07 November 2014

Loud America

So my partner and I have been to the United States recently. We spent a total of 10 days in Boston and New York City. And after living in Germany for two years now, I feel like I have experienced culture shock when I was in the USA, even though the USA is the foreign country that I have spent the most time in, spending a total of 11 years living in Denver, Honolulu, Guam, and Buffalo. And while I already remarked that I have experienced culture shock when I was in Buffalo for a visit immediately before this trip, another thing struck me as odd, in that everything in America seems loud, from the subway systems, to the public areas, to the people themselves.

See, we landed in Boston Logan International Airport. And from there, we took the Silver Line to South Station, and then we caught the Red Line to Harvard Square to catch the bus that would take us to Cambridge, where we were staying. Everything seemed loud. The subway system was hot, and yes, whenever a train would arrive, it was so loud. And it was definitely true as well in New York City. It was so different from the subway systems of European cities. Berlin is a big city, and it has a massive subway system, but it also knows how to reduce noise.

It seems that Americans don't really care about noise pollution that much, compared to Europeans. Here in Europe, there are curfews imposed on airports, where flights cannot land between 23:00 and 5:00 more or less. Noise is a big deal here, and people don't want it. Subways are quiet, quiet to the point that people inside can actually hold a decent conversation between the two of them. In Boston and New York, the subway cars are so noisy, whether you're waiting at the platform, or whether you're inside traveling, you can hardly hear the voice of your companion inside the cars.

And the same can be said in public spaces. We took the train from Boston to New York City, which was relatively comfortable. However, there was a businessman inside who seemed to be at work. He was always on his phone and computer, and during the ride, well, I think he boarded in Providence, and he got off in Connecticut, while he was in the train, he was talking to someone consistently. And his voice just carried over to the whole car, so that everyone can hear him pretty much. Whatever happened to personal space? Can't you speak a little quieter? I don't need to listen to your business.

Overall, America was an interesting experience. People were friendlier (but then again, maybe they were friendlier only because they wanted me to tip them) but people were louder too. Everything was in your face. It makes me glad that I am actually just visiting, and that I am living in Europe instead.


  1. I find people here a bit louder than in France (or more exactly more... cheerful and easily excited) but I find Canada very quiet in general. So much land, so few people...

    1. Zhu,

      Oh definitely. Even arriving in Toronto's airport was a completely peaceful experience compared to arriving in Chicago's or worse, in New York City's.