The Bran Report

It's good for parts of you that you'd probably rather not think about.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Three's company

A certain accomodation has set up between the three of us sharing Dale, the fifty-room warren that my college rents out. We're all complete strangers and, being Anglo-saxon, have quickly settled on a relationship of absent coexistence. I think we are now the ideal of English neighbourhood: We wave at each other on our way to work, and I have no doubt they'd give me an egg if I wanted to make a frittata and I asked politely. However, if we go a week without ever seeing each other, no-one's going to be put out by that. If our conversations don't get past stating the time of day, then that's OK. The main way I interact with the people I'm sharing four rooms with is by dozing in the interval between my alarm going off and the sound of the bathroom lock opening.

I think it's one of the big differences between British and American culture: in Britain, "stranger" is not a friendly greeting. It implies someone towards whom you owe certain duties and a base level of polite tolerance, but not (for example) lively conversation or a barbeque in your garden. Or more accurately, we're happy to be quasi-strangers. Americans seem to want to turn that category of people- neighbours, postmen, shop-keepers- into quasi-friends.

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