Thursday, 25 September 2008

The American Way

When travelling to the United States, Lufthansa offers some practical advice on how to complete the I-94W immigration form. Among other tips, it is recommended for European visitors to write numbers the American way, and not the European way, so that no misunderstanding can happen with immigration officers.

The American Way

In spite of a lot of striking similarities, especially if you compare North-Eastern America with Central Europe, there is still an awful lot that's done differently on each side of the Atlantic Ocean.

The one thing that appeared most evident to me is that North Americans talk. A lot. It does not really matter if they know you or not. They are eager and willing to talk to table neighbours in a bar, spontaneously offer help if you just seem to be a little lost, ask you about your country or, simply, listen to your story. Someone told me that if you ask an average North American for the time, you have already made a new friend. And it seems to be true. Not only in lovely small towns at the heart of a National Park, but also in big cities (so big, in fact, that some might consider them capital of the western world).

Brooklyn Brewery

This US people feature might be somewhat surprising to us residents of the Old World, where everyone tends to mind her or his own business and don't care about the others'. Confronted with the true masters of small talk, we felt a little strange at first. But we quickly recognised the advantages of giving conversation to people. Because thanks to perfect strangers that were willing to talk to us, we have been to places that we would never have discovered otherwise.

Williamsburg walks

I think the greatness of this attitude is that it ends up in win-win situations quite often, in which both parties get something useful. And even nothing more but a friendly conversation with no obvious chance for anyone, it is still a nice experience. Either way, such an approach to social relations lets North Americans being open to new opportunities, to unexpected chances, practising actively the so-called "networking". Its principle is to establish contacts between people you know, who might be interested in knowing each other, whatever the reason. That way, the tremendous power of exponential growth is put to work for us.

A week before travelling to the States, I was waiting to get my international driving license at the ÖAMTC (the Austrian Automobile Association) in Salzburg. An old lady in front of me was asking for road information for her vacation, and I heard she asked about destinations on the coast between Barcelona and Tarragona. I smiled and waited for my turn. As I later got my license and went out, I saw she was still there at the parking lot, and I thought on approaching her and tell her that Tarragona is my birthplace and offer her some more advice. But, you know, I'm a little shy and do not feel really comfortable starting conversations with strangers, so I just unlocked my bike and rode away.


And I almost immediately regret not having talked to her, because nothing bad could have happened, she would have get first-hand information about the region from a native and, who knows?, probably I would have got something from her, even just the satisfaction of helping someone would have been fine. But no.

Maybe next time?


Gitta said...

Es heisst Reden ist Silber Schweigen ist gold.
Ich Glaube es stimmt nicht immer.Ich war zu Besuch bei aelteren Leuten in den Staaten vor geraumer Zeit.Da ist mir bewusst geworden wie sehr sich manche aeltere Menschen in den Staaten sich danach sehnen reden zu koennen.Vor allem mit Leuten die aus der alten Heimat kommen.Die Jungen sind ganz einfach nur neugierig wie ueberall.Nicht jeder Amerikaner besitzt einen Reisepass mit dem er sich schnell mal in den Flieger setzt um nach Europa zu fliegen fuer einen Kurzurlaub,wie es viele Europaerer tun.Mir ist erst da bewusst geworden wie viele Menschen die eigentlich die Deutsche Sprache gar nicht mehr richtig sprechen ueber einzelne Details vom frueheren Daheim reden wollen ,aber natuerlich auch dann bereit sind ueber ihr neues Daheim Insider Wissen kundzutun.Auf diese Weise hab ich tatsaechlich den einen oder anderen Freund gewonnen.LG.Gitta

tonicito said...

gitta, ich finde die "Redsamkeit" der US-Amerikaner sehr merkwürdig, aber da sprichst Du auch von einem meinen anderen Lieblingthemen -die Einwanderer. Ich finde es faszinierend, dass ein Land fast ausschließlich auf Einwanderer besteht. Ich werde bald über das schreiben.
Liebe Grüße, T.