Etiquette Hell

General Etiquette => Life...in general => Topic started by: Teenyweeny on August 19, 2013, 03:44:21 AM

Title: Talking to Strangers: Imposing your values onto others
Post by: Teenyweeny on August 19, 2013, 03:44:21 AM
I was recently at an event where I got chatting to an American man (I'm in the UK), and he mentioned that he didn't like how people here don't talk to each other as much as he is used to (N.B. I am aware that this is very regional, I have been to NYC :). ).

To this end, he strikes up conversations in pubs, on train platforms, etc, etc. I jokingly said to him, "Hey, you'll get deported if you carry on like that. Don't you know that that sort of thing is practically against the law?"

He replied that he didn't care, he thought these interactions brought a little bit of joy into the world, and he would keep on having them.

The problem is that strangers talking to each other is not a cultural norm in every part of the UK that I have ever lived in (of course, there will be exceptions). I don't mean that people are cold to each other, quite the opposite! But strangers do not typically make small talk with each other. In fact, I (and most people I know) would be made pretty uncomfortable by a stranger talking to me.

This chap reckons he gets away with it because he's American, and everyone knows that Americans are 'like that' (so you guys have a nice ambassador here, that's for sure). He think that it doesn't hurt to try to be friendly.

I think that you don't get to impose your values on other people like that (the caveat being that of course I'm talking about situations where nobody is being hurt or oppressed), and that to try to do so is rude, because you're making others uncomfortable.

Who is right?

Title: Re: Talking to Strangers: Imposing your values onto others
Post by: squashedfrog on August 19, 2013, 03:55:21 AM
To be honest I live in the uk and the only place I've ever found that people don't talk to others is London. 

I think it's not rude, people don't have to have a conversation with him or anyone else if they don't want to.
Title: Re: Talking to Strangers: Imposing your values onto others
Post by: Teenyweeny on August 19, 2013, 04:01:39 AM
To be honest I live in the uk and the only place I've ever found that people don't talk to others is London. 

I think it's not rude, people don't have to have a conversation with him or anyone else if they don't want to.

Interesting! I've lived in many parts of the UK, and been to many others, and I've never encountered strangers routinely chatting on public transport etc. I should be clear, those are the types of chats I'm talking about. Small talk, between two people who have absolutely no reason to talk to each other (nobody is asking a question, they aren't making a transaction, etc). I don't mean that everybody shuffles around in silence!

I have had people try to talk to me (once in a blue moon), and it always makes me uncomfortable. I don't have to talk to them, true, but trying to communicate that politely whilst remaining on the bus is a minefield! :)
Title: Re: Talking to Strangers: Imposing your values onto others
Post by: perpetua on August 19, 2013, 04:10:14 AM

This chap reckons he gets away with it because he's American, and everyone knows that Americans are 'like that' (so you guys have a nice ambassador here, that's for sure). He think that it doesn't hurt to try to be friendly.

Yes, and people like him are why people roll their eyes at American tourists in my part of the world, sadly.

He's being very rude if he's where I think he is (London). If not technically rude, then very definitely extremely annoying. When in Rome, and all that.

There are of course places in the UK where smalltalk is the norm, but there are ways and means of going about it. "Hi, I'm Bob from California!" as your opener isn't one of them. Here's an interesting passage from Passport To The Pub, a guide to British pub etiquette (worth a look here: http://www.sirc.org/publik/pub.html) Some of it is a bit tongue in cheek but the sentiment is spot on.

Quote

How to introduce yourself

Donít ever introduce yourself. The "Hi, Iím Chuck from Alabama" approach does not go down well in British pubs. Natives will cringe and squirm with embarrassment at such brashness. If your introduction is accompanied by a beaming smile and outstretched hand, they will probably find an excuse to get away from you as quickly as possible. Sorry, but thatís how it is. The British quite frankly do not want to know your name, or shake your hand - or at least not until a proper degree of mutual interest has been well established (like maybe when you marry their daughter). You will have to adopt a more subtle, less demonstrative approach.

Start with a comment about the weather, or a simple question about the beer, the pub, the town, other pubs in the area etc. Do not speak too loudly, and keep your tone and manner light and casual rather than serious or intense. The object is to Ďdriftí gradually into conversation, as though by accident. If the person seems happy to chat with you - giving longish answers, asking questions in return, maintaining eye-contact, etc. - you should still curb any urges to introduce yourself. Instead, offer a drink, but avoid using the word Ďbuyí: say "Can I get you a drink?" or "Can I get you another?".

Eventually, there may be an opportunity to exchange names, providing this can be achieved in a casual, unforced manner, although it is best to wait for your new acquaintance to take the initiative. If you come to the end of a long friendly evening without having introduced yourselves, and this makes you very uncomfortable, you may say on parting: "Nice to meet you, er - oh, I didnít catch your name?", as though you have only just noticed the omission. Your companion should then enlighten you, and you may now, at last, introduce yourself: "Iím Chuck, by the way". Yes, this may feel a bit like having the soup at the end of the meal. The subtleties of pub etiquette are an acquired taste.


Title: Re: Talking to Strangers: Imposing your values onto others
Post by: Thipu1 on August 19, 2013, 05:47:38 AM
We haven't noticed much difference between NYC and London.  We have noticed that, both in the UK and the USA, people living away from major cities tend to be more chatty.  Perhaps it's the novelty of seeing a new face in the neighborhood. 

To be frank, if a stranger walked up to me, stuck out his hand and announced, 'Hi.  I'm Joe Jones', I would be tempted to think he was running for office. 

Title: Re: Talking to Strangers: Imposing your values onto others
Post by: veryfluffy on August 19, 2013, 05:52:25 AM
He replied that he didn't care, he thought these interactions brought a little bit of joy into the world, and he would keep on having them.

Maybe they bring joy to his world, but if they make other people uncomfortable or irritated, then then he is being rather arrogant and self-indulgent. "Well, they should like talking to complete strangers like me instead of sitting there with their own thoughts!"
Title: Re: Talking to Strangers: Imposing your values onto others
Post by: Cherry91 on August 19, 2013, 06:13:46 AM
As another UK citizen (who's moved around a fair bit) I think it really depends on the individuals and the context. If I have my headphones in, I'm not going to want to talk to anyone, but this weekend in London, a friend and I got into a lovely conversation with a family about the football results. But I do agree that in London, many people do just want to get on their way.
Title: Re: Talking to Strangers: Imposing your values onto others
Post by: Sharnita on August 19, 2013, 06:18:34 AM
I have had tourists from the UK visiting the US make small talk with me. I think you don't force your company on obvoiusly resistant people but don't think it is wrong to put out a feeler.
Title: Re: Talking to Strangers: Imposing your values onto others
Post by: Hmmmmm on August 19, 2013, 06:24:57 AM

This chap reckons he gets away with it because he's American, and everyone knows that Americans are 'like that' (so you guys have a nice ambassador here, that's for sure). He think that it doesn't hurt to try to be friendly.

