On Culture: The Downsides Of Small Talk

“How are you?” “I’m fine, how about you?” “I’m doing quite well, thank you.” “You’re welcome.”

If you come from the United States like myself, more specifically the Midwest, this dialogue up above may appear over a dozen times throughout the day, and it’s not healthy.

As I write this, I can hear rain hitting the kitchen window. It has been raining all day and on top of that, I have not seen the sun for going on two weeks. “In like a lamb, out like a lion” and “April showers bring May flowers” I guess. Despite all of this, when passersby asked me how I was or how I was feeling today, all my Midwestern upbringing could shoot out were “fine” and “well.” My responses were not really an indication of my mood or well-being, rather an indication that my cultural background is similar to that of the person asking me. This is a small cultural reason as to why more and more Americans struggle with mental health issues like depression. As a whole, Americans try and maintain a facade that we are the greatest country in the world, and it only harms ourselves.

In a nation like Germany, the simple act of asking someone in line for coffee or waiting for the elevator, “how are you?” is absurd. If they were to respond to that insincere question at all, they might say, “I’m a bit depressed. It has rained all day and I have not seen the sun in nearly two weeks.” They have no need for a stranger’s consideration; the only people worth asking, “how are you?” are family and loved ones. Small talk only creates expectations and conformity in a society. Humans care more about feeling genuinely cared for rather than being a part of a masquerade.



2 thoughts on “On Culture: The Downsides Of Small Talk

  1. You do a very good job connecting your daily life to the struggles faced by Ifemelu and Obinze. It seems obvious in retrospect, but many native speakers never realize how many subtle nuances and figures of speech they use in even one conversation. I am trying to learn Spanish and I can barely speak cohesive sentences, much less complicated and foreign figures of speech. I can’t even begin to imagine how tough it is for someone who is suddenly plunged into the thick of it by immigrating to America.


  2. This blog post is quite depressingly accurate, and actually brings up points I never really considered. Can we even consider the act of small talk foreign to other countries, or just horribly native to the great Ole’ U S of A. I appreciate the connections to Americanah, overall very nice job, Josh Kornsmoth!

    Liked by 1 person

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