It was stuffy in the classroom, so an American colleague asked if he could open a window. No one seemed to mind as he opened the large window behind our desks. He then made plain why he had asked. 'Swiss people complain if there's a draft. Even if it's a tiny one you'll hear es zieht! es zieht!' He said all of this while making a sour face and waving his hand around the back of his neck. As I watched him I thought, funny, that's what people say about the Germans! I also thought that it was a bit rude of him to say that ALL Swiss have an inherent problem with drafts. I don't think I'd ever make such a sweeping generalization about a people and, if I were to, I should think I would be wise enough not to do so right in front of them. The window-opener then left the class for a moment in order to make a phone call. I asked Renate, a Swiss woman sitting across from me, if it were true what the other person had said. Renate shrugged and sagely said, 'I really think it depends on the individual.' So the Swiss hate drafts, supposedly. Apparently, people where I am from are all 'flakes'. We say one thing, but do another. You can't count on us Americans. I've always bristled under this blanket of 'flakiness'. Sure, some people make commitments they don't then keep, just as some people don't like a drafty room. But we can't paint an entire people with the same brush, can we?
Two weeks ago, I attended a birthday party of another ex-pat. There were folk from all over the globe in attendance. The party language quickly became English and there were rousing talks about politics, healthcare and travel, among other usual ex-pat topics. I brought up the subject of looking for work and how one should, in most cases, tailor one's CV according to the host culture. My CV is currently in English and I asked the group if it would be better for me to 'germanize' it or just leave it as it is. The position I am applying for would be for an English language native, so I thought perhaps leaving the CV in its original language made more sense. An American acquaintance suggested that I translate my CV into German and offered to help me. It must be said that I did not once solicit this person's expertize. Not feeling too terribly confident with my own translating abilities, I accepted the offer of translation help. A few days after the party I contacted this person and suggested we set a date to meet. I also expressed heaps of gratitude and offers of booze, food, or what-not as 'payment' for this person's time. A few more days went by and still there was no reply from this person. I sent a follow-up 'hey, I sent you a mail' text. Radio silence ensued and continues to be the norm. Ah, well, I suppose I should not have actually believed that this person would help me because we Americans are 'total flakes'. I hate it when a cultural stereotype proves to be true.