View Full Version : Phillip Gump's travels

Phillip Allen
02-10-2007, 10:20 PM
I just got back from shopping at a big Wal-Mart super center…nothing to do with Wal-Mart but rather to do with a large sampling of human faces.

As I walked up and down the aisles I often made eye contact with my fellow humans. Men will acknowledge me and even women are willing and able to look me in the eye. I sometimes use the pretty women to test a theory: If I make eye contact and they quickly look away, then perhaps they fear me or strangers…those who look back and acknowledge my greeting I consider to be more comfortable in their own skins than those who avoid my hello. For whatever reasons these people do not fear strangers…they are a part of my preferred community.

When I was in South America, I made the same observations. In Brazil, everyone smiled back at me and the women made direct eye contact. In Argentina, however, I found folks would go into contortions to avoid eye contact…what can that mean I have wondered.

Can anyone shed any light on these social patterns?

02-10-2007, 10:56 PM
an adventure. I say 'hello' to dozens of people. I talk to little kids. I help ladies reach things on high shelves. I have conversations with the check out people. My wife gets a little jealous sometimes when I get home and she'll ask how it went. Quite honestly I have been asked to dinner by probably 12-13 women just while pushing a cart around a grocery store.

I guess it has to do with how and where you were raised. My father taught me to be poilte, and I try my best to always help if I can. You always hear about the rudeness of French people. Not to me, they weren't. I have been in the roughest inner-city neighborhoods and I have been in many different countries and had maybe two or three bad incidents over the years. If you greet people with a smile, a quiet smile, and show them right up front that you are interested in them without being condescending, then the odds are about 99% in your favor that they are going to like you.

One place where I have had a wee bit of trouble is in Germany. No one was rude. Not at all, but in the Ruhrgebiet there are something like 11-12 million people living in an area not much bigger than Mobile and Baldwin counties in Alabama. So in order to maintain a little space for themselves most people are very, very private when they walk on the street. Where I live we greet pretty much anyone that we come across. 'Hey'. 'How are you?' To everyone. Well, you don't do that in Germany. People look at you like you're nuts. It takes some getting used to. On the other hand, once you get to know people you will find most Germans to be very open and friendly. At least that has been my experience.

I always tease my wife that if she ever leaves me all I have to do to find some company is go grocery shopping. :)

Mickey Lake

Paul Pless
02-11-2007, 07:14 AM
My experience has been alot like Mickey's (well maybe without the dozen or so dinner invitations), but I've traveled extensively throughout the United States, Canada, and Europe. I've relished the times I've spent in Germany but too have found complete strangers to be rather withdrawn and cool.

For a completely different experience though, Budapest was an eye opener. In Hungary, I found a largely caucasian population of mostly attractive people who wanted to make contact with you. They made eye contact without reservation, and quite often would 'invade' your personal space and touch you and laugh and smile. After my trips to Northern and Western Europe, I found this area to be exotic by comparison. I look forward to a return one day.

Phillip Allen
02-11-2007, 09:29 AM
So, if it is strictly cultural...how do our cultures arrive at this point?