Yes, and people like him are why people roll their eyes at American tourists in my part of the world, sadly.

He's being very rude if he's where I think he is (London). If not technically rude, then very definitely extremely annoying. When in Rome, and all that.

There are of course places in the UK where smalltalk is the norm, but there are ways and means of going about it. "Hi, I'm Bob from California!" as your opener isn't one of them. Here's an interesting passage from Passport To The Pub, a guide to British pub etiquette (worth a look here: http://www.sirc.org/publik/pub.html) Some of it is a bit tongue in cheek but the sentiment is spot on.

Quote

How to introduce yourself

Donít ever introduce yourself. The "Hi, Iím Chuck from Alabama" approach does not go down well in British pubs. Natives will cringe and squirm with embarrassment at such brashness. If your introduction is accompanied by a beaming smile and outstretched hand, they will probably find an excuse to get away from you as quickly as possible. Sorry, but thatís how it is. The British quite frankly do not want to know your name, or shake your hand - or at least not until a proper degree of mutual interest has been well established (like maybe when you marry their daughter). You will have to adopt a more subtle, less demonstrative approach.

Start with a comment about the weather, or a simple question about the beer, the pub, the town, other pubs in the area etc. Do not speak too loudly, and keep your tone and manner light and casual rather than serious or intense. The object is to Ďdriftí gradually into conversation, as though by accident. If the person seems happy to chat with you - giving longish answers, asking questions in return, maintaining eye-contact, etc. - you should still curb any urges to introduce yourself. Instead, offer a drink, but avoid using the word Ďbuyí: say "Can I get you a drink?" or "Can I get you another?".

Eventually, there may be an opportunity to exchange names, providing this can be achieved in a casual, unforced manner, although it is best to wait for your new acquaintance to take the initiative. If you come to the end of a long friendly evening without having introduced yourselves, and this makes you very uncomfortable, you may say on parting: "Nice to meet you, er - oh, I didnít catch your name?", as though you have only just noticed the omission. Your companion should then enlighten you, and you may now, at last, introduce yourself: "Iím Chuck, by the way". Yes, this may feel a bit like having the soup at the end of the meal. The subtleties of pub etiquette are an acquired taste.

I've lived in large US cities, small one and small towns all across the states. I've travelled for pleasure (frequently alone) or work to over 40 states and the majority of Canadian provinces. I'm pretty friendly and accepting of chatting in public places and enjoy pleasent exchanges with strangers i may never see again. But I have never had anyone approach me by immediately introducing themselves. That would be a very odd introduction. in my experience the the norm is the gradual drift as described. Even when encountering another American in a foreign country, no one seems to start with their name and state as the first sentence. If they did my response would be "Ok, why do I need to know that?"

I think the only thing this man needs to be aware of is whether the person he is trying to chat with is receptive. If not he should stop.
Title: Re: Talking to Strangers: Imposing your values onto others
Post by: Piratelvr1121 on August 19, 2013, 06:32:46 AM
Hey I'm an American and even in America there are plenty of times I just prefer to be lost in my own thoughts and am not feeling very chatty.   When I'm in the mood I can be chatty but I'd be annoyed by this guy too, insisting on chatting with people and calling others rude for just not being in the mood to converse.
Title: Re: Talking to Strangers: Imposing your values onto others
Post by: Teenyweeny on August 19, 2013, 06:36:32 AM
Hey I'm an American and even in America there are plenty of times I just prefer to be lost in my own thoughts and am not feeling very chatty.   When I'm in the mood I can be chatty but I'd be annoyed by this guy too, insisting on chatting with people and calling others rude for just not being in the mood to converse.

I should be clear, he doesn't call them rude. He just mentioned he doesn't like that most people don't act like he does.

I guess I just assume that everyone else's default is 'does not want to chat', since that's mine (and that of most people I know). I almost feel like I should do a survey!

ETA: Created a poll! http://www.etiquettehell.com/smf/index.php?topic=129539.0
Title: Re: Talking to Strangers: Imposing your values onto others
Post by: magician5 on August 19, 2013, 07:09:29 AM
If you put yourself in public, there's no avoiding the possibility that someone will address you or even attempt to strike up an idle conversation. As an adult, it's your choice whether or not to engage in the interchange. But I don't think it's "imposing someone's cultural standards on you" to have a person say "top o' the morning" or even "how 'bout Manchester United?"

I'm sure there must be a thousand polite but effective ways to indicate lack of interest: giving only minimal responses ("mm-hmmm"), turning away, moving ("I have to go freshen my drink"), and so much more.
Title: Re: Talking to Strangers: Imposing your values onto others
Post by: cabbageweevil on August 19, 2013, 07:29:21 AM
There are of course places in the UK where smalltalk is the norm, but there are ways and means of going about it. "Hi, I'm Bob from California!" as your opener isn't one of them. Here's an interesting passage from Passport To The Pub, a guide to British pub etiquette (worth a look here: http://www.sirc.org/publik/pub.html) Some of it is a bit tongue in cheek but the sentiment is spot on.

Quote

How to introduce yourself

Donít ever introduce yourself. The "Hi, Iím Chuck from Alabama" approach does not go down well in British pubs. Natives will cringe and squirm with embarrassment at such brashness. If your introduction is accompanied by a beaming smile and outstretched hand, they will probably find an excuse to get away from you as quickly as possible. Sorry, but thatís how it is. The British quite frankly do not want to know your name, or shake your hand - or at least not until a proper degree of mutual interest has been well established (like maybe when you marry their daughter). You will have to adopt a more subtle, less demonstrative approach.
 

Perhaps going a little bit OT; but, a thought prompted by the (not-recommended) "Bob from California", "Chuck from Alabama" approach. I've read that during World War 2, with the huge number of US armed forces personnel in Britain over several years, the two nations' different ways -- American outgoing-ness, British reserve -- often led to a degree of awkwardness. Something which particularly baffled the Brits, was the Americans' frequent declaring -- and inquiring of each other -- what part of the USA they were from. With the British being (then, perhaps, more markedly than now) a reserved folk, putting a high value on privacy; the American "I'm from... where are you from?" stuff just seemed strange to the islanders. Between Britishers, a strong interest -- on short acquaintance -- in where people hailed from, would have felt inappropriate, and almost offensively inquisitive. Many Brits ended up concluding that Americans had a weird obsession with geography !
Title: Re: Talking to Strangers: Imposing your values onto others
Post by: Sharnita on August 19, 2013, 07:37:54 AM
Another observstion - as somebody who.grew up in a smallish tourist town that drew a ton of visitors, it is fine to feel bit reserved but the reality is that visitors who feel welcomed appreciated spend more money which is adventageous to everyone in the long run.
Title: Re: Talking to Strangers: Imposing your values onto others
Post by: Thipu1 on August 19, 2013, 07:44:25 AM
When we were in the UK last fall, we were approached a number of times by local people for a conversation.  Of course, there were extenuating circumstances.  They had heard us talking to each other, could tell we were American and were curious about Superstorm Sandy. 

