If you live in the Midwest, “coat” is one of the words you use regularly. Right up there with “winter storms” and “cornfields.”
“Do I need a coat?” “Where’s my coat?” “I need a warmer coat.” Etcetera., etc., etc. It’s a word you use daily from September through May. A word as familiar as “record snowfall” and “reckon.”
But if you’re a Midwesterner who moves to Mexico and strives to learn enough Spanish to blend in, “coat” is nowhere on that list of important words or phrases that you memorize from your “Spanish for Dummies” book. Because there’s never a day that a Midwesterner needs a coat in Mexico.
So, when you take off for a holiday vacation to the Midwest, you have to search to find that wool coat that you haven’t worn in 16 months and that really could use a good dry cleaning.
You put it through the handle of your carry-on because your suitcases are too filled with Christmas presents to hold a bulky wool coat.
And when you later notice that the coat has fallen off somewhere in the Guadalajara airport, you know you’re in a bit of trouble.
Because you know enough Spanish to say “where’s the bathroom” and “I’d like two tacos please” and “how much is this blue ceramic lizard”, but you have no idea what the word for “coat” is.
You do your best and use the closest word you can think of. But no one has seen your yellow “serape,” and everyone is looking at you a little strangely.
You’re not terribly surprised when you end up boarding a plane to the Midwest without a coat.
Nor are you surprised when you step off of that plane into a frigid and grey Illinois day to find that you’re a little homesick for the warmth of Mexico.