CALIFORNIANS

Even though I miss Europe and its diversity a lot, I’m starting to really appreciate the Californian attitude to life. And I’m saying Californian rather than American, because I’m under no illusion that it might be very different in other parts of this vast country. In my (admittedly limited) experience, Californians are generally very laid back (some might say, too laid back, too wishy-washy, or “flakey” as a friend once described them). That may be so, and I’ll come back to it (it can be really annoying), but it makes for quite relaxed living, especially for someone who’s only planning to spend a couple of years here. The difference to Europe became very apparent to me during our Tahoe trip last week. The first thing I noticed when we got to the slopes was the amount of dope in the air (just kidding, I only noticed it half way through the day). It was quite a busy day, with a lot of people wanting to get up that mountain, but there was no pushing, arguing, and general stress as you would have experienced in a resort in, say, the Alps. Skiers and snowboarders happily mingled in the lifts and on the slopes, and I didn’t see a single instance of slope-rage. Well, one instance when someone went too fast and nearly ran someone else over, but the way it was dealt with was incredibly civil if you’ve witnessed proper slope-rage in the Alps. What astounded me most was that nobody seemed to care whether somebody was a skier or a snowboarder. They were all out to have a good time. In Europe, on the other hand, this would be unheard of (I’m going to exaggerate a bit here, to make my point). When I switched from skiing to snowboarding, I had to put up with so much grief from skiers, you wouldn’t believe it. And at every opportunity they’d bad-mouth snowboarders, blame them for accidents etc. And the snowboarders (although generally more relaxed about the whole thing) would sneer and call skiers “lame”. Oh the whole thing is so infuriating! And so pointless, I mean, why do people have to do this? Why can’t they just let others make their own choices without giving unsolicited advice? Who cares??? But, oh no, you can’t do that. You have to take sides. You have to have an opinion and voice it, no matter the consequences.
And now I have to start generalising I’m afraid. I hate all those cliches, all that “the British are stuck up and have crappy food”, “the Germans are ugly and have no sense of humour” and “the Americans are fat and shallow”, etc. God, I’ve heard a fair amount of prejudice living in the UK. And of course it’s fun too, and should be fun, and differences are what makes the world interesting. So, I feel I’ve earned the right to generalise a little. And if I wanted to be cruel, I’d explain it like this: The Americans don’t say anything because they’re too ignorant to have an opinion, the Brits don’t say anything because they’re too polite and afraid of arguments, and the Germans say whatever they think because they’re arrogant and think they know best. But of course I’m not putting it like that! I just think people here are more laid back, they don’t have to voice their opinion at every opportunity, are maybe more tolerant (which is what happens when so many different cultures and nationalities merge together, in a melting pot like California). Or they just can’t be bothered to start arguing and opt for an easy life by keeping their opinions to themselves. Which the Germans could really do with adopting a little bit. Having spent so long living outside my country (over 12 years), I’ve become very non-German, and feel the bluntness like a foreigner would. It’s a very German thing, expressing your opinion at every opportunity, asked for or not. And to a non-German, this can come across as incredibly patronising and negative. This is something I’ve only realised recently, having been involved in an argument on an expat website. I had wondered why, every time I’d been back to Germany or spoken to Germans, I’ve felt criticised a lot, felt I had to defend myself all the time, or just felt deflated by negativity, and generally quite taken aback by people’s strong viewpoints. So many times I’ve thought, and sometimes said, “Don’t be so negative! Do you have to find the bad side to everything?” But that’s just how people are, it’s a national trait. Of course I’m not saying every German is a negative, critical know-it-all, but I’ve certainly come across this general attitude a lot. And it also exists in Britain, but people tend to take the mickey out of those who are too patronising, so I think a lot of stuff just doesn’t get said. I’m quite enjoying the non-judgmental attitude I’ve encountered in this country (or part of the country, I doubt I’d feel the same in some all-American bastion, like the mid-West). It’s to do with this melting-pot mentality. There are so many different people here that you haven’t got a choice but to accept a lot of differences, different ways of doing things, different upbringings. And not only to accept, but to embrace, and celebrate. So it might be a bit “tame”, with everybody trying to be as tolerant and non-judgmental as possible, but it’s not shallow and superficial.
Wow, maybe I should edit this blog again. Feels quite good to have had a good old rant, but I sincerely hope nobody feels offended. I just felt like it.
And now, having read through all of this again, I have to chuckle to myself. I think I might have perfectly proved my point… Don’t I sound like a good old opinionated German?!

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