I can’t believe that I just figured out that being a jerk is a unique cultural expression.
Seriously, the way that you are a jerk to people shows your unique heritage better than the clothes you wear, the way you pronounce words, or whether you prefer Pepsi to Coke. There is surely an anthropologist out there who has catalogued all of this in dry, academic language. Be that as it may, I’ll add my own trivial observations to the corpus.
To me, jerkiness is the thing where a person wants to be mean, and the methods they use to get it done. It’s distinct from rudeness, which is usually more about the receiver than the giver. This is being a jerk: do they tell you off to your face, do they ignore you, do they start deliberately mumbling, do they complain loudly to a 3rd party?
Because I’m an idiot, I walk around offending people most of the day. Mostly it’s due to my own ignorance, misunderstanding, or laziness. I’m the guy that’s walking in the bicycle lane or trying to talk to the employee who has a queue of people waiting. Sorry! Lo siento! Do people even say that here? Ay, perdon! It’s clear I have a certain talent and all that’s left is for me to monetize it.
Sometimes I’m less forgiven than other times. When I really piss someone off, that’s when their inner jerk comes out. While they do their thing, in my head I’m trying to figure out how old they are and where they were born. In Hawaii, I once got the most silent silent-treatment ever. Super creepy, like the eyes don’t focus when I’m right in front of them. In this part of Spain, offended people are direct and loud. Joder, ten paciencia! In Mexico, I assume they cast an evil spell on me after I was gone, because I never caught an inkling of offense in person (and because there are a lot of brujerias around).
Sorry world, the cultural ineptitude will probably never end. I’ve really got no idea what I’m doing. For our many well traveled friends – what do you know of offending other cultures?
Update on us: Allison and I are settled in Spain now for 2 1/2 months, currently focused on getting our long-term visas (still) and trying to figure out how to speak the language (still). The Spanish are really good at not hurrying, so we’re trying to learn that while we are here. But we still even walk way too fast. We’ve made a couple of friends and done a few trips within Spain and as far as London. Much more to do and see (slowly, somehow). Our next trip will likely to be to walk the last part of the Camino del Santiago. Then maybe to find out how the Portuguese or Moroccan folks get offended. 🙂