Thursday, January 17, 2008

Only in America: going out alone = staying alone

Here is another big difference between America and the rest of the world, which makes the social life really sad and suffocating for me.

In America, if you go out alone, you are almost guaranteed to be alone, unless you get really lucky. Usually, nothing happens socially if you go out alone. It's not the kind of place or society where you can go out by yourself and meet people "just because" to hang out with. That's why people in America are so adamant about having friends to go out with because deep down, they know that if they go out alone, they will stay alone. And they fear that being alone will bring a feeling of detachment and alienation, that leads to insecurity. That's just how it is here.

The social norms here dictate that people in public stay with the company they are with. These are the unspoken but real customs of the social scene and public life in America. It’s nothing official, just a learned habit that people here grow up with. No one needs to mention it, because it's just how people normally are out in public and socially. It's a mutual understanding of the collective in America, one that we grow up with and assume is the norm. In general, people have an isolationist mentality rather than an interconnected one with others. Though it's far different from how other countries are, (which do not have the inherent isolation mentality that America does) most Americans don't know it, because the rest of the world is not part of "their world".

Anyone can go out in public and see that this is so - those that are out alone, stay alone (and strangely enough, they want to stay alone, especially if they're female), and those that are out with their friends/family, stay hanging around them. You can see this in any public place - cafes, restaurants, Starbucks, grocery stores, parks, bus stops, malls, and even bars and nightclubs. Attempting to violate this rule or change it is awkward and against the flow, making you feel like a lone ant trying to change the social rules of the whole ant colony.


"Breaking the ice" - proof that Americans are uncomfortable talking to strangers

I'm sure you've all heard the term in America "breaking the ice" referring to initiating contact with strangers. This common phrase speaks volumes about the social barriers against talking to strangers in America (so you don't have to take my word for it). And the fact that we have such a phrase to describe talking to strangers, pretty much proves my claim that Americans are uncomfortable talking to strangers and see it as abnormal, awkward, and intrusive (unless its business-related), making it self-evident. Obviously, if talking strangers is like "breaking ice", it implies that there is a cold, sterile, "ice barrier" that naturally exists between strangers by default, making it a huge psychological obstacle between both parties (even if one is from abroad) to initiate contact. If you've never left America, this seems normal, but if you are used to a country where there is no "ice" between strangers, then it seems awkward, unnatural, and inhuman for Americans to be this way.

Unfortunately, talking to strangers or "breaking the ice" in America freaks many people out, and makes the initiator feel awkward and intrusive. And if you must break the ice, you gotta do it in a very subtle, distant, overly polite, proper, nonchalant manner to avoid being seen as intrusive or "creepy". You can't be too forward, passionate, wild, or sensual like you can in Europe, South America, Mexico, Russia and the former Soviet Union, etc. To me, that's just weak, since I'm already used to it being totally different.

Thus, even a very outgoing sociable person from abroad who opens up to everyone will feel shy and cautious in the US, not because he/she is that way, but because since everyone else around that person IS that way, it rubs off on him/her, making that person abide by the social rules of "keeping the same company in public that you're with."

Even if you go to a crowded nightclub where people are partying and dancing, where it is more socially acceptable to meet people (at least in concept), most still keep with the company they are with, talking only to their friends, rather than meet any new people. And sadly, you can still feel the strong vibe that most of the girls there don't want to talk to you. So even there, if you go alone, you are likely to be alone. And if you try to break that hard "ice" by saying hi to girls there that you don't know to introduce yourself, you will feel guilty for violating "the boundaries" and, unless there is something really special about you, they will either look at you like you're a freak, ignore you, or say hi quickly and then leave. I've always said, North America is the only part of the world where you can be in a room or area full of gorgeous women who are all "unapproachable" (for various reasons). In other countries, that is virtually impossible. I can personally attest to this.

Anyone who tries to deny this collective social contract is either lying, deluded, or religiously against generalizing (the politically correct crowd) that they will always play devil's advocate to anyone who makes observations about people, no matter how true. It's just way too obvious, as obvious as the big obesity epidemic is in America. So much so that I would only need 5 - 10 minutes out in public to show someone all this in person. People out in public just don't approach people, so demonstrating that first hand would be way too easy. In fact, it's easier to demonstrate than shooting fish in a barrel. Surprisingly, even though I could prove all this in 5 minutes, there are still those out there who try to deny that this is true!

