Jae got me thinking (in a way totally unrelated to what she was talking about) about how I found myself thinking fondly of the U.S. a few times while we were in Paris and Amsterdam. Not of the government, mind you, and certainly not of this current administration’s policies or whathaveyou.
But just thinking fondly of some of the little cultural niceties that I take for granted and which were notably absent from many of my dealings with folks over there. Maybe some of it is my having grown accustomed to the U.S. South and the culture of extreme gentility that underlies everything else around here, but I can easily understand why Americans who visit Paris, especially, would walk away thinking the French rude. I don’t think it’s really a matter of being rude, but I think there are a few characteristics that are typical of parts of U.S. culture that are either missing or very transformed in some of Europe’s cultures.
I’m thinking, for example, of the kind of you-first-no-you-first awkward politeness, or the face-saving that goes with conversations with strangers, or the extreme emphasis on customer service and the “customer is king” mentality and expectation within retail and food service. Certainly each of these has their analogous counterpart in other cultures, but I imagine it can be jarring for Americans visiting, say, Paris for the first time to be condescended to by a waiter, to be reprimanded by a stranger, to be bluntly addressed, and so on.
Know what I mean? And yeah, I’m sure this has been studied and documented and all, but when has that ever stopped a blogger from making dull observations about anything? So feel free to add your insightful thoughts in the comments and help me class this joint up, would ya?