Americans have a reputation for openness about their personal life in their interactions with strangers. In my experience it’s well deserved. It doesn’t seem to be a simple matter because there also seems to be a social requirement to be guarded vis-a-vis things that could be face threatening for the interlocutor. But for example, it’s often quite possible to learn some pretty juicy gossip (in British terms) about the person standing next to you in a supermarket queue in say, just three minutes.
This custom comes with some interesting consequences. Here’s one that made me chuckle.
My dentist works in a tall building at 15th and Market. He got in the elevator the other day and there was another passenger already inside. They didn’t know one another, but they made eye contact and acknowledged each other.
As he hit his floor button she said ‘I can’t believe it’s still raining’.
‘Yes, it’s terrible’, he said. ‘Really bad’.
‘When’s it going to stop?’ she said.
‘Well, the forecast’s not looking too good’
‘So, is it going to affect your plans?’
‘Yeah, we were thinking of going to the shore this weekend, but I don’t expect we will now.’
After a few more turns he arrived at his floor and stepped out. As he left, he noticed his fellow passenger was wearing a cell phone earpiece. She had been talking to someone else but he had been answering all her questions.
I wonder. Have any foreign vistors to these shores been disarmed by American openness? Please share if you have.
Image by Ilco