It would seem that people really leave you alone -- unless we asked a direct question, no one really spoke to us. It doesn't feel unfriendly, and everyone we came across was very helpful, but it's certainly not the loud, outgoing atmosphere I'm used to. I'd think it leaves a lot of room for individuality and independence, because it all feels very non-judgemental, and that's very nice.
And of course everything's really nice and quiet and orderly -- even when we were at EWR, and then on the plane, I was thinking about how there were so many people and quite a few little kids, and it was so quiet. If this had been a plane going to anywhere in southern Europe, it would've been the complete opposite. So the things that can drive you nuts about the Mediterranean or Eastern Europe just don't happen here: people line up nicely, don't approach you in stores or restaurants, no one's yelling, but if you say thank you, no one says you're welcome...
And it's true that we're from a city of people a lot like us, where almost everyone is either southern or eastern European, and gabby, which is certainly not the case everywhere in the US. So I'm wondering if actually what we've experienced here is what Garrison Keillor has been talking about all these years. Maybe good preparation for this trip would've been to go to the prairies of Minnesota.
I'll excerpt from an article I read in The Rejkjavik Grapevine about stages of expat integration:
You know that the locals, once they see how much you love this country, will welcome you as one of their own and that you'll have loads of friends within a week's time. You can't wait to take photos of yourself to send back to your friends and family, who are unfortunately deprived of the blessing you have received to be living here.In our case, visiting here. But nonetheless - rather interestingly accurate.