It’s The Little Things #8: Subtlety

expat issues, little things
Awhile back, I did a series on some of the little differences that, when added together, make up the “culture shock” experience. You can see the first 7 if you go back in the archives, starting here, or click on the “little things” tag under “Labels” at left.
Seeing that I have a whole months worth of blogging to do, what better time to bring back a week-long series!
It’s the Little Things

#8 – Subtlety
This one is a bit esoteric, so bear with me as I try to explain through metaphor.
This weekend brought on me one of those vague sad/out of place moods that I could not shake. Eventually, I realized that it was because I felt like Beethoven.
Not Beethoven-the-genius-composer-Beethoven, but Beethoven-the-big-awkward-slobbery-St.-Bernard from family movie fame-Beethoven.

We Americans are known for many things, but our subtlety is not one of them. From my experience, Australians are much more composed, quiet, and understated. Oh, I’ve seen plenty of loud, drunk Australians in Kings Cross and Darlinghusrt on Friday nights, but most of the – you know – sober adults that I come across are friendly in a mannered, reserved way.
If you asked my American friends, I doubt that they’d tell you I have St. Bernard Syndrome. I’m actually shy and even tempered. I would rather die than yell across a crowded street to get someone’s attention.
But, when I get into conversation, I laugh a lot. I burst into guffaws and I am overwhelmed with this Julia-Roberts-half-faced smile. I never really noticed it until I saw our wedding pictures where my mouth is half the time agape and ready to collect flies and small birds.
I also react a lot in conversation. “Uh huh!,” “No Way!,” “Oh no!,” and “Oh my gosh” are all staples. I can’t help it. I need my listener to know I’m there. As if my giant laugh was not enough to remind them and everyone within 3 kilometers radius.
Even with my online communications like this blog or on Facebook, I started to get the feeling that I just proceed with graceless enthusiasm, like I’m shaking my happy, just-bathed, wet dogness all over cyberspace with too many exclamation points, ellipses, adjectives, and never mind who or what becomes the subject of my ramblings.
In the U.S., it feels perfectly normal to communicate in such an effusive way. But here, in a culture that is much more British and refined, I sometimes feel insincere, even if I’m not – like I’m trying too hard … boorish, boisterous, overly enthusiastic, noisy, and overbearing …
Like a St. Bernard in a china shop.

One thought on “It’s The Little Things #8: Subtlety

  1. hed.

    HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA @ Julia Roberts. I know what you mean. When I get uncomfortable I giggle a lot and get strange looks because I’m smiling like a doofus. I’m so aware of my “accent” though that I usually try not to speak in public…isn’t that awful?

    Hed hed down under

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