I’m an idiot.
I don’t know if anyone remembers but one of the things that continued to astound me in Hawai’i was the propensity for men I didn’t know (and one man I bafflingly mistook for a very butch lady) to ask me out.
When I mentioned this to other Americans they usually put it down to the fact that I was white and had an Australian accent.
But the explanation put forward by Kat George in the article linked above makes far more sense.
My teen years were so saturated with American culture (teen movies, books, music, and my old guilty secret of reading U.S. based dating blogs from the ages of 15 to 19) that it never occurred to me that those rules and customs did not necessarily apply to me, as I was living in an entirely different context.
I don’t often get ‘asked out’ on dates from complete strangers in Melbourne, but that’s because in Melbourne ‘asking someone out’ is a bit of an uncomfortable idea, and the equivalent of a first date is a party you both happen to be attending. Directly asking out a person you don’t know is considered much more absurd and awkward than it is in Hawai’i, where it was not uncommon for a bus trip to the beach to end with some guy having obtained my phone number (or not, seeing as I didn’t have a phone, but sometimes they got my email).
Before actually going to Hawai’i and spending time with (mostly interstate) Americans I brushed off U.S. and Australian differences as the ignorant (or at least exaggerated and outdated), patronising archetypes of broad accents, kangaroos in the backyard and an idea that Australians are sun-bronzed, laid back white guys who say g’day and just wanna put another prawn on the barbie. I thought they were stupid, and not particularly representative of my culture, as I understood it.
Why do we talk about those silly differences when what really matters, especially if you’re going to visit the U.S., is that how we conduct our relationships is completely different - from what we say in order to sound funny*, to how we seek out people we might want to be involved with?
I think I prefer our rather more casual, ‘dating’-is-kinda-weird ‘culture of introductions’.
But how did I not know there was a difference?
*I thought I’d already mentioned this, but apparently not - my sense of humour was so different to my Californian roommate’s that she thought I hated her. I only ever thought she was wonderful.