I often find it interesting to hear of people's experiences in other countries.*** A friend told me of two German coworkers who visited the US (San Mateo, CA) for the first time recently. Their impressions:
Americans are louder, much more open and friendlier. A waiter or
waitress thinks nothing of telling you about his day or her family.
(Apparently small talk amongst strangers doesn't happen much in
Germany!) Also the younger guy said no one smokes. In fact when he did
light up in a parking lot, someone threatened to call the police! He
noted our love of ice - we 'overwhelm' them with the stuff. And they
were surprised by the huge amount of Coke served with their meals. (In
Austria and Germany on our recent trip it was about 3 euros for a small
bottle - cold, but no ice, no free refills.) And also the people here
are fatter. Maybe because we drink too much Coke and don't smoke..hmmm?
I was reading Ciao, America! by Beppe Severgnini
and he made many similar observations. He lived with his wife in the
Georgetown area of Washington, D.C. for a year. He noted the ice (he
really felt strongly about it. Why are ice cubes so offensive? Because
they crunch?), the frigid air conditioning, the differences in Mass, the
bureaucracy involved in getting services (piece of cake compared to
Italy), and the talkativeness of random strangers. I was especially
laughing at the bit about waiters and waitresses telling about their
lives and running to serve when they (Beppe's family) just wanted to be
left in peace to eat. It wasn't all negative. In fact it was mostly
just observations and reactions to life here. I found it amusing. And
these I shared on Facebook as a sample.
"Relationships are good with the rest of the neighbors and
conversation comes easily. Americans tell you more about themselves in
an hour than the British do in ten years. The main thing is not to
mistake this cordiality for friendship. It's more a sort of cosmetic to
perk up everyday life, and should be treated as such." (pg. 98)
"There's always a note of alarm in American weather forecasts.
TV weatherpeople have glassily inexpressive eyes. Even when they're
making one of their little jokes, they give the impression that they're
keeping back some tragic piece of news. There's an entire channel (the
Weather Channel) that deals exclusively with the subject. In fact, it
ferrets out disasters in every corner of the Union. Hurricanes, floods,
storms, downpours, eclipses, landslides - any calamity will do. It's
the meteorological version of a horror film, and we foreigners are
unaccustomed to the concept. ... During the summer it is not sufficient
to communicate infernal temperatures. There's also a comfort index,
calculated from the combination of heat and humidity. And winter is not
just a question of bitter cold. There is also the windchill factor, ...
Knowing the exact quantity of discomfort - being able to say exactly
how badly you feel and why - is the first step toward the goal of every
U.S. citizen: to feel good." (pg. 64-65)
Earlier today I was in downtown Graham running errands. Walking them really. And a little girl saw me.
"Where's your car?"
Me: "Around the corner and up the street. I parked at the library."
"Ohhhh. I like your blue bag" (I was carrying some things I'd found
for Zach at Little Blessings, and the bags *are* a pretty color.)
Me: "Thank you. I hope you have a good day, sweetie" I said as I smiled and started to walk away.
I hear floating after me: "I looooove you"
Sweet Stranger Moments.
And, yes, I did wonder what Beppe would have thought if he'd encountered
such an outgoing little girl during his time in the United States. :)
My apologies to those who are Facebook friends and have already read much of this.
*** This is why one of my favorite places on the web is Malik's blog.
He's from Jordan and lives in Missouri. I love when he writes posts
dealing with differences in Arab and American culture or what he finds
picture-worthy. Sadly, Samer doesn't blog because he has some good
stories of life in Germany, and I enjoy hearing what he has to say about
the differences in his experiences in Germany and Damascus. Thankfully
he gives me full permission to share them. I got the German coworker
impressions from him. Bet you never would have guessed that, huh?