Several times in the 1980s, we took holidays on the canals.  Foreigners on a self-catering narrow boat were a real curiosity and the local people were very friendly and helpful.  Since we shared a common interest, conversation was easy and natural. 

The only time I would walk up to a stranger and introduce myself would be at a house party of a friend.  Even there, a decent host would have made the I productions to people I didn't already know. 
Title: Re: Talking to Strangers: Imposing your values onto others
Post by: perpetua on August 19, 2013, 08:14:00 AM
If you put yourself in public, there's no avoiding the possibility that someone will address you or even attempt to strike up an idle conversation. As an adult, it's your choice whether or not to engage in the interchange. But I don't think it's "imposing someone's cultural standards on you" to have a person say "top o' the morning" or even "how 'bout Manchester United?"

You're right, but from the info in the OP that isn't what he's doing. He's saying "I don't like it that people in this country don't talk to each other, so I'm going to talk to them whether they like it or not".

Just talking to someone isn't rude in and of itself. But he *is* being rude in his insistence that he will continue to do it even after he's had it pointed out to him that it isn't the cultural norm and a lot of people find it uncomfortable in the place he's doing it.

He's also implying that it's OK to impose his cultural values on those from another country just because he's an American. That's astoundingly arrogant.
Title: Re: Talking to Strangers: Imposing your values onto others
Post by: Thipu1 on August 19, 2013, 08:28:14 AM
I never thought about it before but Americans DO seem to be somewhat obsessed with geography.  On cruises, before exchanging names, a common question is,'Where are you good folks from?'. 

Like 'Hi.  I'm Joe from Alabama.', it can be an opener for interesting conversation if both parties are aware of it as such.  Otherwise, it can seem intrusive even though it's meant in the most innocent way. 
Title: Re: Talking to Strangers: Imposing your values onto others
Post by: LadyL on August 19, 2013, 08:32:09 AM
Perhaps going a little bit OT; but, a thought prompted by the (not-recommended) "Bob from California", "Chuck from Alabama" approach. I've read that during World War 2, with the huge number of US armed forces personnel in Britain over several years, the two nations' different ways -- American outgoing-ness, British reserve -- often led to a degree of awkwardness. Something which particularly baffled the Brits, was the Americans' frequent declaring -- and inquiring of each other -- what part of the USA they were from. With the British being (then, perhaps, more markedly than now) a reserved folk, putting a high value on privacy; the American "I'm from... where are you from?" stuff just seemed strange to the islanders. Between Britishers, a strong interest -- on short acquaintance -- in where people hailed from, would have felt inappropriate, and almost offensively inquisitive. Many Brits ended up concluding that Americans had a weird obsession with geography !

I wonder how much of this is lack of awareness of just how big the U.S. actually is. England is approximately the size of Ohio. In a country as large as ours there are serious regional differences in culture, nearly as striking as the differences between some countries in Europe. Would a Brit find it odd to ask what country someone was from? Because that's more akin to asking what state someone is from in my book.

As to the OP - I think we need more info on whether this person is doing the "Hi I'm Bob" routine or something more like "Drizzly weather this week, huh?" The latter seems like it would be a lot less imposing than the former.
Title: Re: Talking to Strangers: Imposing your values onto others
Post by: Cami on August 19, 2013, 08:41:24 AM
In terms of Americans announcing their location, I'd agree  with this:

I wonder how much of this is lack of awareness of just how big the U.S. actually is. England is approximately the size of Ohio. In a country as large as ours there are serious regional differences in culture, nearly as striking as the differences between some countries in Europe. Would a Brit find it odd to ask what country someone was from? Because that's more akin to asking what state someone is from in my book.

  I live in the midwest, but do not have a midwest accent and when we first moved out here, I did not look like what midwesterners thought midwesterners looked like (the latter has changed somewhat over time as there is greater influx from other areas/countries to the midwest). I was and am often asked within speaking one sentence where I am from "originally".

 Americans don't consider that question rude (or I've never met an American who considers that rude.) It's a way to grasp something important about the person very quickly, a way to start an easy conversation.  It may also be a way for people to try and make connections.

As an example, my dh and I were recently at a state historic site. A couple seated on the transport wagon heard me talking and asked where I was from. I told them I was from NY and the woman asked me where. Turns out she read a book set in my hometown recently and I've never heard of that book. She asked me questions about the town and learned something about it and I found out about a new book. Win-win.
Title: Re: Talking to Strangers: Imposing your values onto others
Post by: Teenyweeny on August 19, 2013, 08:42:40 AM
As to the OP - I think we need more info on whether this person is doing the "Hi I'm Bob" routine or something more like "Drizzly weather this week, huh?" The latter seems like it would be a lot less imposing than the former.

I got the impression that it was more of the latter than the former. However, IME (of several major UK cities, both north and south), people who start conversations apropos of nothing (I mean, they aren't even asking if I know if the bus to the train station has left yet) are very rare (to the point where I have hardly met with any).

Usually, if somebody starts talking to me for no reason, they are one of the following:

1) Not sober.
2) Hitting on me.
3) Foreign.
4) Have some kind of developmental/cognitive problem.
5) Old and lonely.

Numbers 1 and 2 I feel free to ignore.

Numbers 4, and 5 I don't really mind (although I still may feel uncomfortable).

It's number 3 that intrigues me!

Title: Re: Talking to Strangers: Imposing your values onto others
Post by: jaxsue on August 19, 2013, 08:49:00 AM
I live in the US and I would find it odd if a stranger came up to me and said, "Hi, I'm Bob from Alabama." That said, yes, striking up a casual conversation in some regions is normal. I grew up in small midwestern towns. It was odd if you didn't do that. Now I live near NYC, and the rules are different.
The only place I've been in the UK was N. Ireland. What was interesting was that several people approached me, asking if I was American or Canadian (I am both), and asking questions about my home.
Title: Re: Talking to Strangers: Imposing your values onto others
Post by: Eden on August 19, 2013, 08:58:18 AM
If you put yourself in public, there's no avoiding the possibility that someone will address you or even attempt to strike up an idle conversation. As an adult, it's your choice whether or not to engage in the interchange. But I don't think it's "imposing someone's cultural standards on you" to have a person say "top o' the morning" or even "how 'bout Manchester United?"

You're right, but from the info in the OP that isn't what he's doing. He's saying "I don't like it that people in this country don't talk to each other, so I'm going to talk to them whether they like it or not".

