When I just came to the U.S. the thing that required quite some adjustment was a small talk.
I for one come from a very open – sometimes too open – Ukrainian culture, where your neighbors feel it’s their responsibility to give you an advice on how to spend your money or when to have kids, but years of living in Finland took their toll on me. So, for the first couple weeks I totally freaked when strangers started talking to me outside the limits of the necessary interaction. For instance, the girl in Starbucks, while fixing me a cup of coffee complimented my t-shirt and got me speechless for few seconds. In all honesty, I didn’t know how to react. I thought for a moment she was making fun of me, why otherwise would someone you don’t know say something about your t-shirt? Next day I was walking down the street and a woman passing by mentioned that she liked my purse. My knee-jerk reaction was to hold tight to that purse because it was absolutely obvious to me back then that she probably wanted to steal my wallet from that purse!
I am now embarrassed to even think what I looked like to all these people with my very awkward reactions…
After more than 3 years of living here I am so used to all these “How is it going?”, “Have a great afternoon!”, “Love your shoes!”. I no longer think that people are invading my private space, I take these things for what they are – little pleasantries, fluff balls of words that make your day nicer. After all, there was time when those interactions in Starbucks or malls were my only interaction outside the house and I appreciated every instance of it.
As I write this, we here in Washington D.C. metro area are – FINALLY – receiving some snow, for the first time this winter. The meteorologists promised up to 30 inches (~70cm) of snow by tomorrow’s morning and I personally hope this will be the case. People went absolutely nuts preparing for this storm, which is officially called Jonas, but I prefer to call is Snowbigdeal. Grocery stores, gas station, Home depots hit their quarterly sales targets just in 2 days, I swear. But what I liked the most about this preparation hassle, was that everyone I interacted with at the office or in the coffee shop was saying “Stay warm!” to me and to each other. For some reason it made me feel so cosy and warm inside.
Which is way more important that warmth outside.