We Dutch are world-famous for our directness, so American conversations require a whole new set of skills. In my previous post, I wrote about an example of what Americans say and what they mean. There’s a lot of that. I have figured most of it out by now–at least I think I have. But that doesn’t leave me any less mystified.
Take “That’s interesting”.
At first I wondered what someone meant, exactly, when I showed him/her something and the reaction was, “That’s interesting”. But I gradually figured out that it’s code for, “Good God, I’ve never seen anything this ugly in my entire life!”
So what mystifies me is this: Why the code when everyone knows it means you hate it? Why not just say that you hate it, and then what you think is wrong with it? That would at least be helpful. Because how polite is it, really, to say “That’s interesting” when both parties are fully aware of the code?
In America you could have a whole conversation in this coded way.
“And here’s our bedroom. I’ve always wanted teal walls.” — “That’s interesting.” (Teal walls? What the hell was she thinking?!) — “Hmm, yes, we should have lunch sometime.” (Interesting, huh? Well, this is the last time I’m getting together with you, missy!) — “Yes, I’ll call you.” (When pigs fly, you crazy teal lover!)
Of course the trouble with this kind of code is that it is also regular language. So sometimes “We should have lunch sometime” just means “We should have lunch sometime”. I know for a fact that, when I say it, it’s an actual invitation.
Telling the difference will forever remain tricky. Really, Dutch directness is so much easier!