Just talking to someone isn't rude in and of itself. But he *is* being rude in his insistence that he will continue to do it even after he's had it pointed out to him that it isn't the cultural norm and a lot of people find it uncomfortable in the place he's doing it.

He's also implying that it's OK to impose his cultural values on those from another country just because he's an American. That's astoundingly arrogant.

I agree with this.

I think it's okay to feel out whether or not someone is up for conversation but if they are not particularly receptive, you need to back off. I'd say that no matter where you are in the world. Sometimes even if it's the cultural norm, a person is not in the mood that day or whatever. You have to be sensitive to how others react to you.
Title: Re: Talking to Strangers: Imposing your values onto others
Post by: sunnygirl on August 19, 2013, 09:00:34 AM
I'm a native Londoner. If an American did that, I would assume they were a tourist who didn't know any better and I probably would chat with them, only for the unique experience. I find it weirdly endearing (though the tourist I talked to recently who just couldn't understand why I couldn't tell her how to get to "downtown"? Bah!). If a Brit did it, I'd find it very weird. Unless maybe they were a Northerner or Scottish or very obviously a tourist in London.
Trying to force conversation on people if you know they don't want/are uncomfortable with it is rude, though.
Title: Re: Talking to Strangers: Imposing your values onto others
Post by: cabbageweevil on August 19, 2013, 09:05:58 AM
Perhaps going a little bit OT; but, a thought prompted by the (not-recommended) "Bob from California", "Chuck from Alabama" approach. I've read that during World War 2, with the huge number of US armed forces personnel in Britain over several years, the two nations' different ways -- American outgoing-ness, British reserve -- often led to a degree of awkwardness. Something which particularly baffled the Brits, was the Americans' frequent declaring -- and inquiring of each other -- what part of the USA they were from. With the British being (then, perhaps, more markedly than now) a reserved folk, putting a high value on privacy; the American "I'm from... where are you from?" stuff just seemed strange to the islanders. Between Britishers, a strong interest -- on short acquaintance -- in where people hailed from, would have felt inappropriate, and almost offensively inquisitive. Many Brits ended up concluding that Americans had a weird obsession with geography !

I wonder how much of this is lack of awareness of just how big the U.S. actually is. England is approximately the size of Ohio. In a country as large as ours there are serious regional differences in culture, nearly as striking as the differences between some countries in Europe. Would a Brit find it odd to ask what country someone was from? Because that's more akin to asking what state someone is from in my book.
"Americans and geographical enquiries" (as also addressed by other PPs) -- I'm British, and the "where is one from?" routine, seems to me a fine conversational gambit; and I'm genuinely interested to know where a new acquaintance hails from. Also; within the UK's much smaller area on the map, than that of the USA: there are plenty of cultural differences -- both between, and within, the UK's several component countries.  In my World War 2 instance, I tend to feel that my compatriots were the ones acting strangely -- a rather extreme example of the British (and especially English) trait of great reserve and self-containment, to the point of reticence.  But we do incline to a national strong aversion from anything smacking of prying or "nosiness"; and correspondingly, from the volunteering of "too much information, too soon".
Title: Re: Talking to Strangers: Imposing your values onto others
Post by: menley on August 19, 2013, 09:06:42 AM
I think no matter where you are, you should be looking at others' social cues and act accordingly. I'm a native Texan, currently living in central Europe. I've had to tell my Texan visitors that no, that man on the subway is not angry or mean, but people here just don't walk around grinning at each other like they do in the southern US ;)


I generally don't think it's rude for him to say something to a stranger, but if the stranger makes clear (through body language, through short or curt answers, etc) that they don't wish to carry on a conversation, he should respect that. I recently had an experience in an airport where a girl just plopped down in the seat next to me and started interrogating me ("What's your name? Where are you going? Why are you going there? Where are you from originally?"... etc) while I had on headphones and was clearly reading a book. To me, both the headphones and the book are signs that say "Please don't talk to me right now."


Summary... if your friend is respectful when others make it clear they don't wish to make conversation, I see no harm in him trying to start one.
Title: Re: Talking to Strangers: Imposing your values onto others
Post by: cabbageweevil on August 19, 2013, 09:13:52 AM
The only place I've been in the UK was N. Ireland. What was interesting was that several people approached me, asking if I was American or Canadian (I am both), and asking questions about my home.

Wild, sweeping generalisation by me here; but the Irish ("all shapes and makes") tend to be more outgoing than the English.

There's a big connection between Northern Ireland, and North America -- there has long been much emigration from the former to the latter, by folk seeking, in various ways, a better quality of life. The "religious divide" which seems to impact on almost everything in Northern Ireland, applies in this also: Protestants have tended to emigrate to Canada, Catholics to the USA.
Title: Re: Talking to Strangers: Imposing your values onto others
Post by: Gyburc on August 19, 2013, 10:17:37 AM
I'm in the UK, and am English. I'm not sure that people would find the gentleman in the OP rude, but a lot of people would certainly find him somewhat disconcerting.  :) I think it's because he is being very direct in his approach by introducing himself straight away. In the UK, if two strangers do fall into conversation, they tend to keep things very general and indirect, and don't tend to exchange names straight away, if at all.

As an example, I used to travel to and from university by train, and the general practice was not to speak to fellow passengers - except if the train was delayed or broke down (not uncommon...). In those circumstances, everyone started commiserating about the delay and offering to let fellow-passengers make calls on their mobile phones, and this usually led to longer conversations. I remember I once ended up talking to a very nice lady for about an hour about my university studies and about how she was directing an all-female production of Shakespeare's Julius Caesar. We had a really interesting discussion, which I remember quite clearly - and this was years ago - but we never exchanged names. It just wouldn't have felt right.

As an after-thought, I also think the gentleman in the OP is mistaking reserve for unfriendliness. It's perfectly possible to have friendly exchanges with people in the UK, even complete strangers, and a lot of people are more than happy to chat briefly. I do myself quite often. Stick to 'safe' subjects like the weather, the public transport system, service in shops etc. and make some wry jokes, and people are usually very happy to respond in kind.
   
Title: Re: Talking to Strangers: Imposing your values onto others
Post by: Sharnita on August 19, 2013, 10:22:00 AM
Actually, doesn't the OP say he starts a conversation and makes small talk? Do we know he insists on starting with his name and hometown? He could be chatting about the weather and such.
Title: Re: Talking to Strangers: Imposing your values onto others
Post by: Teenyweeny on August 19, 2013, 10:25:20 AM
I think it's because he is being very direct in his approach by introducing himself straight away.

Actually, I don't think he is doing that, although to be fair, I'm not super clear on what he is doing.

