The title refers to this nice song, here by Jonathon Richman.
One of the things a person learns when they travel is that people act differently in other countries. Actually, we know this before we go, but then when one is in another country, there is the inevitable comparison with one’s own country.
For example, the other day I was reminded after running into some women from Bolivia that in South America they kiss hello and goodbye on the cheek. I remember I always liked that. And they invite you to their homes, and they don’t think twice about it.
In Russia, the other place I spent a bit of time, they don’t smile at you as you walk down the sidewalk as a sign of goodwill. If a person goes around smiling in Russia, one runs the risk of having people think that you are slightly unhinged. They DO, however, invite you to their homes without hesitation, particularly in the countryside. And they do look sharp on the street, none of this walking around with bedhead and sweatpants and Birkenstocks. Russians are very VERY self possessed and self controlled.
And so then back in the states, its different too. Here, people smile if you smile at them, they might ask how’s it goin (even if they don’t really care what the answer is). They wear whatever on the street, sometimes crazy stuff, and they definately don’t kiss, unless they are in love. And men are not allowed to go walking with your arm around another man, because the rules here in US is that’s not okay (ridiculous, but that seems to be the rule).
And here in the states, people are as friendly as can be on the street alot of the time, at least here in the PacNW that tends to be the way. However, if you are from a different country and you are hoping to meet some new friends, lots of luck. Shucks, if you move from another place, lots of luck.
While Americans are just as friendly as getout, they probably will not invite you to their homes unless you are coming with people they already know. It’s not me saying this, it is me as a person who has read all sorts of books about culture and has been in other spots that can say this is really true. So good luck making American friends, you will have to have a sort of “in”. A class, a group meeting of some sort, a shared work environment and even those are no guarantees.
Since we have just moved to a newer town, guess what? That’s right, all our friends are in the other place we lived before, Portland. And it is hard to make friends. I get a little uncomfortable. My social skills get pretty obviously strained. Like my smile.
One cannot force a friendship.
I think of my friend Leslie who seems to make friends the minute she touches ground in a new town. She is rather amazing to me actually. She will never have a shortage of friends. The beautifulest thing about Leslie (yes that is a word) is that she will never write you off if you say some random weird thing. She will just blink and maybe ask you a ridiculous question to match the thing you said.
So, here we are, and with full knowledge that the only way to make friends is to #1 be a friend and #2 be patient, I miss places like Russia and Ecuador where people understand that friendships are like money…valuable always.