My European students — especially the Swiss and German — insisted that Americans are superficial. Irked by this, I finally got them to explain their perception. It was based on something as deep as “Americans say ‘how are you’ but they don’t really care about the answer.” I told them that, in China, a common greeting is “Have you eaten yet?”
I got pretty tired of their complaining about American superficiality when their complaint was based on something that superficial.
Many of the boys always hoped to get a pretty, blonde, California girlfriend and were always disappointed (seriously, I think literally always). A girl would be nice to them and friendly but wouldn’t want to see them again. “You’re leaving the country in two months,” I’d remind them, “she probably doesn’t want to get involved.”
There was. nothing superficial, however, about wanting a pretty, blonde, California girlfriend for two months, right? 😀
But it went deeper. It had something to do with their California dreaming. California was supposed to be a place with palm trees, warm water, friendly people, surf culture, etc. In fact, there are palm trees but the water is usually pretty cold. The people are not any more friendly than people anywhere (see above), and surf culture? It’s there but it’s not all Beach Blanket Bingo by any means. Their complaints about “superficiality” were based on disappointment and the stereotype Americans have in many parts of Europe.
I’m not superficial. I never have been. I have tried, though. I’ve given it a sincere effort for many, many years. It’s probably never going to happen.