You're spot on about not taking names! My first year of uni, I was very glad that we had a board up next to the lifts with everyone's names and photos, or I wouldn't know some of my friends' names to this day!
Title: Re: Talking to Strangers: Imposing your values onto others
Post by: ladyknight1 on August 19, 2013, 10:50:56 AM
Very interesting thread, I don't see anything wrong with idle chatter. To me, it is just being social.
Title: Re: Talking to Strangers: Imposing your values onto others
Post by: Goosey on August 19, 2013, 10:55:35 AM
I think that making idle, polite chatter with individuals is not impolite even if, in general, it's not welcome.

What makes it rude would be if he opened conversation to someone, was shut down by that individual, and continued to try and force talk with them.
Title: Re: Talking to Strangers: Imposing your values onto others
Post by: snowdragon on August 19, 2013, 11:04:27 AM
  We had a thread here while I was either lurking or quite new where some changed their child of about 7 at a poolside, with in full view of a restaurant - and Americans were told how puritan we are and that we need to respect the fact that these people might be from another culture - and that they might do things differently and to do otherwise was considered arrogant of Americans.
  Now we have an American who is the visitor, who is doing things according to his culture - and he's still arrogant. 
  The bias is what I find astounding. 
  I am not a chatter, but I don't think that someone who wants to chat is rude per se,,,just different. I think that if someone doesn't answer, is reading or otherwise engaged or giving off those "don't bother me" body language tips and you then it can be rude - but in general, it's a preference thing rather than and etiquette thing.

I think that making idle, polite chatter with individuals is not impolite even if, in general, it's not welcome.

What makes it rude would be if he opened conversation to someone, was shut down by that individual, and continued to try and force talk with them.

This
Title: Re: Talking to Strangers: Imposing your values onto others
Post by: squashedfrog on August 19, 2013, 11:27:18 AM
This is a great thread, as it actually got my friends talking about it at the castle picnic today.  We've generally said that small talk or polite conversation is fine, but taking social cues is important - like if the person has their ear phones in or they are reading. 

Also opening lines are important:

Good openers: 
Oh what a lovely baby/puppy/hat!
The buses are late again!

Bad openers:
They only let me out on Thursdays
You know what's wrong with this country?


Title: Re: Talking to Strangers: Imposing your values onto others
Post by: AnnaJ on August 19, 2013, 11:31:30 AM
I've visited England several times in the past few years and my experiences are very different from those expressed here by some people, particularly when I'm traveling alone.  Almost every time I've been on a train or at a station I've ended up talking to people - sometimes I've started conversations, sometimes other people - but I think the key is figuring out if the other person is receptive to conversation, the same as anywhere in the world.

If someone has headphones or earbuds on, or is reading = rude.  Otherwise I see nothing wrong about starting a chat - if the other person isn't interested there are several polite ways to indicate they don't want to talk.

Finally, these brief encounters are often what I remember most about travels - ending up in Leicester Square at 3AM with a guy I men on a train from Salisbury, talking to a young woman about going to college in Portsmouth, explaining Sudoku puzzles to a group of skinheads on the last train one night in London.  Honestly, if you (generic you) do not wish to engage in random conversations then you don't have to, but recognize that many other people enjoy doing so.   
Title: Re: Talking to Strangers: Imposing your values onto others
Post by: Yvaine on August 19, 2013, 11:36:54 AM
  We had a thread here while I was either lurking or quite new where some changed their child of about 7 at a poolside, with in full view of a restaurant - and Americans were told how puritan we are and that we need to respect the fact that these people might be from another culture - and that they might do things differently and to do otherwise was considered arrogant of Americans.
  Now we have an American who is the visitor, who is doing things according to his culture - and he's still arrogant. 
  The bias is what I find astounding. 

I'm having trouble believing that this board widely agreed that changing a baby right in front of a restaurant was ok. And I don't think this is about Americans or anti-American bias per se; after all, the majority of the board is American as far as I know. These same issues come up in other threads about interacting with strangers in public even when everybody's from the same country--and I think we've generally agreed that the chitchat isn't rude but neither is a more reserved approach, and that pushing past a "leave me alone" signal can be rude.
Title: Re: Talking to Strangers: Imposing your values onto others
Post by: ladyknight1 on August 19, 2013, 11:46:49 AM
The number of posts on this thread that immediately labeled the talker as rude would disagree with your statement.
Title: Re: Talking to Strangers: Imposing your values onto others
Post by: Surianne on August 19, 2013, 11:49:22 AM
I think that making idle, polite chatter with individuals is not impolite even if, in general, it's not welcome.

What makes it rude would be if he opened conversation to someone, was shut down by that individual, and continued to try and force talk with them.

This sums it up for me.  As long as he listens to their signals and stops if someone wants to be left alone, I think he's not rude at all. 
Title: Re: Talking to Strangers: Imposing your values onto others
Post by: SlitherHiss on August 19, 2013, 12:24:56 PM
I think that making idle, polite chatter with individuals is not impolite even if, in general, it's not welcome.

What makes it rude would be if he opened conversation to someone, was shut down by that individual, and continued to try and force talk with them.

This sums it up for me.  As long as he listens to their signals and stops if someone wants to be left alone, I think he's not rude at all.

This.
Title: Re: Talking to Strangers: Imposing your values onto others
Post by: Tea Drinker on August 19, 2013, 02:13:32 PM
It sounds like part of what's going on is that this man isn't just thinking "I would like to talk to someone, so I will try to strike up a conversation with the other person waiting for a train" but "people should talk to each other more, I will try to strike up a conversation and hope to be setting a good example." So he isn't just prioritizing his own desire for chat over the other people's perceived disinterest: he's evangelizing, hoping that if they once have the delight of small talk with a stranger while waiting for the Northern Line, they'll keep doing it.

I would be more sympathetic to someone who said "I've noticed something funny. I like talking to people when I'm waiting for the train, instead of just staring into space. English people are willing to talk, but for some reason I always have to start the conversations" and seemed genuinely not to realize that maybe that's because the other people would rather think about their plans for the day, or read the newspaper, not just because they were shy.
Title: Re: Talking to Strangers: Imposing your values onto others
Post by: AffirmedHope on August 19, 2013, 02:18:37 PM
I notice this is common thing in other countries. Here in the Mid-West, strangers strike up conversations quite often. For a social recluse like me, it's pretty uncomfortable and almost causes a panic attack (okay a bit exaggerated but I'm just awkward around other people.)

I quite enjoyed living in Sweden for a few months, where it's normal to ignore other people at the bus stop and not be told thank you if you hold the door for someone (which is quite a rarity for that to happen there in the first place.)
Title: Re: Talking to Strangers: Imposing your values onto others
Post by: Eden on August 19, 2013, 02:20:41 PM
The number of posts on this thread that immediately labeled the talker as rude would disagree with your statement.

