“The first thing I ever heard about Americans was that they all carried guns. Then, when I came across people who’d had direct contact with this ferocious-sounding tribe, I learned that they were actually rather friendly.” So begins Geoff Dyer’s letter to his American friends as seen on the New York Times Page. He goes one to talk about some of the other perceptions of Americans and how they’ve often turned out not to be true, the loud obnoxious American tourist of the stereotype appears to possibly have other reasons has seen from the Dyer’s British perspective.
Granted, these visiting Americans often seem to have loud voices, but on closer examination, it’s a little subtler than that. Americans have no fear of being overheard. Civic life in Britain is predicated on the idea that everyone just about conceals his loathing of everyone else.
This reminds me sort of indirectly of an experience I had in England. I had gone over to work as a youth counselor at the Keswick (pronounced, “kessik”) Convention in the Lake District of northern England the second summer I was in seminary. Unlike some summer camps, this was a family deal, but there were separate tracks for the kids and the parents. So a bunch of us counselor types were staying in this sweet 19th century victorian manor house, and there were about 4 of us to a room. I had met two of my roomies as we were unpacking our stuff and then we were all supposed to go down and hang out and meet the other counselors and get an overview of what was to happen that week.
Well I forgot something, and ran back to the room for a minute.
When I got back to the main floor, there were my two roomies standing in a sort of half-circle configuration with two of the guy counselors. As I walked up, it was quiet, and I figured I’d walked up to a lull in the conversation.
As neither of the girls moved to introduce me to the guys, I stuck my hand out to the nearest one, and said, “Hi, I’m Anna.” The two guys said their names and shook hands, and then one of my roomies burst out laughing. “Leave it to the American,” she said, ” to break the ice and start talking.”
They had been standing there, in awkward silence because no one had introduced them. We laughed, and I introduced the girls to the guys, and we all went on to have a lovely week working together.