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I just wanted to say that a lot the features of the US social environment talked about on this site also apply to the UK, particularly the closed, cliquey bubble mentality. Some of you may not agree with this statement however, there are some issues in the UK social environment that have been a major irritation for me.
Firstly, I can confidently say we too have a 'no talking to strangers' rule over here. I remember them telling me at school to never talk to strangers, that they may want to kidnap me etc. The media is also constantly focusing on the negative as well. Parents increasingly drive their kids to school as opposed to letting them use the bus for paranoid fear that everyone is potentially dangerous. I remember being told not to talk to strangers at school, that they were potential kidnappers and so forth.
Everybody, on public transport and in the streets, minds their own business. In public, I have found that it's only middle-aged people or older that are open to small talk. I have tried starting conversations with girls on public transport and I can say on most those occasions, they give fairly paranoid and defensive body language as if you've broken some rule, or at best are polite and distant. If for instance you visit Spain or France (especially regions further south) and then return to the UK you definitely notice quite a difference in the vibe and demeanour of people. It's hard to explain, but in those two afformentioned countries, I noticed people didn't have such a paranoid look on their faces and actually smiled a lot more than in the UK. They didn't look so well, on edge.
Another thing I must add is that, just like the USA it's only socially acceptable to meet new people in a limited set of social settings such as school, work, introductions through friends as well as clubs and pubs. May I assert, that if you're with the sort of people that won't introduce you to new people or invite you to parties or social occasions, you're pretty much buggered. One thing I want to say about pubs and clubs is that, in the main, people just go to get drunk and they generally stay within their little group, not to meet new people. In such a setting it feels incredibly awkward and unnatural to try and break the ice, plus the fact, those sort of places seem to have a very dark intimidating atmosphere that's hardly conducive to bringing out one's best. I suppose that those settings are ok for bumping into people you've already met.
Another thing is neighbourliness. Where I am people don't talk to their neighbour beyond saying the occasional 'hi'. People generally like to keep to themselves. I have heard of cases where people have died in their flats and no-one's even noticed until the smell of decomposition sets in. The worst of the isolationism is to be found in cities and is most severe in the lower socio-economic strata. In villages in the countryside you will find neighbours interacting with each other more. I have a mate who lives in a village up-country from me, they have that community spirit of knowing one another and regularly interacting. In France, people keep to themselves far less than they do in England. When I stayed with a friend's relatives in a village in the Poitou Charentes region of France, they said that it's not uncommon for people over there to invite each other over for dinner! They own a B&B and are British expats themselves and they know their neighbours really well. Inviting neighbours over for dinner is unheard of in the modern UK. When I talked to them about these differences in the social environments, they said similar things about the UK that said about the US on this site.
I personally think, that in many ways, the UK has a lot in common with the US. What I've mentioned here are just a few minor examples.
Anyway, in my opinion, I think the UK is much more socially closed and has a noticeable paranoid mentality and vibe, especially when compared to other countries on mainland Europe. Has anyone here travelled around Europe including the UK? Has anyone here been both to the USA and UK? Would anyone say that a lot of the complaints about the USA social environment on this site (re cliques etc) apply to the UK as well? I certainly feel so. I would be very interested to here some views on this.
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Like father, like son (s). Most people blame the weather for this. The Swedes find Brits ' outgoing', though. And so do the Japanese.
But the weather leaves one thing unexplained- who do the Russians seem so warm? And also, French Canadians.
And why do Americans have the image of being warm and friendly, helpful, sociable and open? While the Russians have the image of being dour, sullen and unfriendly.
Seems like a mystery to me.
A brain is a terrible thing to wash!
It's all just outward appearances and stereotypes.
I have noticed that Scandinavians may be quiet but they don't have that intense icy or sarcastic attitude so many Americans, Aussies, and Brits have. I just find that the percentage of assholes including both men and women is far higher in the english speaking anglo countries. I don't know why that is but there is a segment of the population that takes great offense if you are just friendly and polite sometimes. If they think you are "beneath" them in any way they can be quite nasty.
Also, Americans are the only nationality I know that goes out of their way to avoid each other when abroad. Since I "fit" into Asia I often just sit back and observe some of these things. It's quite interesting to see "fellow" Americans open each other up with snarky attitudes after a few superficial pleasantries. I have to admit that after meeting a few American expats and tourists I pretty much started avoiding our countrymen as well. Thai-americans are pretty nice people to get to know though.
Well, you would have liked me if you were to meet me in Pattaya and/or Chang Mai or BKK.
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I'd probably get along fine with people on this forum (even Winston) in person simply because most of the people on here are well traveled and think outside the matrix and there's more common ground.
However the Americans i've met overseas who still think in a particular cultural mindset are unbearable to be around.
After spending a few months in Loire Atlantique region of France - I have to agree with everything above concerning France. It felt like I spent a few months "at home", although I never lived in France and don't even speak any French. However, it was so warm, so friendly, open and honest... I was shocked! People at grocery stores have genuine smile, actually many French people speak English.
I did not have any anti-American notion around me, although French buddies introduced me as "American", not as "Ukrainian", but I didn't care really.
