Apparently I live in the friendliest place in England. But saying that is like saying this guy is the most open-minded and accepting ISIS fighter. I learned quickly that rude and polite are standards unique to each society. People here probably think I’m loud and pushy. That’s OK. I think they are snobs and that England is a cold place filled with cold people. But I know it’s just that I don’t know how to make friends here.
People here don’t make eye contact. In the US, I’m used to people you pass in the streets smiling and nodding, if nothing else. When I lived in the deep south, there was one woman who would smile and say hello to me every morning as I walked to school. We had never met. I had no idea who she was. She was just friendly.
Here, even people I know avoid my glance. The parents of my kids friends ignore me. I ask to make play dates and get blown off. Sure, maybe their own lives are so busy that they don’t have time to schedule things for their kids. How many times should I ask before I realize they are trying to send me a message that they don’t want anything to do with me?
Maybe it’s me. Maybe it was something I said or did. Maybe I’m a rude American. But it also happens with people I’ve never met. This one woman whose kid goes to daycare with mine, I see her almost every day for years now. Everyday, I tried to make eye contact. Everyday, I failed. Now when I see her, I want to shake her and say “acknowledge my presence, you limey cunt!”
I’ve tried to adapt to my surroundings, but maybe people here need to be open and accepting of differences too. I shouldn’t have to change who I am to make friends. And besides, I have made friends. With the members of the British-Pakistani population.