I’ve met someone today. In the waiting room of the ENT doctor where I spent an entire two hours waiting since some sort of epidemic seems to have possessed the city. Mine is funny, I can talk but barely swallow or laugh without my throat feeling like being struck by a grater.
However, as I said, I’ve met someone. He has full blonde hair, big blue eyes and is pretty cute. He owns a rad as Formula 1 racing car and a matching cordless screw driver and he carries both with him at all times. His name is Paul. Paul is about 4 years old. He actually got me thinking about the pros and cons of straightforwardness and my views on it.
Paul’s mother obviously came to see the doctor with him. At some point, she left the waiting room and asked him to stay there. He kept screwing and unscrewing the tires of said rad as car and then suddenly stared at me and said ‘I got this for Christmas. From Santa!’ Of course, I acknowledged this information with the due enthusiasm and went on about how cool Santa was for delivering this portable screwdriver (I mean, I had to live up to 30 before I got my first portable screwdriver!) but Paul was pretty unimpressed with my remarks. He kept working on his car in silence, then looked around, stared at me again and said ‘There are only two chairs for children in here, but seven for adults!’ And he was right! And there wasn’t even a question behind it, it was just an observation. A few screw-on, screw-offs and the world-changing information that the car is green later, I felt the stare again. He looked at me and said ‘When is Mum coming back?’ I said she would probably be back soon and asked him where she went. ‘To the loo’ was the short answer. But he still stared so I felt obliged to say ‘Well, if she only just went to the bathroom, she will be back real soon’. Paul looked at me with great disapproval and said ‘No, she is taking a shit. This will take LONG!’ Well, what can I say? He was probably right and straight to the point! And I’m sure his Mum would have really appreciated that he gave me this detailed information on her digestive process!
I wish Paul was 30 years older – he would have been right up my alley. I mean, of course, I would be slightly confused – not by the screw driver, mind you! – but by the green rad as Formula 1 car. Not my style really. But I love it when people are straightforward and don’t beat around the bush with their opinion.
When I started my intercultural studies (which mainly means getting drunk with people from different countries) though, I discovered that straightforwardness is really a cultural thing. Not only internationally, even within Germany there are certain differences. We here in the Ruhr area are said to be pretty direct and straightforward. In other parts of the country this is not the case apparently. But the international differences are more obvious. While we in Germany tend to just spit it all out the English-speaking countries seem to go for the more diplomatic or indirect approach. And I can tell you, it’s not easy for me to notice then that in fact something is really wrong. My Kiwi friend once said that I was brutally honest. Am I? Sure, sometimes I have wished that I would have just kept my opinion to myself. But even when I try, the look on my face gives it away. My teacher in high school already told me this. In Spain for example I noticed that everybody is always friendly but when you turn your back, they are slagging you off. The Asian culture is a total myth to me because they always seem to be friendly. But is this better?
For me personally, it would be the best if people were just always straightforward. I mean, you don’t have to be impolite but just say what’s on your mind! I believe I can live with nearly any truth, much better than with something which I do not really understand!
And I hope for Paul that he keeps his open approach. I hope that nobody ever tells him that his opinion does not matter. And I secretly hope that he keeps the portable screwdriver, too!
So what is your experience – is it better to be straightforward or beat around the bush?
Yours truly, madly, deeply and today also hoarsely!
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