January 24, 2013

Going Home: The Contrasts

We are on R&R this month - a time that we've anticipated for a while - all the things we get to do that we haven't done for a while, all the foods we get to eat, all the people we get to see.  There are so many reasons to look forward to a vacation back in the US.

But in addition to everything I've been looking forward to seeing / doing / eating, I was also really looking forward to what the contrasts would be.  What would stand out to me and to each of us after a year of living outside the US.

Of course there's all the things you know you're going to notice:
  • traffic - whether it's more or less that what you're used to
  • products - the US has a tremendous variety of everything.  The number of choices of soap is just mind-boggling
But the thing that has stood out the most is the friendliness that seems more prevalent in other countries (or at least in Brazil).

When we were in training back in Virginia, we were told many times of the importance of greeting people each day with a "Good Morning".  And how Americans are known for not doing this and how it can be seen as being unfriendly.  I made a mental to note to make sure I always said "Good Morning" and thought that was that.

Living in Brazil, I've become very used to saying " Bom dia" or "Bom dia, tudo bem?" to people all the time.  I say it to the people I work with, and the people I see walking down the street - anyplace I encounter someone, I greet them - and am greeted back.  It's nice to have that pleasant acknowledgement of each others presence each day.

I was surprised when I arrived back in the US how much it bothered me to not say "Good Morning" to people I encountered.  It felt very odd and unfriendly.  The very first morning when we were catching a shuttle to pick up the rental car, I had to stop myself from saying "Good Morning" to the other person on the shuttle.  You might be wondering why I didn't just say it anyway - but I really felt as though if I had, I would have made her very uncomfortable.  She would have wondered who these overly cheerful and friendly people were and why were they bothering her.  So - I bit my tongue and took my seat.

But as I went through the following days I noticed how little people greet each other on the street and how it contributes to a more isolated and invisible life.  It's sad to see people walk around in their little bubbles, not even acknowledging each others presence - unless it's to step carefully away from someone who makes them fearful.

So - I decided I wasn't going to continue to contribute to the invisibility and isolation of other people.  I would continue my "Good Mornings" and if it made them a little uncomfortable, if it made them wonder why some one was being friendly to them, if it made them realize that they were being seen as a person - then so be it.

1 comment:

  1. I always greet people and never feel as though it makes anyone uncomfortable.