Friday, April 4, 2014

Small Talk - No Thank You!

There are some things that just make me cringe.  The English nature is to avoid standing out in a crowd or bringing attention to yourself, just blend into the backgound.  So when I am chatting away to a friend just minding my own business and someone I don't really know joins the conversation, listens to me speaking for a while and then says "Oh, I love the way you talk, keep talking, don't stop.."   I just instantly clam up.  I can't talk, and I really don't want to.

It happened to me yesterday.  It had been a while and I had totally forgotten just how awkward and squeamish it made me feel.  I cringed inside and went silent.

It's a terribly British thing to want to stay in the background, out of the  limelight and especially when it's a stranger talking to you who, horror of horrors, wants to keep on talking and engage you in conversation.  Questions like "How long have you been here?" and "Wow, you've still got your accent" are the usual openers.  I mumble that I've been here 20 years and yes, I tried to keep my accent.  But they just don't give up... I end up coming across as rude and standoffish, but that can't be helped, I didn't ask for the conversation, for heavens sake!

Don't Americans know that us British don't like small talk and won't do it, unless it's absolutely necessary and unavoidable.  Even then it's only in very exceptional circumstances and invariably the topic is the weather.  Don't make eye contact and whatever you do, don't smile at someone.  Oh good grief, they might think we actually want to start a conversation and that would be horrendous and extremely uncomfortable.

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