Friday, August 8, 2008

Ugly Like Me

One of the impressions that the Dutch - if not all Europeans - have of Americans is that we are insincere.

At first, this struck me as odd. I find Americans much "warmer" and touchy-feely than the Dutch. I think we are more expressive, talkative and friendlier.

Then it hit me. That's what makes us so insincere. Think about it. We say "how are you?" whenever we see someone, and expect "fine, how are YOU?" instead of a litany of their woes. It's become more of a rhetorical question to us, but to people for whom English is a second language, it seems like we really DON'T care how they are unless it's "fine."

Also, we exaggerate like crazy. Think of all the hyperbole we use every day. We're always saying things like "This is the best ice cream EVER!" and "I HATE when that happens!" and "Those are the prettiest flowers I've ever seen" and "I literally had a heart attack" (no you didn't. You figuratively had a heart attack, but that's another rant.)

Not to mention we say things to soften the blow and be polite, whereas Dutch people would simply tell the truth. If you ask an American friend if you look fat in your outfit, she'll say something like "I don't know. Turn around... Well, maybe it's not the best color on you. I think you look fine, but maybe you should change if you don't feel comfortable." Ask a Dutch friend the same question and she'll say "Yes. Wear something else."

How many times have you said something like "Oh, we should get together for lunch every week," or "we should do this again sometime," or "I'll call you" and then actually followed through? Dutch people would think of that as your having lied to them. They would never say any of those things unless they were planning on putting it in their schedule.

So the bottom line is that we think we are being nice, but everyone else thinks we're just a bunch of lying drama queens. I kinda think we're both.

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