Monday, November 22, 2010

Eavesdropping in America

Eavesdropping is something most people don't think about, even though they do it all the time. But, if you live in a foreign country and you don't speak or understand the language very well, you unlearn it. I lived for over twenty years in Germany and Italy and only had a little grasp of the two languages, even after taking courses and living there for so long. Never mind the reasons why, it just happens when you work and socialize with other Americans most of the time and your German and Italian friends happen to all speak perfect English! That's why they are your friends!

Anyway, you quickly stop even trying to eavesdrop, because it's all just blah, blah, blah or perhaps blacht, blacht, blacht or blimini, blimini, blimini! And I'm not kidding! Other people's conversations just become white noise when in restaurants, shops, or any public place where you hear these things.

Okay, so upon returning to the USA, where I actually speak and understand the language, I am a bit surprised to suddenly be able to hear and understand what used to be white noise. Throw in people talking in public on their cell phones, and it's a real circus! I think the ones I dislike the most are the ones with bluetooth devices who walk around talking to themselves.

Mostly, I'm surprised at the shallowness of the conversations, although I'm sure these things are really important to them. In my athletic club, there is a lot of social climbing and catty remarks by the younger women. They don't seem to have a lot of good things to say and even fewer important things. It's really small small-talk.

While I'm working out, there are always trainers working with people. Those are the funniest conversations. The older women, I swear, just have a trainer for someone to talk to. They do very little actually lifting or exercising and a lot of personal conversation with the trainer, usually a younger female. The men talk about girl/women troubles with their male trainers. The serious ones don't talk much at all. If there does happen to be an interesting conversation, I have to fight the urge to jump in . . . because I understand what they are saying about, say, Italy or education.

Just remember, we all can understand what you are saying! I kind of miss the days of blissful ignorance in Europe.


  1. For the first time, today I overheard an actual political conversation at the gym, about Nixon, between a trainer and a client (two guys). Later, the trainer apologized about being off task, but the client loved it!

  2. I had the worst time with this when I worked in a cubicle farm. People thought that since they couldn't see you, you couldn't hear them. So wrong! The very worst part was when I'd hear someone having a problem (or doing something wrong) and I'd know how to fix it, but I wasn't supposed to be included in the conversation. So frustrating!