Food, family visits, family support, large dinners that last 6 hours (loved it), long intelligent conversation, really funny jokes and great sense of humor (not like jokes about fart or puke in the US), food cooked from scratch, no Diet Coke - only fine French wine is served, even at cheaper restaurants. No police!!! I've seen a few police cars and only one police post on the road once. I was lucky to drive my friends' BMW 320i 2009 and exceeded speed limit a few times, loved those country roads, SO SO much better than isolated American freeways. I hated roundabouts, but actually loved them later! I also loved driving Citroen and Pegeout cars with a stick. Those who claim French cars suck - they should shoot themselves. New Citroen is somewhat between new Hyundai - new Toyota. Handling could be better, but interior is almost Toyota quality. For those looking for options - Honda's and Toyota's, VW's and BMW's are widely available in France as well.
I loved visiting a doctor, it was only 20 euros for a visit and would be otherwise free if I had Card Vitale (national Insurance).
French youth hug, kiss, walk holding hands and guys don't look like jerks, girls don't look like bitches... Romance is flying in the air, I swear! I was also shocked that people don't seem to be disturbed standing in line to the cafe and making out. Nobody cares, it feels like things like that happen every hour and there is nothing special happening. Where is in the USA if you make out in line, it's a shock for everyone lol
French would invite me to stay overnight after they talk to me for just 5 minutes (0_o?), and it's not a sexual invitation, but just being friendly. Nightclubs actually open dancefloor after 1am! And it is open until 7 am!!! So from 9-10 pm people would gather at the club to socialize and meet and then go to the dancefloor all together, amazing!!!
People don't seem to be in a rush, don't seem to be on their cell phones day and night, but rather gather at cafe's, stroll at downtown areas, gather at the parks etc. People are much better dressed, almost everyone is fit and skinny, probably 50% of French guys would be considered "GAY" by American girls because they are stylish, skinny, well groomed and romantic.
Add amazing history, truly beautiful countryside, a lot of traditions and culture, much better educated population, walkable cities and public transportation to any part of the city of country or Europe. Free healthcare, 5 weeks of vacation at least, even for part-time workers. 35 hour work-week. Unlimited sick leave. Virtually 100% Organic food, which tastes, smells and looks the way it is supposed to.
While I was in France, I had a dinner with a black French model with blue eyes (I couldn't believe it). She had two university diplomas, spoke 4 languages and looked SO HOT! Yet she had no problem talking to me, she paid for her dinner and thanked me for a great time and said that she would love me to stay in France because we would make great friends etc etc etc.
I would say France reminded me of my own (Ukrainian) culture the most out of all Western countries I visited so far. Now I understand what those Americans are talking about in Michael Moore's Sicko movie about pleasure and happiness living in France. Truly amazing country!
What is negative about France? They are overly nationalisitic, some may argue taxes are high (but I would argue that higher taxes evens out with much higher American expenses - healthcare, tons of insurance for everything, large expenses on a car and gas etc). Growing Muslim population that dislike French and French dislike them etc.
I would say I never felt so safe walking downtown late at night in France. No police anywhere, but it just "feels" safe, feels "normal", feels "the way it is supposed to feel"...
Your right mattyman, the way you describe the UK you might as well be describing the USA! We don't talk to our neighbors here, we sure the hell don't talk to strangers either! The only way to meet people is through your friends or at bars and clubs. If you talk to women at bookstores or grocery stores, they look at you like you are a crazy criminal!
I feel exactly the same way. Every town has a bustling market, people seem incredibly friendly. I love those long dinners and multi course meals. Did you ever go to any markets? Great opportunity to indulge in local produce. I love having lunch at those street cafe's, the atmosphere feels so social and friendly. It's better than British pub culture that's for sure. In restaurants and cafe's the food's heaps better and staff seem friendlier. I like the way people in France actually smile and make eye contact with you. So refreshing. I really don't understand why the brits think the french are rude and standoffish. I found that to be a total myth. If anything the reverse is true.
Spot on. I love the way people are so laid back. When having lunch in cafe's it's not uncommon for people to wich 'bon appetit' walking past or to try and engage you in conversation. Unfortunately my French isn't yet at a level where I can converse. French people certainly dress better than British people. There's certainly more variety in how they dress. Also I didn't notice straightened hair, fake tans, extensions and all that plastic crap that's the norm for modern British girls. Is that true of american girls as well? I noticed there weren't as many guys with hair gell as well.
Whilst I was there I never got round to clubbing. I have been out in Malaga Spain last year however, where I found the nightlife is of a very similar pattern to the way you describe your experience of France, with people sitting out in cafes until very late socialising, then hitting the dance floor after midnight. There, people would go out to actually socialise, not to get pissed as a fart. In Britain, people mainly go out to get drunk and stay within their group, sometimes getting tanked before going out.
Anyway, what towns and cities did you visit when you went there?
I was in Quebec City in Canada in 1985 and it was very similar to what you have described. You can go to a bar and people are all around you and they invite you to sit with them. All kinds of intellectual discussions go on by folks who are plumbers and cops. The people are humble for the most part. My French was good enough for a conversation but not very fluent but still I was accepted. People would invite me to stay over at their house. Once I was walking down the street and some students came out of their house where they were had been partying and dragged me into it to serve me drinks.
Strangers would start conversations on bus stops, at restaurants, etc.
But outwardly they seemed dour and unhappy. Which was a facade.
In that way they remind me of the Russians- tough and dour look on teh outside, but a lot of warmth on the inside.
A brain is a terrible thing to wash!