One of the things that I’ve noticed since moving to the US is that when I meet people they like to try to make a connection with me by quoting some element of British pop culture that they love. This can either be really cool or a little irritating depending on what they come up with. I just hope that people aren’t disappointed when they express a love for “Downtown Abbey” and I inform them that it’s actually Downton Abbey and no I’ve never seen an episode. If you meet me and want to talk about “soccer” then that’s awesome but tell me that you’ve always had a soft spot for Liverpool and I’ll beat a hastier retreat than a French infantry regiment. I may mock you first though.
This kind of association is really strange; when I lived in England and I met Americans I never said “Oh an American, I love McDonald’s!” Which is fortunate because like anyone with working taste buds I really, really detest McDonald’s, but you get the idea, right? The thing is, sometimes I accidentally play this game too; last week I met a Canadian lady and before I could stop myself I found myself blurting out that I’d always wanted to visit Montreal, even though she wasn’t from there. I have also broken the ice with an Italian in the past by telling him I used to own a Fiat. Why the hell would he be interested in that? It’s just fortunate that I didn’t add that the car fulfilled the Italian car stereotype of bits falling off it every time the weather changed.
So it seems apparent that lots of us try to establish common ground early on in a conversation to give us something to talk about. Quoting pop culture might not be the best way to break the ice but it’s usually interesting and sometimes even amusing. If I was an American talking to another American I’d be asked if I had kids, or about my job. As a foreigner I get to talk about James Bond or explain to people that Simon Cowell is a twat, all in the initial part of a conversation. I can’t really complain about that, can I? The most common things that people bring up are Downton Abbey, The Beatles, James Bond, and Doctor Who but I even had one lady tell me that she used to own a bulldog! Of course as a Brit that snippet of information about her was vitally important to me.
Do you do this when you meet someone from another country or has it happened to you in a bizarre and amusing way?