We are loud. I mean, as Americans, we are just loud. Whether we are in a public or private place, you can pick out an American by sheer volume. It’s not something I have been very proud of as I have traveled abroad. It is something that I have tried to suppress and have laughed at those “dumb tourists” who are more yelling than talking while they walk down the street.
A wise woman once said to me, “You can take the girl out of the country, but you can’t take the country out of the girl.” Being loud is something I guess hasn’t left my still very American blood. Hence, my first cultural blunder:
Five days ago I moved into my new house and job. I have been settling in quickly and really love the family. Because we are both trying to figure out this whole living together thing, there are a few kinks that still need to be worked out. I have sketchy internet access in my room, for example. Thus, after planning a skype date with a friend, I found myself sitting downstairs, in the kitchen rather than my room, skyping with said friend. Skyping loudly and blissfully unaware. For an hour and a half.
Now, this new house is gorgeous, huge, and everything echoes. The ceilings are the kind that if there were 1 ½ of you, you could maybe touch them. And of course, being a European home, there is no carpet, adding to the general reverberation of sound waves throughout the first floor. Ah, the blessings of being a very, very loud American.
My poor host mom had her sister over and they were talking in the living room. Yup, you got it, my Americaness was reverberating all the way to the living room, interrupting what polite conversation they might have been having. Needless to say, my host mom came in after I was done and let me know that, in France, it is considered bad manners to have a private conversation in a public manner. She said that it was probably a culture thing, and I would have to say, she is probably right. It did not even cross my mind that I was having a loud, obnoxious, and intruding conversation in the midst of her home.
What also is interesting to me is that, the night where I stayed at Danielle’s house and had supper with Vanessa and Philip (mentioned in a previous post), I skyped in the house with my nieces. Afterwards, Philip mentioned that they heard me loudly talking with my family. Their guest gave me a disapproving look that I didn’t know quite how to interpret at the time. Now, it all seems to fall into place that I was being rude in that instance as well, interrupting their conversation and get together by having my own personal conversation in a public setting (at a rather loud decibel).
Ah, how fascinating and humbling to be reminded that, as much as I like to think that I am culturally sensitive and aware, there are still things that I do not know nor completely understand. It is also nice to be reminded that my homeland is still a part of me, even, or especially, the loud and obnoxious parts. Also reminds me that there are always new things to learn, new things to explore, new people to learn how to connect with, and that, although uncomfortable, messing up is a lot of times the best way to learn. Here’s to blunders, to saying and doing the wrong thing, and to not being perfect, especially because nobody is.
Happy messing up and learning in the process!