For my own part, I labeled the talker's attitude as rude. Not the act of initiating conversation.
Title: Re: Talking to Strangers: Imposing your values onto others
Post by: padua on August 19, 2013, 03:00:55 PM
when i first moved to austria (i was there about 1 1/2 years), i was pretty friendly and said 'hi' to people who made eye contact with me. after the third time someone stopped me and asked how they knew me, i decided that maybe i was being a bit too friendly. i was young (thankfully) and have learned since then to observe first then engage.
Title: Re: Talking to Strangers: Imposing your values onto others
Post by: cwm on August 19, 2013, 03:11:42 PM
Personally I think it's very situational. If someone doesn't want to talk, that's fine, don't talk. Don't force conversation on them, though, that's rude.

But if the guy starts talking and manages to actually engage people in conversation, that's fine.

As I said in the poll thread, I go to a barbecue place in a gas station where the average wait time standing in line is an hour. Some days I really just don't want to interact with the world and I'll bury my nose in whatever book I have on hand and ignore whatever else anyone says in my direction. But frequently people there have conversations that spread from their group to another group. I had a very nice conversation one day with some people from NYC who were visiting. It turns out their mom grew up a few blocks from where I grew up, so he told me all the stories of what he'd heard from her stories, and I told him all about how much had changed. And then I gave him and his wife some advice on other places to visit while they were in town. It was a lovely conversation that came from nowhere.
Title: Re: Talking to Strangers: Imposing your values onto others
Post by: mspallaton on August 19, 2013, 03:50:06 PM
...I think the only thing this man needs to be aware of is whether the person he is trying to chat with is receptive. If not he should stop.

I think this part is the key.  In every region of every country in the world there are different cultural norms.  While the best possible thing to do would be to learn as much about those norms as you can, it might be impossible to know.  In my life, I've lived in New England, the West Coast, the Midwest and the South and things are completely different in each of those places.

- In New England, where I lived at least, small talk would've been met with a concerned and annoyed stare.  Anything personal or private (like a bus rider carrying crutches for example) would be rude to mention or point out.
- On the West Coast (again, just where I lived), small talk about basic topics was okay, provided the person didn't seem to be in a hurry.  Personal or private topics were still off limits.
- In the Midwest, small talk was constant and encouraged.  If someone attempted to board a bus or other transport with crutches and you didn't assist, offer assistance or at least ask if they were all right, it would be rude.  (Presuming you were standing closer than anyone else and thus most likely to be able to assist).
- In the South, the cities have had a similar culture to New England so far, with everyone going about their business and not being interested in small talk; whereas the country and suburbs have been closer to the Midwest, with the shunning of small talk seeming worse than engaging in it.

I know not everyone's experiences are the same, but those have been mine.  To me that says that knowing exactly how small talk will be seen is impossible and that it isn't rude to engage in it even if the culture isn't receptive to it.  UNLESS, you continue to do so after being informed or made aware that it isn't a good idea in the area.  For me, the mistake the American made in the OPs story wasn't making small talk at first, it was continuing to do so on the assumption that he would be off the hook for being from somewhere else.
Title: Re: Talking to Strangers: Imposing your values onto others
Post by: Alpacas on August 19, 2013, 04:02:27 PM
This is a very interresting OP as i had similar converstations with friends about tourists that insisted that german people are rather rude. (They always look grumpy, their answers are always kept short and they get right to the point)


A friend of mine made an interresting comparison after her internship in the USofA.
"US Americans are like Peaches, sweet and soft on the outside but with a hard center, and germans are like coconuts. a hard shell but once you crack that you're right at the center."

Maybe its just the european culture to be a bit more reserved when approaching strangers.
I must imagine in the early years of the USA it must have been a welcoming sight to  meet a new face, a stranger who maybe brought news from other cities.
Title: Re: Talking to Strangers: Imposing your values onto others
Post by: Girlie on August 19, 2013, 04:09:12 PM
- In the South, the cities have had a similar culture to New England so far, with everyone going about their business and not being interested in small talk; whereas the country and suburbs have been closer to the Midwest, with the shunning of small talk seeming worse than engaging in it.

A very good Southerner would tell you that the reason for this is that the cities are filled with Yanks.  ;)

Where I'm from (a burb of Atlanta), small talk is not just how you spend your time - it's how you make your connections with people.
"Your last name is Smith? Are you any kin to John Smith?" is a very, very, very common way for a "small talk" conversation to turn.

Title: Re: Talking to Strangers: Imposing your values onto others
Post by: JoieGirl7 on August 19, 2013, 04:13:48 PM
For millions of years, mankind lived just like the animals.
Then something happened which unleashed the power of our imagination.
We learned to talk.
And we learned to listen.
Speech has allowed the communication of ideas, enabling human beings to work together.
To build the impossible.
Mankind's greatest achievements have come about by talking.
And it's greatest failures by NOT talking.
It doesn't have to be like this!
Our greatest hopes could become reality in the future.
With the technology at our disposal, the possibilities are unbounded.
All we need to do
is make sure
we keep talking.

-Stephen W. Hawking


Title: Re: Talking to Strangers: Imposing your values onto others
Post by: jaxsue on August 19, 2013, 04:57:41 PM
The only place I've been in the UK was N. Ireland. What was interesting was that several people approached me, asking if I was American or Canadian (I am both), and asking questions about my home.

Wild, sweeping generalisation by me here; but the Irish ("all shapes and makes") tend to be more outgoing than the English.

There's a big connection between Northern Ireland, and North America -- there has long been much emigration from the former to the latter, by folk seeking, in various ways, a better quality of life. The "religious divide" which seems to impact on almost everything in Northern Ireland, applies in this also: Protestants have tended to emigrate to Canada, Catholics to the USA.

That's kind of what I noticed (the Irish seemed more outgoing than the English people I met there). I loved it...I was ready to move to a small Irish cottage right then (okay, I know very few Irish live in cottages).  :)

My Irish Prot ancestors immigrated to Canada. Interesting history.
Title: Re: Talking to Strangers: Imposing your values onto others
Post by: Eeep! on August 19, 2013, 04:58:42 PM
It sounds like part of what's going on is that this man isn't just thinking "I would like to talk to someone, so I will try to strike up a conversation with the other person waiting for a train" but "people should talk to each other more, I will try to strike up a conversation and hope to be setting a good example." So he isn't just prioritizing his own desire for chat over the other people's perceived disinterest: he's evangelizing, hoping that if they once have the delight of small talk with a stranger while waiting for the Northern Line, they'll keep doing it.

I would be more sympathetic to someone who said "I've noticed something funny. I like talking to people when I'm waiting for the train, instead of just staring into space. English people are willing to talk, but for some reason I always have to start the conversations" and seemed genuinely not to realize that maybe that's because the other people would rather think about their plans for the day, or read the newspaper, not just because they were shy.

