Having lived in the US for 17 years, we should assume that now I should know the etiquettes and behavior local to here.
Nah! Not so much. I am better now than what I was 17 years ago, but still learning. 17 years ago if a stranger told me hello, I would stop say hi and then engage in a conversation. Mind you not just a casual conversation but asking the person if he knew me etc. etc. Now I have learned. This is the only country in the world where strangers wave and acknowledge your presence. I tried telling hi to people in Paris-and got glared back. Lesson learnt.
In the grocery store, I am still learning. If someone is near my shelf of wanted goods, I would try to squeeze in to get my stuff. And I have heard a rude “excuse me!” I have learnt that excuse me isn’t polite, locales say “excuse me” when they are upset. Upset, that I should have given a sign of needing those things from that particular shelf, instead of squeezing through. I am hoping I have learnt, but still a long curve ahead.
It’s not just the physical space that I need to learn. My Indian privacy boundaries are very different from locales here. If a locale at the gym shared how bad her day is going. I have not learnt to politely nod and mutter some inane comment. I would be curious to know what is it that has made her day so bad, is it her kids, or husband or job. Till I see a silent roll of eyes, I don’t get the cues. Still learning, the small talk and the curve looks steep.
Few years ago a friend of mine who works at a childcare got called for reprehension by the authorities. She had told one of the mothers that her twins are very “naughty”. In her mind she was complimenting the mom. But, actually the mom had taken offence. Because being called naughty here does not have a positive connotation. What she meant was that her twins were cute and friendly. Authorities told her to use the right words. Lesson learnt.
I am sure many of you have experiences similar to this. Please share yours.