Thursday, June 4, 2009

Reverse Culture Shock #2

Before I left for Vietnam, many people in the states – specifically in New York and LA -- had blackberries. Now it seems that every single person in New York has a blackberry or an iphone. This has been one of my biggest culture shocks since coming back.

For those of you who know me, I admit, I’m an email addict. I love getting email. But I also like the feeling of not checking my email for a couple of hours and then BAM, having three waiting for me in my inbox. So this blog entry isn’t about judging people’s blackberry addictions but merely saying it’s a strange transition from an almost blackberry-less Vietnam to a "you-don’t-have-a-blackberry?" America.

My one knock on blackberries (and cell phones) is that they make people less friendly to those around them. A good example of what I’m talking about is this: About a week or so ago I was staying at my friend Brett’s apartment in New York. In the morning I took the elevator down 20+ floors. The elevator made four stops on its way down. Each time it stopped a person got onto the elevator with their head down, typing away on their blackberry. Literally there were five of us in the elevator and I was the only one not writing an email (or I suspect in one or two cases, pretending to write an email). There were no morning greetings or half assed forced smiles exchanged. It was merely get on the elevator, type away as if this box was their cubicle, and then get off the elevator as if nobody else was there.

In contrast, in Vietnam, when you’re in an elevator your head is up. You look around. You say hello. You even smile from time to time. One time a woman even started a conversation with me in an elevator and I ended up tutoring her for the next few months. It just seems, well, friendlier.