This is kind of what I was thinking too.  The man seems to have noticed a resistance to his way of acting and - rather than modifying his behavior - has decided he is the ambassador of joyful conversation.  It is this attitude that is rude, I think.  If he never had the realization that his way wasn't common and just happily tried to strike up conversations with everyone (my father does that - drives me bonkers!) then I would say he isn't rude, just possibly clueless.  Buy this particular person seems to have noticed some sort of pattern and made a conscious decision to butt up against what he himself has even perceived cultural norm.
Title: Re: Talking to Strangers: Imposing your values onto others
Post by: esposita on August 19, 2013, 05:30:30 PM
- In the South, the cities have had a similar culture to New England so far, with everyone going about their business and not being interested in small talk; whereas the country and suburbs have been closer to the Midwest, with the shunning of small talk seeming worse than engaging in it.

A very good Southerner would tell you that the reason for this is that the cities are filled with Yanks.  ;)

Where I'm from (a burb of Atlanta), small talk is not just how you spend your time - it's how you make your connections with people.
"Your last name is Smith? Are you any kin to John Smith?" is a very, very, very common way for a "small talk" conversation to turn.

This has been my experience in the South as well. People down here seem to talk about anything and everything!!
Title: Re: Talking to Strangers: Imposing your values onto others
Post by: White Lotus on August 19, 2013, 07:39:06 PM
Oh, Menley!  I get this when abroad, too.  Some lost soul will spot me as somebody LIKE HIM/HER, and feeling lonely and isolated will plop right down and start in -- and I have more than one potential compatriot source to worry about!)  It feels desperate and grabby to me and makes me very uncomfortable.
How does one discourage the lonely and socially desperate when one is neither, and really, really, does not want to make a new buddy, go to the museum, take the bus tour, have a Bubble Tea, meet for dinner, go for karaoke, whatever?  "I'm on a business trip so I have almost no time to myself.  In fact, I have to get back now.  Have a wonderful trip, though," is my usual response, said while disengaging.  I am quite fine on my own in strange places and am not a particularly social person, but I can't help but feel very sorry for these people and never feel I have extricated myself quite gracefully enough!
Title: Re: Talking to Strangers: Imposing your values onto others
Post by: veronaz on August 19, 2013, 07:49:56 PM
The guy is just talkative/chatty.  So he feels people should talk more.  I donít see that as imposing his values on everyone Ė they can always ignore him.

And all Americans are not ďlike thatĒ Ė many wonít give you the time of day.

Iím not fond of generalizations about any group of people.
Title: Re: Talking to Strangers: Imposing your values onto others
Post by: auntmeegs on August 19, 2013, 08:06:52 PM
For millions of years, mankind lived just like the animals.
Then something happened which unleashed the power of our imagination.
We learned to talk.
And we learned to listen.
Speech has allowed the communication of ideas, enabling human beings to work together.
To build the impossible.
Mankind's greatest achievements have come about by talking.
And it's greatest failures by NOT talking.
It doesn't have to be like this!
Our greatest hopes could become reality in the future.
With the technology at our disposal, the possibilities are unbounded.
All we need to do
is make sure
we keep talking.

-Stephen W. Hawking


I love this!  And i think its so true.  I guess I am surprised that so many people felt that the talker is the rude one.  I have always automatically thought the non talker needs to be a little less rude and more friendly. 
Title: Re: Talking to Strangers: Imposing your values onto others
Post by: AnnaJ on August 19, 2013, 09:58:44 PM
Oh, Menley!  I get this when abroad, too.  Some lost soul will spot me as somebody LIKE HIM/HER, and feeling lonely and isolated will plop right down and start in -- and I have more than one potential compatriot source to worry about!)  It feels desperate and grabby to me and makes me very uncomfortable.
How does one discourage the lonely and socially desperate when one is neither, and really, really, does not want to make a new buddy, go to the museum, take the bus tour, have a Bubble Tea, meet for dinner, go for karaoke, whatever?  "I'm on a business trip so I have almost no time to myself.  In fact, I have to get back now.  Have a wonderful trip, though," is my usual response, said while disengaging.  I am quite fine on my own in strange places and am not a particularly social person, but I can't help but feel very sorry for these people and never feel I have extricated myself quite gracefully enough!

Desperate?  Grabby?  Feel sorry for these people?  If you read the comments on this thread you'll note several people enjoy chatting in random situations, and I don't think that I or any others here think of ourselves as lonely or isolated.  Many people are social - you certainly have the right to discourage it, but wish you wouldn't make statements that insult people who do not behave as you do.
Title: Re: Talking to Strangers: Imposing your values onto others
Post by: guihong on August 19, 2013, 10:55:17 PM
Just to go way back to the beginning of the thread, I read the "Pub Etiquette Guide" and noticed that waiting at the bar in a British pub is about the only place where it is acceptable, even good manners, to become the Gentle Brontosaurus  ;D.  I mean, not glaring, tapping money, waving at the staff, etc., but standing pleasantly but expectantly and making eye contact.

Back to the topic: My dad was a world traveler after he retired.   His favorite activity in any country was to sit on a park bench and wait for someone to talk to.  In Asia, it was easy-everyone wanted to practice English.  He would have loved to do this in the Soviet Union, but tourists and "regular people" were highly segregated back then.  Australians were very outgoing; Europeans moreso in the South than the North; Scottish and Irish more outgoing than the English.  Holy Sweeping Generalizations, Batman, but he noticed some broad patterns.
Title: Re: Talking to Strangers: Imposing your values onto others
Post by: Psychopoesie on August 20, 2013, 01:57:54 AM
For millions of years, mankind lived just like the animals.
Then something happened which unleashed the power of our imagination.
We learned to talk.
And we learned to listen.
Speech has allowed the communication of ideas, enabling human beings to work together.
To build the impossible.
Mankind's greatest achievements have come about by talking.
And it's greatest failures by NOT talking.

It doesn't have to be like this!
Our greatest hopes could become reality in the future.
With the technology at our disposal, the possibilities are unbounded.
All we need to do
is make sure
we keep talking.

-Stephen W. Hawking


I love this!  And i think its so true.  I guess I am surprised that so many people felt that the talker is the rude one.  I have always automatically thought the non talker needs to be a little less rude and more friendly.

Nice quote - talking certainly helps in lots of situatons. However, a preference for not making small talk with strangers in public is unlikely to mean the end of civilisation as we know it.  :)

Not sure how being reserved, quiet, a bit daydreamy or simply preferring to mind one's business in public is unfriendly or rude. I may not like to make small talk with strangers but I will make an effort for someone who's a visitor to my city or who needs some sort of help (finding their way, for example). I'll also respond politely if spoken to.

Conversely, I don't see someone initiating small talk as rude provided they're sensitive to verbal and non verbal cues that indicate the other person doesn't want to engage. However, it does seem rude to keep trying to engage someone who'd rather not. Particularly if that person is a captive audience (sitting next to the talker on public transport).

