(the misadventures of an expatriate corporate dropout)

Monday, December 15, 2008

i can't believe i'm saying this, but maybe bigger isn't always better ...

a couple of observations regarding these united states of .... since I've been here

as I exited the people loader / unloader and entered Washington Dulles, I was assaulted by the sounds of barking masses. That's right, hordes of big people pushing and scurrying while barking into some sort of device.

if they weren't elbowing their way around, they were sat, overflowing the chair, yakking into sometimes unseen gadgets strapped to their ears. Or they were staring transfixed into some handheld device, heads bobbing to the beat of music plugged into their ears.

I can also report that these large humans certainly couldn't credit their girth to the ample servings received while in transit on aircraft between said airports. since one is served doll food.

perhaps American cars are bigger because the people seem to be as well? hmmmm. dunno. Other things that are bigger. EVERYTHING! lol! Okay, I have spent hours and hours now at BricoDepot in France. Which is considered a BIG store. BricoDepot would fit in the paint and tools section of the Oakland Home Depot. I mean, the Oakland Home Depot is at least six to eight times larger. It is VAST! I wandered around while getting a key made (only $1.47 per key by the way! HELLO Brico Depot!!! but I digress) and as I was wandering I didn't discover any products or sections not on offer at BricoDepot. Just that there must be five times as much in each aisle. What is the necessity of all of these consumables?

I was reminded of the circle I dosie-dohhed out of not long ago. The one where we all strive to make more money to buy more things to put in bigger houses that cost more money that we work more hours to get more money so we can buy more things to put in ... well you get it.

regarding this device fixation. I said to a friend, 'please don't tell me I was like that ...'. She stared at me a bit ruefully and tried to tiptoe around my question, telling me ... 'well, sometimes you would look at the phone and see who it was and not answer it ... but your phone was always ringing and if it wasn't ringing you were looking at it to check stuff'.

are people really that incapable of conducting their lives without technological assistance? or connection?

it has really gone over the top. couples sit in restaurants and talk on the phone to others. or send and read emails with their PDAs, rarely exchanging a word with their dining partners. People are out shopping, shouting into cell phones as they check-out, nary a word to the person working to acknowledge the transaction. Individual diners sit and talk into cell phones, many times hidden little bits on their ears and covered up with hair, which is equally confusing!

If the above isn't bad enough ... it is all done Loudly! Very, very loudly! While in France, I've jokingly told folks that Americans are like the labradors of the world.

You know ... kind of big and bouncy and 'here I am, look at me, be my friend' sorts ... tails wagging and big grins on the face.

But I can also tell you ... comparatively speaking ... Americans are LOUD. And frankly, it is annoying.

Americans don't just talk loudly on the phone (which of course they do and in the most inappropriate situations). They talk loudly to each other. In restaurants. At theaters. In the bank. Didn't anyone ever teach these people about using their 'small' voices? Because just like bigger cars, roads, malls, platters of mass produced 'cuisine', bigger voices seem to be all the rage.

I haven't decided if it is the labrador factor. OR if there is a desire to be the center of attention. If they think they and what they have to say are that much more important and must be shared in elevated tones.

I'm on sensory overload.


La Belette Rouge said...

Labradors have their charm, they are one of my favorite dogs. But, I think the French are much more feline in their approach. Hmm, there is a book:"Americans are dogs; French are felines". I don't think that would sell as well as the Venus/Mars thing did.

Betty C. said...

Hmmm, I haven't noticed the technology overload in the PNW. I've even wondered if Americans are LESS attached to their cell phones than the French. Could it be a California thing?

Non, Je ne regrette rien said...

lbr-I like it, i like it!

betty-well, I spent my first several days in Portland OR and sorry to report but yes ... big barking Americans are out in force. sigh.

Philip Wood said...

Hello Kimberly! Ahh isn't it pleasant to come back to the US and be overwhelmed. Your comments made me think about my repatriation to SF in 99. To be honest I am still amazed when I go into Costco or a grocery store. So much to choose from! Call me: 415-505-2195

Michelle said...

I've never been to America, and have only met Americans here, or in Dublin and France. Based on that limited experience I must confess to have a picture in my head of the 'typical' American. I'm afraid it's not a very flattering image and I won't share it. I had wondered if maybe they just get louder away from home. I like to think my 'blog contact' Americans break that stereotype I've constructed in my head. In fact I am sure they do.

Mrs C said...

Could it be a population thing? I "hear" China is very loud.

I found the same thing when I was in Canada. It was all so loud. The French are so quiet by comparison.

Re: the people who don't unplug when dealing with others (like cashiers) really get my goat.

Loulou said...

I definitely notice the addiction to those horrible little Bluetooth things in the States. There are masses of people walking around talking to (what looks like) themselves. Loudly.
I fear the day that the airlines let people talk on their cell phones during the flight.
We had a friend here recently who could not let go of his Blackberry.
Constantly. Checking. It.
Drove us crazy.

The French are very attached to their cell phones/Blackberry things now too. But living in the country means I'm not faced with loud users of cell phones very often. Thankfully!

Randal Graves said...

This is why I sometimes wonder if it would even be a good idea to get away from Murka for a bit. I'd see just how fucking annoying this nation is and not want to go back. I wish I had a rich uncle.

My fellow patriots, UNPLUG for a bit. And SHUT UP.

I remember when those bloody Bluetooths appeared. I thought some madness was sweeping the land until I saw the Borg thing sticking out of their ear. I was right about the madness.

Maybe I will take you up on that guest room thing. ;-)

Non, Je ne regrette rien said...

