I suggest myself as an open-minded person and this is what I want and always wanted to be. Quite convinced of my openness, my friendly curiosity, I check my prejudices twice, well knowing that they are prejudices. I have a love for everything new, especially for people being who they are and random “normal” situations. Sometimes I even end up loving what I dislike. Loving what I actually hate. Loving what I really hate. This is about my kind of writing, distance, art.
So, I am open-minded. But it didn’t prevent me at all from a cultural shock!
I am living in the United States for four weeks now. Enough time to get a closer look at people (or letting them look at me) and live a thousand situations being aware of something new and different. Above all, I have to say that life here is diverse. I am living in New Haven, where rich and educated people meet poor people, who may be educated, but I would never know, because I don’t talk to them. This already sounds critical and bitter. And this is what I feel about social injustice but in the USA as in Germany or at any other place of the world. But it is not, what I want to talk about now. This text is about my feelings about one particular question.
It may sound weird for Americans, maybe for other foreigners, but everyday I am thinking at least an hour about what to answer:
How are you?
It is a phrase (?) I hear everyday a least ten times or even more often. Everybody I meet, would ask me this question: The waitress handing me a strong dark roast coffee at my favourite café, the electrician who came by to change some lamps in the apparment downstairs, the bank counselor who opened my account a few weeks ago, the girl I met a few times and who would maybe become my friend, I hope.
For me “How are you?” means “Tell me, how do you feel!”. Definitely there are people in Germany asking you this without beeing interested in the answer. In Spain, where I lived for three years, as well there were these kind of people, and I think they exist almost everywhere. But where I lived until now, it was normal and educated to answer, even if it would be a quick lie which would change the topic. Here, people look at me, almost confused, when I start my explanations. It is because “How are you?” seems to mean nothing else but “Hello”.
But when do I have to tell people, how I am? I want to tell people, how I am!
So I’m telling the waitress that I feel good.
I apologize because I don’t have time to talk to the electrician.
The bank counselor will have to listen to my story how I felt about my forgotten PIN.
And the nice girl will get informed that I slept bad because I was anxious and dreamed about my PhD.
Too much information? Am I weird?
I try to learn, but telling how I feel is so me.