Of course I started racking my brain for all those things Americans do similar to blowing on dropped food. Quirks, if you will. Habits, yes, things we do without having to think about it. Things we "must" do or else we feel like something is "off."
The answer is yes, that Americans do have habits of course. Habits that have been passed down from their parents, just as Poles have inherited their's from their parents. The difference is, in a nutshell, that America is just not as homogeneous of a culture as Poland. What quirky habits got passed down to me can be, and most likely will be, wildly different from those passed down to my best friend who lives right next door. Certainly some traditions or customs in America, like fireworks on July 4th, Christmas trees at Christmas (even if you don't believe in Jesus) and so on and so forth, will be pretty much the same in every household. As they will also be in Poland. But the little things, as I've already mentioned, and others that I haven't (and trust me there are some really interesting ones), just aren't as prevalent in America... unless...
...unless... as an American I am just blind to them. And quite possibly, this is the answer. Enough people have commented and told me that they never realized these things were "Polish" until I mentioned they don't exist everywhere that I am willing to bet that there are things Americans do that they don't realize the rest of the world doesn't do. AND/OR there just are no habits I can think of that are "American" because to be American, by definition, means to be, in a sense, from somewhere else entirely. Yes, even over 200 years after the founding of the country, there are still many people who are celebrating holidays, cooking foods, raising children, and picking their nose, in the exact same way that their ancestors did in Mexico, Italy, Ireland, Poland, Lebanon, Israel, China, etc. Because that is what has been passed down to them. Just as here in Poland things have been passed down for several hundred years. But again, in Poland, everyone has the same things passed down (more or less, of course there are exceptions) because everyone here is Polish and has been for 100's of years (more or less). In America everyone is American but that means something entirely different.
Does that make sense? I'm trying to make this make sense.
When it comes down to it, the best I can do is think of things that I have found are distinctly American, and this would be mostly societal norms. Social awareness, because of the fact, perhaps, that Americans are all so vastly different in many ways behind closed doors, that in public we are very quick to establish "ground rules" or "norms" that everyone understands. Much like the "padding" I spoke of a couple posts ago. Almost as if, by creating these norms, we are creating an almost perceived (not fake) sense of "American culture". If, in public, we all adhere to these common, understood, rules, then it will seem, and does in fact seem, that we are all part of one big homogeneous community. And it works. And we do feel that way, for the most part, at least in public. ;)
- forming lines for everything, and NO CUTTING
- "minding your own business" (sometimes to a fault)
- lots of personal space
- "padding" what you say (especially to strangers)
- others, ya'll can think of some
And if you've made it this far, I applaud you, because here is where I really go off on a tangent...
At some point this week it hit me how very opposite America and Poland are on the spectrum of homogeneity. Because of communism in Poland for almost two whole generations you come upon a country that even late into the 20th century often had no access to "other" (at least in a global sense). America, on the other hand, has been gobbling up "other" as if it were the Thanksgiving turkey (irony being that if you served anything other than Turkey on Thanksgiving, you would be thrown out of the house). And so I find myself asking Martin, asking other Polish friends and family... why? Why do you do these things? Why do you believe this will happen if you do that? Why?! Did you read that somewhere? Did you see it on t.v.? And a lot of the time the answer will be, "well, that's just what we've always done, my mom and dad did it, and now so do I." Of course a lot of that is changing. Poles are moving all over the world, or even staying right here. Wanting "other" and getting it. Gobbling it up. For better or for worse.
I want to know if any of you have experienced American "habits" and if so, what are they?
And for my Polish readers, tell me, what were your biggest influences growing up, besides family? Responses from older generations are greatly appreciated.
P.S. Poland, if along the way you decide to ingest the idea to form lines/queues/kolejki in an orderly manner, it would be greatly appreciated.
*I have been spelling this word wrong my entire life. And have made the decision to never correct myself, ever.