and saw how they had been shaped by the land.
This reminded me of conversations I’ve had at various points with people from the Midwest. I am from the East Coast (or the Southeast, if you are one of those people who strangely thinks the East Coast only extends as far south as DC, or possibly Virginia,) specifically the piedmont area of North Carolina, and I am very used to being surrounded by hills and trees. In the days when I was frequently having to drive home from Iowa or Michigan during school breaks, I had a definite sense that “home” did not start until I entered the Appalachians and was surrounded by forests again. By contrast, several friends who grew up in the plains stated that they would find it a little scary not to be able to see for miles around. Hills and too many trees would give them claustrophobia. Whereas I found the first description of the plains in the Little House on the Prairie books terrifying and never really understood why they moved out of the Big Woods.
I also suspect that where we grow up or strongly identify as home can have a lot of impact on the color palettes we like the best. People who love the desert may have a much greater appreciation for shades of red and orange than a people from a greener environment.
Any other ways you’ve noticed your environment shaping you?
The only other example that comes to my mind right now is that when I lived in Chile, I was told that the women of Viña del Mar all had great legs, due to the many steep hills and steps in that city. That one is a bit more obvious than perhaps Hessler meant, though.
-posted by Dana