There is one big difference in how people in The Netherlands and the US talk to strangers. Dutch people don’t. Of course, every now and then you find yourself accidentally talking to someone you thought you knew, but then turned out to be a look-a-like. Dutch people master the art of looking at no particular point at all when in a train, bus or public place. Americans, however, can’t stop talking. Within my first two hours on American soil, two people commented on my polo shirt (it was a very cool polo shirt, but still). People would get in line for airport security, look at me and start a conversation. Walking into a store you run the risk of not having any me-time for the first twenty minutes, as the store clerk will explain all sales, comment on your current clothes, throw in one or two personal questions only to leave you for the next person walking into that door.
I wasn’t used to that. At first, I didn’t really care for it either. It wasn’t until I was back in The Netherlands that I did. The weather was terrible, people were well dressed again and I decided to compliment a man on his coat. It was a good coat and I found it obvious that he spent a lot of time picking his outfit for the day and he deserved a compliment for his hard work. After the compliment (“Nice coat”), he looked at me as if I was hitting on him. Then I realized I had been with the other tribe for too long. I still don’t care for strangers telling me their life story, or randomly talking to me, but somewhere halfway, where compliments are being given and received and people are greeted, that’s where I want to be.