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Friday, October 20, 2006

I don't always want the truth

Do you? Are you sure?

So I was having coffee yesterday with one of my new neighbors, Susanne, who is very nice (all my new neighbors seem to be quite cool - not sure how I got so lucky, but I'm glad), and I mentioned that one of the things I miss about the States is common courtesy from service people. Like "Can I help you?" or "Have a nice day." Now I've heard that Germans think Americans are superficial, but this is the first time one's actually said it to me: she said, "But it's not really sincere, is it, it's just superficial. They don't really mean it." (I'm translating and paraphrasing here.)

I've been thinking about that today. Americans who read this: when you say something polite to a stranger, are being truly honest? Do you really want them to have a nice day?

Now here's a better question: does it matter? Look at it from the other side: You walk into the post office, all you want is a stamp, what would you rather hear? "Can I help you," from someone who may not really mean it, or "What the hell do you want," from someone who really does mean it? Fake manners, or honest hostility?

I think I'd rather have the fake manners. I don't really need random strangers going out of their way to make my day even more unpleasant than it already has to be. I mean, I value truth and all that, and from my best friend I'd rather have complete honesty. But from a cashier at some store? Not so much.

So this makes me wonder about Germans. Do they consider rudeness a virtue?

Hmmm... what do you think?

Song du jour of the day: Where is the Love? by the Black-Eyed Peas


landismom said...

I generally want a little politeness. One thing that I am always struck by--if someone asks me how I am doing, I nearly always say, "Okay, how are you?" or words to that effect. And then I stop to listen to their answer. It seems to surprise people.

Anonymous said...

Another, related question is:
Is the absence of - sometimes insincere - politeness actually rudeness? To some (like my husband), it seems more efficient and just straight forward and direct to skip the pleasantries, but it's not actively "rude". Canadians and Americans differ on what they view to be common courtesies (trust me, I have suffered because of these subtle differences) but North Americans generally seem to agree on the "have a nice day" rule and I like it. Do Germans actually think they are rude or do they view themselves as less frivolous? I think manners are almost by definition somewhat fake. Also, should I just get my own damn blog if I'm going to continue to leave comments this long????
all love,

Bev said...

Personally I think good manners (politeness) go a long way toward keeping our ever shrinking world from violence....and yes, when I tell someone (even a stranger) to have a nice day, I generally really do mean it!