“A person who is nice to you, but rude to the waiter, is not a nice person”
- Dave Barry
I was talking with Shawn over Skype yesterday, he is a fellow traveler who has lived in many countries. For the last six months he has been living in Minneapolis, Minnesota working, outfitting, and preparing go ride a bicycle trip around the USA.
"Americans do not want to share a cup of tea."
I am presently 56 years old, and realized my number one daily goal is the search for friendship. I could care less about money, or social status, that is fools gold.
Americans are a friendly bunch, they say hello, smile, and have incredibly good manners compared to the rest of the world. They will open a door for me, say excuse me, thank you, and generally greet me in a very hospitable way, unless then are from huge cites like New York, Miami, or Los Angeles, the bigger the city, the worst the manners, the smaller the town the better the manners.
There are countries on the planet where people never say thank you.
Yet, these same countries will look you in the eye, smile, and encourage you to sit down and drink a tea. Generally, the coffee drinking thing is mostly a USA cultural thing, and tea is the world standard.
If you are stranger, in many countries they will ask you to sit down for a cup of tea, and if you are not wiling to sit down and have a cup of tea, they see you are rude.
Here is a photo of some men in Mosul, Iraq, I think in August of 2003, we was sharing a tea.
This man was drinking Argentina, Mate while I was in Bolivia.
I was in Awasa, Ethiopia, and every day I was in this city, I would stop and drink coffee with a few girls there, they called it the coffee ceremony.
Shawn nailed it, when he said, American do not want to share a cup of tea. I am sure that Americans are friendly bunch, but I think many are deathly afraid of strangers. American has been warned too many times, they think everyone is dangerous, in a country that is insanely safe, it is nuts.
Before I forget, Starbucks is in my opinion is everything the what is essentially bad about the USA, and they want you to walk around carrying a cup of Starbucks coffee. They truly do not want you to sit for days, they just want you to buy over-priced coffee. But in Ethiopia, they want you to share, without the sharing of friendship, then why are you drinking coffee?
Starbucks want you believe that high social status is friendship, it is not, is keeping up with the Jones on steroids.
If you truly want to drink a good cup of coffee, to have an experience you will never be willing to forget, go to Ethiopia, a very rich country. They are so rich, almost anybody in the country has the extra time on their hands to share a cup of coffee.
A rich person always has an over abundance of time, a poor country has to work all the time.
My Mother and Father live in Orland, Indiana, I think it has 406 people living in this small farm town, maybe 407 when I here. I asked my Father adn Mother what they do when a stranger enters Chubbies restaurant. My Mother said my Dad has adopted the custom of saying,
"Your face looks familiar, do I know you?"
Seems intuitively brilliant, and maybe it will work on anyone...
I can pick out a person that gives me eye contact, and say,
"You look familiar, do I know you, have a sit and talk."
Maybe I will offend them,
"I sure hope so!"
If you offend someone by trying to be their friend, the are not a nice person.
NOTE: If a person I met, a new potential friends screens their calls, I normally do not call them again. Because, I want to only have rich friends, who always have time to answer the phone, with the hope that a new friend is calling.
MichaelCrosby from has written 6 comments
Excellent and insightful post Andy. It's really a joy seeing America through your eyes.
My big adventure in life is when I hitch hiked around the US in the mid 70s. Being in a car with someone you'd never see again allowed speaking from the heart. I found the experience to be enriching.
Page Turner from has written 99 comments
Years ago I was privileged to be the parent of a large family. Took 2 week vacations in the summer. Made lots of friends along the way. Why? Everyone was interested in my kids, how old were they, where were we going, could they help and just seemed to be amazed that anyone would take a bunch of children on a trip. Guess you need to get yourself some kids or take some Amish teenagers on a trip with you.
You're really peeling back the onion skin on this trip with your insights into the American psyche. Your life experiences as a single man continually traveling the globe is a spotlight on distant cultures that reside outside the imaginary safe cocoon that surrounds us here. We have all been raised with the decree of our parents "Don't talk to Strangers". What you are experiencing is the cultural embodiment of that pronouncement ingrained in people who have been born and raised in America.
In our hearts we want to meet strangers and not be afraid. However, often times when me meet a stranger on the street, they usually have their hand out asking for money. This is why we don't make eye contact any more. We are trying to avoid being the target of the army of beggars and scam artists that seem to be the only people trying to make contact with us outside of our familiar circle of friends and acquaintances. How are people to know you're not one of them?
Rather than decry what you find lacking during your travel around America, please bear in mind what we have here is unique in many ways. We are a kind and generous people who often will go well out of our way to help others. We are always hopeful of making new friends and having new experiences, just like the rest of the people on this planet. However, due to our lifestyle, which involves motorized transportation, instead of walking, we are not inclined to meet or talk to someone such as you, a constant traveler. We crave the opportunity to see other places and meet people in other countries simply because it takes us out of our cars and puts us into the main square of other cultures. That's why we all love to dream about travel. Some actually get to go. But the most fun are the memories we share with others on our return.