by Zhanna Vaynberg
Having grown up in a very loud and direct Russian family, there’s something about this straightforward type of behavior that I’m very drawn to. Because, to me, politeness seems to be more a defense mechanism than anything else. My fiancé (an Israeli, coincidentally enough) and I are always lamenting that Americans, unless you’ve known them for years, are not very forthcoming; it is often hard for us to talk to them about things heavier than TV shows we have in common, work, or the latest regional gossip. Sometimes it feels like Americans are so afraid of being disagreed with or disliked that topics of conversation have no choice but to stay trivial. And it’s not even the topics of conversation, really, but more the level of conversation. It’s like filling up on appetizers and never getting to the main course–a lot of speaking gets done, but by the time you get to something real (if you ever do), everyone is picking up the checks.