Hi friends, how are you today?
The topic we’re about to talk today might be one of my favorites: Daily etiquette.
Meaning as in how you are expected to behave in public space according to the norms of the country and its culture you’re living in. I’ve had an interesting conversation with my international friends about that last week and found it just so interesting that even a seemingly simple act of greeting someone can be interpreted and done SO differently depending on where you live. One of my favorite examples was that in South Korea male friends go walking around the city holding hands, same goes for friends who go out with their female friends. Isn’t that interesting? Or how kissing (or the lack thereof) as a form of greeting is so different in every country?
This is also one that always greatly confuses me as I go on to kiss people on the cheeks three times here and they look at me even more confused (I ALWAYS forget, it’s a reflex, trained over so many years). Swiss people seem to be into kissing.
Anyways, I’ve compiled some of the things that struck me as most different in daily life etiquette as compared to Switzerland. Let’s go!
The art of sneezing correctly
It’s been cold in winter (very cold), there’s the allergies going on right now (damn you pollen), in conclusion:
People sneeze a lot around here.
It happens, like anywhere else actually (maybe I’m making too big a deal out of it) but I find that people are way more considerate when sneezing than in Switzerland. I tell you how it goes: You’re sitting in the T (the Bostonian subway) and someone next to you sneezes into his elbow (important detail, he/she doesn’t just sneeze into the open air, no no). Anyways, what surprised me the most was that people actually apologize and will say something along the lines of “excuse me”, “sorry”. And I’m like?
Whoa, you don’t have to apologize for sneezing but ok.
Holding doors open
This one I find is really nice. Be it in the T stations, in restaurants, the library or anywhere where there aren’t automatic doors, people WILL HOLD THE DOOR for you. YES. Like really. They will wait and hold it open if they see you behind them. That’s a whole other level of politeness as compared to Switzerland (where I at least) find that people tend to do that less. Also, if you hold the door, people will ALWAYS say thank you. ALWAYS.
Politeness seems to be the red thread throughout this post, doesn’t it? The conclusion being that Americans really try and be very polite (when they’re in public space at least). During rush hours and when the T and busses are super busy and people need to get off, they will always politely say “Excuse me”.
Keep your distance
When two Americans are standing and talking to each other they stay at least 16 inches (aka 40 cm) away from each other (I’ve read that somewhere. How do they find that out in the first place?!), farther away than is customary in many other cultures it seems. An American may feel threatened if you come too close. They should go to a Southern European country, would they like that?