Reading Fox’s chapter on “Rules of the Road,” I noticed some big differences between English and American culture, especially with regard to to the part of the States where I’m from. Fox observes that interaction between English commuters on the train or Underground is almost nonexistent, with a few interesting exceptions. While I haven’t spent much time on public transportation (there’re no underground lines in Kennett, Missouri or Memphis, Tennessee or Lexington), I feel that I talk to people when I am taking a shuttle, bus, or train. I’ll usually try to find common ground by inspecting them. For example, when I see someone in an Ole Miss shirt, I’ll drop a subtle “Hotty Toddy” and ask them what they think about the Rebels’ chances next season. If they are reading a book I’ve read, I’ll ask them what they think about a particular chapter or section. I find that the ride is much easier and less awkward when you recognize each other’s presence and acquaint yourselves.
Fox mentions that English people commonly open up to one another and ignore the “denial rule” when they can moan and complain together. This was one thing I do think is common in the US. When I’ve been at an airport gate and the flight is delayed, everyone will say “Delta does it again” or “this happens every time when I connect through Atlanta” (people complain about the Atlanta airport a lot). While this is a great icebreaker, I don’t find that Americans then follow the complaint with a strong fear of continued conversation. If anything, it’s an easy way to get to know someone.
“Oh, do you fly through here often?”
“The same thing happened to me just last week when I was headed to…..”
I also found the car rules to be different. For me, this difference applies more to small town America than bigger cities in the US. Growing up, I always found it common to wave and nod from the car to people passing through town. I would even honk when passing a friend or pull up next to someone to wave hello if I recognized their vehicle. This is a change from the “invisibility” of the car “castle” that Fox discusses.
I think I prefer our way of interacting when traveling. It’s a small world, and you never know when you’ll run into a friend of a friend or someone with an interesting story to tell.