When I travel to other countries, I do try to find out some basics about local customs. So I can be as polite a guest as possible while I'm there. For example, tipping isn't really a thing where I come from but I know it's a big deal elsewhere. I'd never skip a tip because "we don't do that at home". Sure. I may make some mistakes through ignorance. However, knowing *for sure* something isn't cool in the country you're visiting and doing it anyway does seem arrogant and rude to me.

Btw I'm an Aussie who doesn't fit the outgoing stereotype. :)
Title: Re: Talking to Strangers: Imposing your values onto others
Post by: auntmeegs on August 20, 2013, 08:28:07 AM
For millions of years, mankind lived just like the animals.
Then something happened which unleashed the power of our imagination.
We learned to talk.
And we learned to listen.
Speech has allowed the communication of ideas, enabling human beings to work together.
To build the impossible.
Mankind's greatest achievements have come about by talking.
And it's greatest failures by NOT talking.

It doesn't have to be like this!
Our greatest hopes could become reality in the future.
With the technology at our disposal, the possibilities are unbounded.
All we need to do
is make sure
we keep talking.

-Stephen W. Hawking


I love this!  And i think its so true.  I guess I am surprised that so many people felt that the talker is the rude one.  I have always automatically thought the non talker needs to be a little less rude and more friendly.

Nice quote - talking certainly helps in lots of situatons. However, a preference for not making small talk with strangers in public is unlikely to mean the end of civilisation as we know it.  :)

Not sure how being reserved, quiet, a bit daydreamy or simply preferring to mind one's business in public is unfriendly or rude. I may not like to make small talk with strangers but I will make an effort for someone who's a visitor to my city or who needs some sort of help (finding their way, for example). I'll also respond politely if spoken to.

Conversely, I don't see someone initiating small talk as rude provided they're sensitive to verbal and non verbal cues that indicate the other person doesn't want to engage. However, it does seem rude to keep trying to engage someone who'd rather not. Particularly if that person is a captive audience (sitting next to the talker on public transport).

When I travel to other countries, I do try to find out some basics about local customs. So I can be as polite a guest as possible while I'm there. For example, tipping isn't really a thing where I come from but I know it's a big deal elsewhere. I'd never skip a tip because "we don't do that at home". Sure. I may make some mistakes through ignorance. However, knowing *for sure* something isn't cool in the country you're visiting and doing it anyway does seem arrogant and rude to me.

Btw I'm an Aussie who doesn't fit the outgoing stereotype. :)

Well, Iím not saying that those people are rude, what I mean is that from the perspective of an outgoing person who likes to chat, my mind would default to thinking that the solitary, non-chatty people are the ones who have the issue. 
Title: Re: Talking to Strangers: Imposing your values onto others
Post by: Yvaine on August 20, 2013, 08:45:17 AM
Well, Iím not saying that those people are rude, what I mean is that from the perspective of an outgoing person who likes to chat, my mind would default to thinking that the solitary, non-chatty people are the ones who have the issue.

Why does anyone need to be thought of as having an "issue"? If both the chatties and the nonchatties are polite about it, then we just have a world with different personalities in it, and life would be dull if we were all the same.
Title: Re: Talking to Strangers: Imposing your values onto others
Post by: auntmeegs on August 20, 2013, 09:01:48 AM
Well, Iím not saying that those people are rude, what I mean is that from the perspective of an outgoing person who likes to chat, my mind would default to thinking that the solitary, non-chatty people are the ones who have the issue.

Why does anyone need to be thought of as having an "issue"? If both the chatties and the nonchatties are polite about it, then we just have a world with different personalities in it, and life would be dull if we were all the same.

On a regular basis I wouldn't think of it like that.  But the question was asked and I answered it from my perspective. 
Title: Re: Talking to Strangers: Imposing your values onto others
Post by: menley on August 20, 2013, 04:08:01 PM
Oh, Menley!  I get this when abroad, too.  Some lost soul will spot me as somebody LIKE HIM/HER, and feeling lonely and isolated will plop right down and start in -- and I have more than one potential compatriot source to worry about!)  It feels desperate and grabby to me and makes me very uncomfortable.
How does one discourage the lonely and socially desperate when one is neither, and really, really, does not want to make a new buddy, go to the museum, take the bus tour, have a Bubble Tea, meet for dinner, go for karaoke, whatever?  "I'm on a business trip so I have almost no time to myself.  In fact, I have to get back now.  Have a wonderful trip, though," is my usual response, said while disengaging.  I am quite fine on my own in strange places and am not a particularly social person, but I can't help but feel very sorry for these people and never feel I have extricated myself quite gracefully enough!

Desperate?  Grabby?  Feel sorry for these people?  If you read the comments on this thread you'll note several people enjoy chatting in random situations, and I don't think that I or any others here think of ourselves as lonely or isolated.  Many people are social - you certainly have the right to discourage it, but wish you wouldn't make statements that insult people who do not behave as you do.


AnnaJ, I think you've misunderstood. White Lotus was responding to my earlier post where I had specifically mentioned people who don't take the hint that you wish to be left alone (through headphones, reading a book, abrupt answers, etc). I think the "desperate" and "grabby" statements are specific to those people who won't take a hint (or a direct comment) that we wish to be left alone. Is that right?
Title: Re: Talking to Strangers: Imposing your values onto others
Post by: RebeccainGA on August 21, 2013, 10:34:15 AM
- In the South, the cities have had a similar culture to New England so far, with everyone going about their business and not being interested in small talk; whereas the country and suburbs have been closer to the Midwest, with the shunning of small talk seeming worse than engaging in it.

A very good Southerner would tell you that the reason for this is that the cities are filled with Yanks.  ;)

Where I'm from (a burb of Atlanta), small talk is not just how you spend your time - it's how you make your connections with people.
"Your last name is Smith? Are you any kin to John Smith?" is a very, very, very common way for a "small talk" conversation to turn.

This has been my experience in the South as well. People down here seem to talk about anything and everything!!
Exactly - when we were visiting Chicago, no one would do the - very normal for Atlanta - "Gee, it's awfully rainy this week, who would have guessed at this time of year?" kind of conversation with stranger. I spent almost ten minutes with a strange woman waiting for, and riding, an elevator (hotel was full and bustling, we had to bypass several full cars), and while she made eye contact and smiled, she seemed intent on examining the floor tiles (though she did say "have a nice day" on her way out, with flawless English, so I'm 99+% sure it wasn't a language barrier).

I think if he's sticking to an inane "wow, that was some football match last night!" or "the grill next door smells wonderful!" or whatever, and is good at taking no response with grace, he's fine. Some parts of the world have different norms. However, if he's pushy, or approaching folks like he's running for town council (the "Hi, my name is...." greeting) then he's rude and needs to understand that what he's doing is offputting.