Three weeks ago I came home from a wonderful month traveling nine Southern states in the US. We got to enjoy so many places, listen to a lot of great music, eat amazing food and – last, but certainly not least – meet a lot of wonderful people.
What I really enjoyed was how friendly people were. I know a lot of you follow this blog because you`re interested in Scandinavia and some of you may have a romantic image of this area and the people living here. Let me tell you – there is absolutely no need to be romantic about us because we`re a bunch of insufferable, ill-mannered grouches.
I just love your pink hat
On our vacation total strangers would come over to talk to us, ask us where we came from or just make conversation. A lady in Savannah shouted at me from her house across the street, “I just LOVE your pink hat,” and she wasn`t even being sarcastic (I loved my pink hat too and that woman just made my day 🙂 ). We had great conversations with a lot of interesting people who would tell us about their lives, their neighbors or just little things like where we could find the best clarinetist in the streets of New Orleans.
And in the shops and restaurants; it was a dream. They would joke with us, give us great advice and generally treat us like people. We`re just not used to that and now I find myself missing it.
Shopping in Norway
Let me tell you how shopping is around here: We went to buy a hedge plant because one of our hedge plants had died while we were on vacation. We went to a place where they usually have all kinds of plants but we just couldn`t find the right plant. So I went ask one of the people who worked there if she could help me. Without replying she walked out to where the plant was supposed to be and I followed her. After a while she stopped and stared at a box where there were no plants. The she looked at me and said, “We`re out.” And then she walked away.
If I hadn`t just been traveling around in a country where people would never just say “We`re out,” but would add, “Because it`s out of season,” or, “We`ll have new ones in next week,” or just, “I`m sorry,” I wouldn`t have noticed it because that`s the service you get around here.
Talking to strangers
Same goes with strangers talking to you. If someone, who is not your relative or friend, talks to you in the street you can be pretty sure he or she is:
2, Not local
3, A child
It`s really sad.
Oh, I should add a fourth. People will also talk to strangers if they want to correct you. They will tell you to be quiet if you`re loud or to stop playing football if you`re not allowed to play football there. And this was what happened to me today. For the first time since I got home from my trip to the US, a stranger talked to me.
Pick up poop with your hands
The reason? He wanted to tell me that I had to pick up after my dog. When I told him my dog had pooped under a shrubbery where no one would ever walk (my dog is really bashful when he has to go – he always chooses to go under trees or bushes where no one can see him. Which also means that no one will ever see or step in his poop), he said that I should pick it up with my hands if I didn`t have a bag (I did but I figured the shrubbery would benefit from some fertilizer instead of me adding to the garbage piles).
If you asked me right now, and offered me a job too (with health insurance, thank you very much, I`m too used to free hospitals and doctors), I might very well say yes to moving over to one of the states we visited. Yes, I would probably have a huge cultural shock but nothing could be worse than the grumpiness I`m feeling right now. And I`m not talking about other peoples` grumpiness now. I`m talking about my own. Because I`ve become a grumpy oldish woman longing for her Paradise lost.
I want to talk to strangers
I want to talk to strangers, I want to have little chats with the cashier at the supermarket and I want to not look the other way when I stand next to someone at the bus stop. And this should be read in a really whiny voice.
I told my colleagues about all this and they said, as people around here always do when we talk about how open people in other countries are, “It`s SO superficial – they don`t mean anything by their small chats.” But then one colleague raised his voice. “It`s better to be superficial and friendly than just superficial.” He`s lived in Minnesota and his two sons still live there and he knows the American way pretty well.
Indeed. We like to think that we`re sooooo deep just because we`re quiet. We`re not deep. We`re just impolite.
And I`m a grumpy woman suffering from post-vacation blues.