Dispatches from Suburbia

If I played an instrument, I would have a band called "The Simon Thomsen Sex Tape"; and other musings, rants, and disconnected ramblings.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Americans are boring

“My driving abilities from Mexico have helped me get through Hollywood.”

-Salma Hayek

I've left the country only twice. The first time, I visited magnificent Costa Rica; and recently, Kim and I went to beautiful San Carlos, Mexico (the two-pronged mountain I'm pointing at is known to the locals as "the tits.")

I know little to no Spanish, which doesn't help in the two foreign countries I've visited. With my pale skin, blonde hair, and blue eyes, I also stuck out pretty bad. That's not to say I didn't have a blast on the two trips--I just wish I'd paid a little more attention in the three years of Spanish that I took in high school.

As many of us have probably heard, one should visit a foreign country at least once in their lifetime. It's a surefire way to broaden your horizons. What I find amazing in the south-of-the-border countries I've been to is the shockingly personable nature of the people. They aren't nearly as concerned about making a good impression as they are about making friends and spreading good cheer. Americans, on the other hand, are more concerned with their recent text message than they are about the current conversation they might be having with you (I threw away my cell phone about a year ago. I know nobody who needs theirs as badly as they say they do).

In Guaymas, we needed groceries, and in the parking lot the jovial attendant stopped to say something about the weather. The conversation was full of laughs and smiles, and though I haven't a clue what he said, the conversation was a breath of fresh air. And I'm pretty sure that everything he said was good-natured and nothing, hopefully, snide about tourists. Pretty sure.

I'm sure even Mexicans and Costa Ricans have their off days and don't always feel like being friendly. We all do. But in these countries, at least it seemed to me, when people are in a fine mood or are in the mood to converse, it's acceptable for them to speak to, God forbid, somebody they've never spoken to. Maybe I was lucky, and being exceptionally nice to a tourist is common practice, but that's better than nothing. Here in the states, anybody with darker skin or a funny accent is somehow a threat to our jobs or national security.

We're raised never to speak to strangers. Ok, the fear is, at times, somewhat reasonable (when it comes to kidnappings). But where's the harm in a simple hello, especially from one adult to another? Shouldn't it be difficult not to trust somebody who has never given you a reason to distrust them? I like giving folks the benefit of the doubt. I'm not saying I'd take just anybody to my apartment or loan them my car, but there's no harm in getting to know a person.

We're way too afraid of outsiders. Give me a break. Everybody needs to travel to a foreign land at least once in their lifetime, and while they're there, they ought to examine how the locals react to a foreign presence.


At 6:06 AM, Blogger Laura said...

It is a shame that people aren't more friendly in the U.S. I think the problem is worse in the cities than in small towns though. When I go up north, people say hello as you pass them on the street, they talk to you in the stores and stuff like that. Then after being up there awhile, I come back to the city, pass someone on the street, say hello, and get a look like I'm from outer space.

At 8:09 AM, Blogger Bird on a Wire said...

That's true. Both my parents grew up in small towns, and the dynamic there is far different than in the city.


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