24 June 2006

Reverse Culture Shock

I had my first case of what I'm dubbing "reverse" culture shock while in Switzerland this week. I say reverse because I was startled by something from my own culture, rather than another one for a change! Anyway, on to the story. While we were walking through the town of Gimmelwald on Wednesday, we crossed paths with an American tourist walking in the opposite direction as us. As we passed her, she made eye contact and said, "Hello!" in this super-friendly way.

In that moment, I completely understood why the French think it's weird that we smile at strangers, much less greet them. My instant reaction (other than to laugh) was one of surprise and confusion: why did that woman feel the need to greet us? We didn't know her; she didn't know us. I found myself having the "French" reaction of thinking that she was either A) an idiot, or B) up to something suspicious.

To say the least, this is a reaction that I never expected to have. When I lived in the US, I generally *at least* smiled at people when I cross paths with them. Here, I avert my eyes and keep to myself. It seems polite and normal now! Funny, especially when compared to the #1 thing I missed about the US back in November. Some time this week, I'll have to make a new top 10 list of things I miss. I think it will be a bit different from the first one.

Before I sign off for the evening, I'd like to take a moment to continue with my obsession for odd signs in Europe. Both of these came from Switzerland.

I can't help it -- I swear that this sign is telling me to stop and smell my finger. (This was all over the place at the Chateau de Chillon in Montreaux. I'm assuming that it is actually asking people to be quiet, but I can't really figure out why they would be so worried about silence when it's not a particularly reverent place.)

This was a sign in the restroom on the train from France to Switzerland. I have two interpretations: 1) Do not chill your wine in this toilet, or 2) Do not drink any wine that has been chilled in this toilet. Again, I know that the real point of the sign is that you shouldn't use the toilet as a trash can, but using a giant wine bottle that is the same size as the entire bowl in the graphic seems a bit excessive. Why not just have some balled up paper?

If you have better captions, send them on. I have one more postcard here that I could mail out if the mood strikes me right!


At 25/6/06 02:36, Blogger KatHarrmann said...

Those are hilarious signs! I actually laughed out loud like a yahoo here at my desk when I read your commentary! Too fun! And hey, I have to say, I didn't know there were real places called "Gimmelwald" outside of children's story books!! :)

At 25/6/06 03:21, Blogger Joe said...

"Do you know where your finger has been?"

I know, it is not that funny but that was my first thought.

At 25/6/06 04:51, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Booger check-point here.


At 25/6/06 18:44, Blogger amy7252 said...

Gimmelwald DOES sound like something straight out of Shrek. Funny!


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