Sunday, January 17, 2010

Don't stand so close to me (s'il vous plait)

So. Americans have a reputation for being loud and obnoxious, and easily spotted as the ones wearing sneakers. To quote fellow ex-pat David Sedaris from a line in Me Talk Pretty One Day, "comfort has its place but its rude to show up in a country looking like you're ready to mow its lawn."

Despite our inability to use "indoor voices," we have Great Expectations when it comes to our non-verbal communications, namely: our body space. As Americans, we demand a lot more of it than the French do.

I simply can not get used to how closely the French stand to me. It's a cultural thing, I know. Perhaps one of my mom's oft-quoted clichés sums it up well, "You give them an inch, and they'll take a yard." And so while the French were the first to adopt the metric system around 1790 (indeed some argue they invented it, no wonder you can't find a foot-long sub here), there is little point in nudging forward to give the Frenchie behind you a little more room, because they'll take that near meter (i.e., 1 yard = 0.9144 meter) and more. No exaggeration. I'm forever getting bumped in the bum, and seldom is it accompanied with an "excusez-moi." Harrumph.

Hence, the American "in your face" culture, in fact, isn't so in-your-face after all. Seinfeld captured the discomfort of standing-too-close brilliantly in his "close talker" episode (the close talker character played by Judge Reinhold must have picked up his technique on the visit to France he references).

photo courtesy: ShockMD

1 comment:

  1. A keen observation. I thought the number of "close talkers" was a bit high!