On a recent post, regular reader, “CM” asked me in comments if there was anything in particular that I really didn’t understand about US culture. Well, the short answer is that there are many things about everyday conversations and about people in general that I just plain don't get.
There are many things about
culture, and the way people act that I don't understand in any way, shape, or
form. I could write a very long list if I could think about it for a few hours,
but for starters, here's a few I really don't understand. This list is more
about people's actions and what they say and do in everyday, light-hearted
conversations, passing comments, or maybe chatter among co-workers, church
members, etc. US
If you do happen to be one of those rare morning people, please keep in mind that most of the population isn't, and be aware of the circumstances in which you are saying this, ie, if it's extremely early in the morning, etc.
Case in point: My dad, because of his various health conditions, every several years will end up several days in a local hospital at a time. Normally, he is his normal, hyper, obsessive self, but once he enters a hospital, that all changes. He can become the human version of Grumpy Cat.
A nurse once walked into his hospital room, and put on what was obviously a fake smile (it was so obvious that even I could tell), and said "Hello sir, good morning!". My dad responded with "It may be morning, but it sure as hell ain't good". My mom was shocked and scolded him, telling him that it isn't her fault that he's in the hospital, she's just trying to do her job, as difficult as that may be.
My dad said that he's in the hospital, how can she expect this to be a good morning for him? I both agreed with him, and felt sorry for the nurse at the same time, since she probably has to deal with people like him all the time.
Asking people "How are you doing?" when meeting them.
It especially makes no sense if you don't even hardly know the person, and/or you are asking the question not out of sincerity, just as a matter of formality.
I've fallen into the trap of asking this question before, almost unconsciously, because I have heard it so often, but in recent years, I have been deliberately stopping myself from doing this, since I find it so pointless.
I mean, seriously, why ask it if it's an insincere question in most circumstances, you either have no interest, or no time in hearing the honest answer to that question, and you know that the other person doesn't have the kind of trust/relationship with you that they would feel comfortable answering honestly?
For example, have you ever been in a circumstance where you have asked this question insincerely, and had the other person take you seriously? You get a long explanation of all that person's problems, things you don't feel comfortable hearing about that other person, they are carrying on for quite some time, all the while, you don't want to offend them by breaking off the conversation, but you desperately want to leave. Come on, admit it, I'm not the only one who has been there before, right?
What kind of greeting is the question "How are you doing?"? Shouldn't it be replaced by something else? I usually, just nod my head and say, "Hi", instead, or when I'm dealing with truckers at work, I usually ask them "What do we have today?" (Pre-load, live load, inbound to be dropped off, etc).
People standing in circles or blocking doorways/blocking the paths to doorways when speaking in a group.
This really irritates me, call me irrational, but I like to be able to leave a room quickly and without having to wade my way through a crowd to get to the exits. Either habit leaves me unable to do so, and it makes me feel trapped, I can’t stand it. Some longtime readers might wonder if it’s due to this incident in my past. I will admit that it has been worse in the years since then, but I have always had that kind of revulsion towards not being able to get out of a room quickly.
Talking about the weather.
I find this just as pointless, if not more so, than the “how are you doing?” question. “So it’s really hot today, isn’t it?” Well, I could tell that just by the fact that I stepped outside today……. If someone hasn’t had the time to check the weather due to the fact that they have been too busy, then I can understand a question like “Do you know if it’s going to rain tomorrow? I was planning on having a barbeque.”
If you are trying to use the weather as a conversation starter, well, it’s not a very good one, I’ll tell you that.
People feeling the need to touch you when they talk to you.
This really frustrates me more than anything else on this list. I even had an entire blog post about it, Personal Space Invaders, a few months ago. It happens more often in religious congregations and gatherings, but some people are really bad about this in the outside world as well. I don’t really want to have to explain to everyone just how it feels both threatening and suffocating at the same time, because some people probably still won’t understand it, even after I explain it to them. I can’t even stand relatives touching me, the only time I don’t mind people touching me is when I’m with a close female friend or a woman that I am in a relationship with, then I actually enjoy it.
People calling you “buddy” or similar terms when they don’t even know you.
This is a habit I have encountered at work with some truckers, especially older men from the southern US, or some of the immigrant drivers we get from Eastern Europe (most are from
Croatia, or St. Louis’
Bosnian immigrant community, though a
few are from Romania
and various nations in the region). If you don’t know someone at all, why refer
to them in such terms?
Are there habits that are common to people in your society or just people in general that you don’t understand?