Monday, July 23, 2012

Oh My God, I LOVE your hair - Getting attention in the US

So we were in the US last week, or now two weeks ago, and we brought some Swedish family with us. One was a teenage girl with blue hair. She had colored it herself, but it was a really nice tone of blue that suited her well. (It also made her really easy to spot in a crowd, so was great for trips to the mall or pick-ups).

Every day, at least one random person came up to her and said 'Wow, great hair!' Or asked her how she got her hair that particular color because it was so nice. Or stopped to chat.

And they were people of all ages, men and women, of all different races. It was pretty funny to see just how much attention she got over her blue hair.

She had blue hair in Sweden for weeks before she came to the US. Not one person ever commented on it. She has been back now for two weeks, and still, 'no comment.'

I haven't spent a lot of time imagining the difference between being 16 in the US and Sweden. I spent some time here in Sweden as a teen, but it has been awhile.

In the US, teenagers get a LOT of attention. Not all of it is wanted. Sometimes it can be nice. Sometimes it can be angry making.

And then there are the landscapers that always honk, the construction workers that always whistle. The random guys who stop you on the street and ask 'You lookin' for dates?' as if the street was where you might perform this sort of activity.

I used to say if you were really desperate, you only needed to go down to the Jersey Shore on a Saturday night and walk ten feet in a tank top and shorts. I'm pretty sure the same thing is true today, for anyone under 25. But usually the type of people you meet there, aren't the type of people you want to meet.

In Sweden there are no guys at the bar trying to subtly, or not so subtly, slip five dollars to the bartender to pay for your drink. You don't need to chase them off by forcing your money into the bartender's hand because you don't want to owe that guy anything.

But at the same time, it is nice to be noticed. To talk to people and have them take an interest in you. None of the conversations my Swedish guest had were inappropriate or made her feel uncomfortable.
She got the best of things, without having to deal with the worst of it.


  1. I totally agree in that people here do SEE each other on the streets. I mean they often chat a little, or at least nod (or say) hi, good morning, Thanks, excuse me or whatever is suitable for the situation. I find Swedes extremely rude now when I go back to Sweden. They very rarely offer help to someone on the street who they do not know. They never say hi let's say in an elevator. They very often do not even "look" at any persons they do not already know, but kind of "look through" them. Very rude and annoying I must say!!!!
    I know a lot of Swedes think that Americans are all superficial and that they might be polite abut when it comes to true friendship there is "nothing there". I do not agree with this, even though I understand some of how these thoughts have developed. I believe that general Americans ARE more superficial than Swedes, if you think of saying "have a nice day" to more or less anyone you meet on the treat, in the grocery store or on the bus is being superficial. I also think that when you do get to know a Swede they very often offer a (at least to other Swedes) more genuine type of friendship faster, than what some Americans do. But my wish is that one could mix these cultural differences together. One way does not have to exclude the other. I'm hoping to teach my daughter to be true and genuine in her relations to other, not to promise more than she can actually handle, but ALSO to be polite and nice and helpful to ALL people. Also the ones she does not know, but meet occasionally on the street. I think politeness like that is creating a much better world and a type of atmosphere in any community that I would rather live in.

  2. I often think that here in the UK we have a sort of halfway house - although not so much in central London and the larger cities. As soon as you get out of the cities, people are very friendly usually, although it does vary from area to area. People say 'good evening' as they pass you at night, cashiers leave their posts to help you to find something, and sometimes waitresses can spend so much time talking that you wonder if anyone else will ever get any food! In the USA I did find it odd when everyone said 'Have a nice day' but I soon got used to it. After all - if you have a choice between going to a nice american lady on a checkout in your local supermarket who always smiles and says 'have a nice day', or a grumpy elderly man who rarely looks at you - as I had in one village where I lived - which one would you choose to queue up for?

  3. Ok so this is something that I struggle with and it is hard to not sound selfish but I do honestly miss getting compliments! In America when you where something nice to a family event or change your hair and see your friends it is noticed and makes it feel worthwhile.