03 February, 2010

Meeting new acquaintances.

Sometimes Americans have a problem with the people they meet. They don't always realize that just because you speak to someone and call them by their first name, they may not be friends. It takes time to move from an acquaintance to a friend. I learned that while living in Europe.

In Europe it is a bit easier understanding the difference, because you have formal and informal ways of addressing people. Vous and tu in France, Sie and du in Germany, Lei and tu in Italy. When you are truly friends, you agree to use the informal. Then most anything goes.

I liked  the contrast between Sie and du in Germany, because it kept people you weren't so happy with at a distance. Sometimes Americans don't understand that difference. Don't misunderstand me, Americans might be friendly, but that doesn't mean you are their best friend. We have our signals.

Back to the subject at hand, I met two people today that I enjoyed talking  to, a Norwegian called Monica and a Saudi Arabian called Fatima. We had lunch together and laughed a lot. They were both great fun.

Fatima was criticizing Obama, which was a surprise to me. I never heard anyone in Europe criticize Obama. He still walks on water for most people. Then she turned to Monica, and asked how it was possible for the Nobel prize board, or whatever, to give Obama the peace prize? Monica blushed and said that most Norwegians were also embarrassed about that.

Okay, I am happy about that.


  1. Thanks for the description of formal and informal ways to address people in different cultures and languages. That's started me doing some research. Wikipedia has an interesting article, on what they call the T - V distinction; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/T–V_distinction

  2. Be careful of what you read on Wikipedia, there is a lot of nonsense there. However, if you think that this article was interesting, I will write other things about cultural differences.