LIVE AND LEARN
By Luis Bahena
I remember when I was in French class back in 2003 and how our French teacher would always tell us how Europeans and people here in California were very different.
For one, Europeans were a little more social than Californians and they weren’t afraid to speak with random strangers or give friendly warm smiles to passersby.
The most memorable thing she said was that Californians looked as if they had a bubble around them, a bubble that maintained everyone in their surroundings at an arm’s length distance.
Is that true Californians? Are we really so eager to keep people at arms length that we really do have this invisible bubble as a barrier?
Hmm, I think so. For one, you just have to look at any area with a lot of people to see just how distant people are.
Everyone is by themselves, or if they’re in a group, they are confined in what seems to be an extended amount of space. Only lovers and really close friends are as close to each other as to feel each other’s skin. And even there sometimes you can see some distance.
It is true though; Californians tend to keep people at arms length. I personally do get a little annoyed when someone gets a little too close to me when I’m in line at a grocery store or any place that requires me to be in a line full of people.
It’s as if it’s an unspoken rule, to stay out of one’s space.
Also, unlike Europeans, we don’t flash smiles to random people. Sure, it’s a sign of friendliness, but sometimes people don’t perceive it this way. “Oh, why is he smiling at me? Do I have something on my face?”
Someone smiles at someone and automatically you go into three different reasons as to why this person might have smiled at you:
A) There’s got to be something on my face?
B) They are probably flirting with me?
C) That person’s a weirdo and must be avoided?
OK, perhaps that’s a little too extreme, but c’mon Californians. You have to admit that one of these thoughts crossed your mind when a random stranger passing you on the street shot you a smile.
It’s no surprise that other places consider Californians as snotty and stuck up. Sure, we carry ourselves casually sometimes, but that doesn’t mean were snotty.
Perhaps it’s the invisible barrier that prevents people from seeing how cool Californians really are?
Maybe if we brought down the barriers, people will perceive us as friendly and warm Californians with sunshine smiles?
OK, perhaps that pushing it, but hey, we can try right?
(Luis Bahena is City Times’ features editor)