American Culture Shock Pt. 1
I've enjoyed living in America the past several years but there are some aspects of the Culture that have stunned me:
Small talk - most terrifying and most prevalent among American society and likely the cause for 95 percent of, and in fact the origin of my social anxiety. Imagine being asked personal questions by complete strangers, forced trivial conversations when you’re just trying to check out at the grocery store or pay for your coffee and carry on. Not to mention in the workplace, each Monday being questioned about what you did over the weekend even though the Friday before you were interrogated by every one you encountered after lunch about how you planned to spend your days off. I realize now it’s just a way for people to make conversation and maybe encourage some sort of human connection. But i'm still not convinced of the sincerity - can small talk ever be more than triviality?
Before I knew better, I made the mistake of answering one such question a bit too honestly, a worker in a cafe asked me how my day was going and because I was particularly happy then and couldn’t contain my joy I thought 'I AM GLAD YOU ASKED...' and then launched into an exuberant spiel about exactly how my day was going only to be met with a dumbstruck look followed by my abrupt (and premature) ending of the tale and then the questioner awkwardly backing away from my table. These days I keep it simple with a ‘fine, yours?’
Weather Obsession - I am still bemused by the genuine surprise American’s express each year when the seasons change, even though this happens every single year, and presumably always has. In NYC when summer makes way for fall then fall morphs into winter, someone in the country for the first time, upon hearing the lamentations of the residents on how cold it has become may conclude that this is the first time winter has fallen in the city. And when the summer heat arrives in Chicago and every day for the next few months you hear the same people alternating between complaints of how hot it is to marveling at how nice out it is, again it might seem like summer is a new invention. Having grown up in the Caribbean where there are no seasons to speak of, the sun either shines or sometimes it rains, so you either carry an umbrella or not - there's no discussion about it. I don't think i'll ever get accustomed to this idea of weather being a main topic of conversation, but I recognize it may be a necessary subject if small talk is to continue to have its day which unfortunately seems to be the case.
Food Portions - I know this subject has been beaten to death but I remain shocked that a meal for one at a restaurant is usually enough food to feed a family of 4. Being someone who enjoys solitude I often visit cafes and restaurants and attempt to enjoy meals solo but depending on where I find myself this could be a struggle. You see growing up in a large family and being a picky eater, the ever present refrain of my parents to 'don't waste good food!' continue to echo around me and though I agree food shoudn't be wasted I can't force feed myself! So when recently at a cafe in Los Angeles I ordered pancakes and the server gave me a questioning look and asked 'nothing else?' I anticipated a modest plate of pancakes that I would consume completely and enjoy. Instead I was brought an enormous plate of what was at least 10 pounds of pancakes.
Now, how could my waiter expect that I would want something ELSE on top of this! Usually with other meals I could have some redemption by taking the leftovers to go but some things you can't really save for later. In this case I decided to not focus on the fact that more than half this feast would go to waste but instead enjoy as much as I could eat and as long as I enjoyed it, which if I did, then I would have gotten my money's worth.