Phillip! hey you, don't you want to run away again! lol, I'll call you ...

michelle~I hope I'm the alternative, too!

mrs c - well. maybe. let me think ... NAHHHHH! ha, dunno, but it is rude dontcha think?!

loulou-I see the french on their phones (talking) a lot, just not so LOUDLY... and I haven't seen the blackberrys in action but I too am in the countryside so maybe that's the thing.

RG- you tell'em. we're all mad as hatters in one way or other I s'pose, I just prefer MY kind of madness instead of THEIR kind of madness...get me?

Kathleen said...

well, there are many sides to this. I did notice when i moved back to america from italy that americans are loud... but, i've also noticed that in the countries where people are quieter they're also prone to not speaking their minds and not telling what's really in their hearts so you end up at friendly gatherings where' there are lots of secret agendas and no one is talking about what's really going on. That's also very annoying.

We are a young country, compared to much of the world, and are therefore more apt to use adolescent behavior. Not couth,with very little diplomacy, and lots of John Wayne bravado, kind of, "well, little lady, let's put our cards on the table" kind of thing. It makes me cringe when I'm in a public place and people are shouting and carrying on.
I'm also guilty of checking my i-Phone in the midst of my day, but I must admit, it also allows me the freedom to do other things, see friends, have coffee with clients, go someplace else and do some work. When you work by yourself, that comes in very handy and actually allows you to make more social connections rather than being tied to a desk and a computer all day.

All in all, I try not to judge. The world has so much to offer and what's good for someone at a certain time in their lives is not good for another. I'm just grateful that I seem to get what I need, when I need it. I have to assume that the same thing happens for others.


Non, Je ne regrette rien said...

kd-last paragraph holds truths ... as you know, i've always been of the 'everyone is entitled to my opinion' variety ... hasn't changed despite my new home town. so, in keeping with that mantra ... i observe and share, observe and share! some might call that a judgment and that's okay.

Kathleen said...

and, the reason I love this blog is because of the variety of it's opinions! KD

Randal Graves said...

Of course this kind of madness is far superior. I agree with the theme of what Kathleen said, but Americans speaking their mind? I'm not sure that happens as much as we'd like to think. That said, I still think that, at bare minimum, if you're texting and what not, keep an eye on the road or sidewalk, thanks. ;-)

Philip Wood said...

It has been snowing now in Seattle for 24 hours....I can't get to the mall.I think I need an intervention.

Non, Je ne regrette rien said...


rg-'bare' minimum - does it always have to come to this?

phil-hey, i didn't call you yet! maybe i'm sposed to be the intervention!

alisa said...

When we were still living in the states I so wanted to write about the obsession with cell phones and texting, it was amazingto me that people would actually be having dinner together, but texting or checking their phone instead of having a conversation with the person they are with. ANd the constant checking of the phone...what did we DO without cell phones. We lived life. We had an answering machine at home and didn't need to be in contact 24x7. I hate talking on the phone. It drives me crazy. We were the family that had 1 cell phone (for emergencies) and 1 car, we always laughed and said "one of us is either going no where or talking to no one". Wait we are still that family (1 car 1 cell phone)

I will say that American's are loud and the impression the people that I have met over here, that have never met an American (most of the people here in the french countryside) think that and also think we are snooty, better than everyone else and fat! Yes, one person actually said to me "you are from American, but you are not fat". argh!

The french talk soft and they talk with passion and they will tell you what is on their mind without having to yell....I like it.

Kathleen said...

More thoughts about this. I remember when I lived in Venice that my choices were limited... and believe it or not, that gave me more freedom. I think Americans have far too much stuff and far too many choices. They become jaded to the things that have real value and do everything in overdrive because of it. Go into a theatre to see a film and the whole thing is at all and the volume is so loud that it's almost impossible to sit there. It seems like the film industry caters to a population of people with ADD, since the images change every two seconds and the sound gets cranked up. I believe that the more products get introduced and the more we consume, the duller we become. Yesterday, I went out trying to find pine cones for my mantle. I know I could have bought a bag for $10.00 but I wanted to go through the process of finding them. In my search, I discovered so many wonderful things... we're in the midst of a snow week and the birds are on the ground looking for something to eat. The park has 75 ft. tall pine trees covered with snow and there are beds of pine needles beneath them that look inviting enough for a long, winter's nap. I never found my pine cones, but the experience I had was worth the search. If I'd done it the American way, I would have missed all that. David and I both noticed when we visited you in France last October that the way people do things makes so much sense and they've been doing things that way for generations and because it works, why change it? And, they don't go out and buy something just because they need it. I cried for two weeks when I returned from my year in Italy... I felt like my meaningful life, although not nearly as abundant in terms of stuff, was so much fuller for my heart and my soul. Kathleen

Non, Je ne regrette rien said...

alisa-I concur! I have found the french softspoken (tones) and yet passionately opinionated.

kathleen-yes, when I talk about bigger and louder, I also mean the points you've made. What I am finding is that my new life is about acquiring experiences whereas my old life was about acquiring stuff.

Utah Savage said...

We should just give it up and go with FATLANDIA, home of the stupidly, permanently, attached to numerous electronic devices. Home of the short attention span. But not the free or the brave. We are getting stupid in a big way. But then we do everything big.

jadie said...

when out of the country, i usually get cringy when i see other americans....yes, FAT and LOUD. but it's the corpulence that really hits me first. while in bali and hong kong last year, i was surrounded by normal-weight people. i can't tell you how relaxing it was.

Non, Je ne regrette rien said...

Jadie and US - well, there is a growing percentage of large people in the US. but it is the Loudness that really gets my goat.

JouJou Loves You said...

Don't come to Tunis then!!! Here they make Americans seem like mice.