I recently came across a very interesting TED video addressing the differences between the American and British cultures on the specific aspect of politeness. I grew up in the Midwest of America, emigrated to Scotland, lived in England for a while as well, and have friends scattered all over the “British Empire” & Commonwealth; I now live in Switzerland (adding several “Germanic” mentalities to my experience in that process!). What the speaker (Lynne Murphy) observes makes a LOT of sense on both sides of the Puddle (Atlantic). I share it with you because as a writer I know that those subtle, unspoken, unwritten differences in the ways people interact with each other and show their masks, or as Lynne calls them “faces”, make or break the authenticity in writing both prose and dialogue. Click on the image below to watch the video; it’s 18 minutes long, so please watch it when you have time to focus! (By the way, the two cartoons below illustrate perfectly the difference between the “positive” face and the “negative” face.)
Christmas is over and schools are starting back up this coming Monday here in Switzerland. We all know the adage of the older generation answering the complaints of the younger generation about going to school with, “When I was your age, I (fill in the blanks)____________ (had to cross a snow storm on my hands and knees every day / rode a horse sixty miles one way / had to eat the horse halfway to avoid starvation…).”
I don’t know what it’s like where you live, but here children need to know what they want to do with their careers by the time they’re 12 or 13 so that they can begin training specifically in maths or sciences toward that goal. I don’t know about you, but I never thought that far ahead at that age! I don’t know a child who does; so it puts a tremendous amount of pressure on them at a far too early age, if you ask me. Having said that, children here don’t have to traverse war zones, landmine fields, or floods to get to their school here. Some may have to cross mountains, but they do so in a school bus. Yet for all of that, education is one of the most precious assets on the planet; with it, the world lays open before us; without it, opportunities often remain just out of reach, or so far away that they’re completely out of sight.
So the next time you hear a teenager you know complain about going to school, just show them the photos from the link by clicking on the images below, and may we all remember to count our blessings!