Ken Kawata of Las Cruces writes: “During our recent vacation to Scandinavia, I told a stranger in Bergen, Norway, that we were from New Mexico; he responded, ‘You’re from the U.S.!’ In Stockholm, we got in line for tickets for an aquarium. The clerk noted my wife’s accent and asked, ‘Are you from the States?’ and she said, ‘Yes, New Mexico.’ Immediately, a man behind me with a thick European accent pitched in: ‘Ah, Albuquerque!’ I told him that we live in Las Cruces and he asked, ‘Are you close to the border of Mexico?’ In a bar, also in Stockholm, we told a bartender that we were from New Mexico and he responded with enthusiasm, mentioning Albuquerque and Santa Fe.

“Compare that with my experience with an attendant for a national hotel chain reservation center. I asked for a room in their Las Cruces hotel for a house-hunting trip. A young woman with an American accent asked, not once but twice, ‘Is Las Cruces in Mexico?’” If only Americans knew our geography as well as Europeans do.

Keith Sutherland of Rumney, New Hampshire, contended with the usual handful of predictable misunderstandings while preparing to relocate to New Mexico with his wife, and took them in stride. That is, until his friend Miguel wished them luck and envied their move to Arizona. He didn’t get mad; he got on Facebook.

“Miguel ... you’ve finally done it. Now I have to call out all of my geographically challenged friends and associates. (Andrea is retiring in December and we are moving to New Mexico.) One insurance company told me they didn’t do international coverage. One bank couldn’t do anything for us internationally. Say what? I’ve had friends ask if the cost of living is cheaper south of the border. Huh? Will we give up our citizenship? News flash, folks: New Mexico is not a foreign country. It’s a big state in the Southwest, right between Arizona and Texas and a little bit of Oklahoma, just south of Colorado. Ever heard of the Four Corners? New Mexico’s got one of them. Yes, it does indeed border Mexico (the foreign country), but New Mexico is part of the United States. Really, I’m not kidding. You can look it up. Oh, and Miguel ... New Mexico isn’t Arizona, either. That’s somewhat akin to saying I’m from Vermont. Perfectly acceptable but a totally different place.”

Apparently, part of Peter Goodman’s job at the Sandoval County Assessor’s office is to collect really good “50” stories for us. Over the past three years, he’s collected some gems. On a recent phone call, a woman from New York said that she’d expected the call to last longer, due to the need for a “Spanish speaker to translate from Mexican to American.” A second caller helpfully explained, “I am in Wisconsin; we’re in the United States.”

“One of my favorites was a gentleman who sat in my office and was relieved that he hadn’t had his passport checked at the border of Colorado and Mexico.” But that didn’t beat the woman in California who asked if the New Mexico Territories were still having the Indian wars.

Send it to or Fifty, New Mexico Magazine, 495 Old Santa Fe Trail, Santa Fe, NM 87501. Include your name, hometown, and state. Thanks!