Wednesday, November 24, 2010

A Comedy of Manners


I never went to finishing school, but manners--wait your turn to speak, when you must interrupt say, "Excuse me," that sort of thing--were as much a part of my upbringing as Chinese school. In other words: largely useless at the time; immensely useful, if largely, forgotten now.

Tonight's Dutch lesson asked the question, "How is your country of origin different from the Netherlands?" (Wat zijn de verschillen tussen jouw land en Nederland?) The Big Answer didn't occur to me until after class, but it's this: people are more polite in the US than they are here. As long as you're not talking controversy (race, religion, politics) by and large if you start saying something, people will let you finish before starting on their own tirade, unless you take too long and they get bored. But even then, there's no guarantee that they won't interrupt.

Here, though, it's hard to get a word in edgewise. I've also found it shocking--and not in a good way--how easily people interrupt others, and how quickly you can quite literally be dropped from a conversation. It's not that they're intentionally rude. It's just the way things are--and it's something I've realized that I may never get used to. Interrupting someone without at least apologizing goes against the most basic fibers of my admittedly-not-very-moral being. I've learned to just walk into my boss's office, because otherwise I'll never get to see her, but for the most part it still makes me a little uneasy to just jump into a conversation.

I've never been a Miss-Manners type of person--manners, to me, are just common sense and respect. But every now and then, I do kind of want to give people a good scolding.


  1. I have noticed this SO MANY TIMES. I mean I thought it was just common courtesy to let somebody finish their sentence! Some Dutch people are better about this than others, though. I am also very good at abruptly stopping my sentence mid-word though, if somebody interrupts me, throwing the flow of the conversation off. I will then sit there with a pouty look until somebody yields the floor again. I'm a snot.

  2. I just lose track of my original thought thread...I'm not very good at multitasking :-)