I’m delighted to welcome a real ‘merican as my very first guest blogger. Sabrina has an ‘opposite’ view to mine–opposite in the sense that she now lives in Europe and puzzles over Brit-speak in much the same way as I puzzle over ‘merican. So without ado, here’s Sabrina’s take on reticent Brits:
This is information every American should read in a little manual while on their flight to England:
The English are complicated when it comes to striking up conversation. And we Americans have to be careful not to talk too much or for too long because it could bother someone. Americans love to ‘shoot the breeze’ with people, whether they are friends or strangers. This is probably an off-shoot from our pioneering days when many new people came to settle in the wilderness. Neighbors could be far away, so conversation was hard to come by. But Europe is different. People take more care to respect each other’s privacy. This is especially so in England.
The English find it embarrassing to end conversations. They think they might accidentally imply that they think their interlocutor is uninteresting or something. It seems that the English don’t have handy phrases like: “It’s been really nice talking to you”; or “Well, catch you later then” to convey that it is time to stop the conversation, and move onto to the next activity.
Studying at an English university, a fellow student and friend from Ghana told me that I was the only white person on campus who talked to him. He thought it was racism and I had to explain, “They don’t talk to each other!”
Sabrina Gerland Mallon was born in California and has lived in Germany for 25 years, where she is a Business English and intercultural trainer. She kindly allowed me to drag her away from finishing her PhD in intercultural communication to write this piece. Thanks Sabrina!