Europeans and Small Talk or Lack Thereof

  • Thread starter eNtRopY
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In summary, the conversation discusses the differences between American and European culture in terms of small talk and conversation. The initial speaker shares their dislike for the lack of conversation in Europe while others mention that it may be due to cultural differences or a language barrier. The conversation also touches on the stereotype of Europeans having no culture and the idea that Americans tend to fill conversations with small talk. The topic of Finnish culture is also brought up, with some participants discussing the beauty of Finnish girls and the leisurely lifestyle. Overall, the conversation highlights the differences in communication styles between Americans and Europeans.
  • #36
Originally posted by Monique
The thing that irritates me is the lack of interest. How are you doing? Good. Good. It's crazy. It happened once in the museum, someone walks up to another and it was clear they hadn't seen each other in a long time: HI! How are you doing? Good, how about you? Good, yes, good. Good. And they went their separate ways. What to do in a museum, you have a press conference to attent? Your quarterly presentation is on in two minutes? It shockes me. But again, other culture other standars, other customs. If they are fine with it, that is their thing. If you don't like it, find another place that suits you, so that is exactly what I will be doing. Problem solved.

The real problem is that you just don't understand the meaning behind the words.

When I am in the states, every morning I walk into my school and see my fellow collegues, I always say, hey, how's it going? Usually they answer back with good to which I reply that's great, and then I simply carry on with my day.

Where exactly is the problem?

I am being courteous in that I am acknowledging the existence of people I know, and I am being polite enough to make sure that they are not having any problems. When an American asks someone How's it going?, What's up?, or How are you doing?, what he/she means is Are you still okay? I will assume so unless you tell me otherwise. It's not that we are insincere. We're actually quite sincere, but at the same time we are realistic. If someone is willing to offer a piece of personal information about themselves then, I believe, most Americans will respect that.

Here is a good example. One day I saw an acquaintence and naturally said, Hi, how's it going? She replied with Bad. I just found out I won't be able to declare the biochemistry major. She was quite upset; so, I took a moment to comfort her. Obviously, I didn't have to stay there and listen to her problems, but I think that any American would consider a blantant display of insincerity to be quite rude.

eNtRopY
 
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  • #37
But do you not find that when someone does say that they are feling bad you are surprised by there answer. Normally when i ask someone how are they feeling i don't expect them to come back at me with "no I am not my dog died this morning after running it over whilst failing my driving test". You just don't expect that, because people tend not too let others know how they feel unless they are good friends with that person.
 
  • #38
Originally posted by Andy
[After a long pause in their conversation]
Mia Wallace: Don't you hate that?
Vincent Vega: Hate what?
Mia Wallace: Uncomfortable silences.

Mia: Why do we feel it's necessary to yak about bull**** in order to become comfortable?

This is the cmdr was getting at, apparently Americans feel the need to yak about bull****, whereas most europeans don't feel the need to ruin a good meal by talking and letting it get cold.

Yes, I know the reference. I saw the movie a million times before you were even born.

The situation I have previously described involved just me, a European girl, two glasses, and a bottle of red wine. There was no meal. Like I've already said, it's easy to talk about cutting the crap, but when you actually experience a long uncomfortable silence, that's another story.

So, perhaps Americans like to have some constant form of communication with each other just to know that the other person is still paying attention. Perhaps, the situation is similar to the telecommunications concept of handshaking. I think that Americans value good conversation, but when there are periods of silence, they don't want to loose that data channel. I'm not entirely sure.

Here's my question for you Europeans who are obviously above relating to another human being...

If I wanted to go to a bar and drink wine in silence, then why would I bother to do that with another human being? Am I not capable of not talking to someone all by myself?

eNtRopY
 
  • #39
Originally posted by Andy
But do you not find that when someone does say that they are feling bad you are surprised by there answer. Normally when i ask someone how are they feeling i don't expect them to come back at me with "no I am not my dog died this morning after running it over whilst failing my driving test". You just don't expect that, because people tend not too let others know how they feel unless they are good friends with that person.

No. Like I said, if someone tells me that he/she is truely not okay then I will take the time to do what I can to make that person feel better. I don't care how well I know (or do not know) that person, if someone confides in me with his/her personal feelings, I will show that person respect out of courtesy. And, I don't think that I am the only American who feels this way. Granted, I think most Americans would be shocked if someone they hardly knew made him/herself emotionally vulnerable by telling of his/her true problems, but I also think that most Americans would not be so disrespectful as to openly show disinterest in the other person's situation.

eNtRopY
 
  • #40
Originally posted by eNtRopY
The real problem is that you just don't understand the meaning behind the words.

When I am in the states, every morning I walk into my school and see my fellow collegues, I always say, hey, how's it going? Usually they answer back with good to which I reply that's great, and then I simply carry on with my day.

Where exactly is the problem?

I am being courteous in that I am acknowledging the existence of people I know, and I am being polite enough to make sure that they are not having any problems. When an American asks someone How's it going?, What's up?, or How are you doing?, what he/she means is Are you still okay? I will assume so unless you tell me otherwise. It's not that we are insincere. We're actually quite sincere, but at the same time we are realistic. If someone is willing to offer a piece of personal information about themselves then, I believe, most Americans will respect that.

Here is a good example. One day I saw an acquaintence and naturally said, Hi, how's it going? She replied with Bad. I just found out I won't be able to declare the biochemistry major. She was quite upset; so, I took a moment to comfort her. Obviously, I didn't have to stay there and listen to her problems, but I think that any American would consider a blantant display of insincerity to be quite rude.

eNtRopY

That is what I mean by cultural differences, I expect a different approach to a greeting. I actually had a lot of problems with that expression upon coming to the States, where people would just throw around that expression of 'how are you doing'. I still don't really know whether I should inquire to the cashier how they are doing if they ask me, while I am paying the bill.

Gererally in the Netherlands I feel that there is the following rule: the person who asks how another person is doing initiates a conversation and should make further inquiries on the affairs of the other person. The weather, work, the train that was late again. Otherwise you say goodmorning or just hoi, leaving it up to the other person to make an inquiry. Other nationalities might find that rude, so to quote the great thinker: it is all relative and it depends on the frame of the observer :)

So what I meant here is: you shouldn't HAVE to make yourself vulnerable by answering the question of how are you doing by saying not good. If the other person asks small talk first, the real state of mind will be revealed.

And Entropy, I regard myself as a very quite person, I can listen to a person with great attention and might not say much but be very interested. I don't feel that silences are awkward.. depending on the person who I am with ofcourse. But I have always felt that that is a very atypical dutch characteristic, where dutch people are very lifely and talk with much vigor. People here in the States have characterised me as having an Asian character, because of my gentle nature.

So what I am saying is: I don't think that dutch people would fall in your category of boring talkers (me neither by the way, depending on the situation).
 
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