On the other hand, in most of the world, not just in Europe/Russia, one can easily go out alone without having to be alone. It is easy and natural to meet people, find company to hang out with, someone interesting to spend your time with, or even get a nice date with the opposite sex that same day or night, if you just chat them up sincerely. Or sometimes of course, they may chat you up as well. So in a sense, you don't even have to "break the ice" because there is no "ice" to begin with! You can see ample evidence of this, enough to convince anyone, in my photojournals. And even if you remain alone, you still know deep down in your intuition, soul, and gut instinct that you don't have to be alone, because the vibe all around you in public is far more inclusive and warm than in the USA, which is inherently exclusive in its nature, form, collective mentality and public behavior.

All this I can guarantee 100 percent beyond any doubt, and I give my word to it.

And even in nations which are somewhat cliquish, such as Britain, France, Germany or Japan, it is still easier to meet people when you go out alone (at least for those like me), comparatively speaking, than it is in the USA.

6 comments:

  1. Most Americans that I know have big issues about going anywhere alone. They won't eat alone, won't go shopping alone, won't travel alone, and won't go anywhere alone, because it's a big stigma to do things alone in America. That may be the real reason you feel "lonely" in America. Americans hang out in their little groups, and you are considered a "loner" if you don't have one of these little groups/cliques of your own. In Italy, I noticed people were perfectly content to do things by themselves, and when you are alone in Italy, you do not necessarily FEEL alone, because you usually interact with people. In America, many people are self-conscious about being alone, because people will stare or make a big deal about why you are by yourself. If I do something alone in America, and I am approached, yes I usually get annoyed. It's because of they way Americans approach me. In other countries, I am more open, because it's a different kind of approach. It's less intrusive, and less opportunistic. In America, usually it's something along the line of some person thinking that I need them because I am alone, they want something from me or because I am alone, that means I am looking for someone to hit on me. In some other countries, they do not act as if there is anything unusual about being alone, and if they approach you it is because they actually have something to say. Not because they want something from you or think they need to rescue you from being alone. Chances are, when you approach someone who is alone, you are approaching them in your American way, and that is why you experience responses of rejection. Sometimes you seem to forget, with all of your perpetual campaigns of America bashing, that you are American and still have many American traits, like it or not.

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  2. i go out alone all the time, and many times i feel soooo isolated because everyone is so "mind your business"... i had no idea that many parts of the world weren't as cold socially... sometimes i just want to go to a bar, and find friends, but jeez thats even hard to do... i am one of those pretty girls whos guilty of being cold towards some guys, (but how else do you weed out the ones you get creepy vibes from?) but lately i've been trying to make genuine eye contact with more guys, (and girls- but they are even harder to connect to) and i try to give a real smile- it gets me nowhere

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  3. Very good, I have experienced this many times but have never articulated it in my mind as being a social custom. In fact, I've stopped going out alone since I meet much more people when I am with my friends, and even then I feel as if I am at a job interview when meeting girls instead of being able to communicate freely and honestly, without any pretense. Of course I am not talking about the slutty girls (which are plenty here), but the average girl.

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  4. cool shit, Winston.

    I think too though that many americans get a sense of superiority in excluding others.
    They feel bigger when they do this. Not always but often.

    In germany, i've been told that you can go out by yourself and you won't get the vibe from people that you are a loser who has no friends.

    I got to meet you some day. You're a very interesting person.

    Take care.

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  5. Your right, in America everyone hangs out with their little "click of friends." If you go out alone you will remain alone and isolated. Americans have an isolationist mentality towards strangers (women especially have this mentality towards men). The fact is, it is just difficult to meet people here in America.

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  6. This is very cynical, your abillity to meet people when going out alone is directly proportionate to your confidence your charisma and experience of going out alone. I went to the USA alone and I made plenty of friends and got laid more than once.

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