The whole carriage could hear him making plans to take Martin out, but he was wearing earbuds.
The whole carriage could hear him making plans to take Martin out, but he was wearing earbuds.

As an Aussie, I’ll never understand this American habit

THEY'RE quite loud, these Americans.

Not just in that obvious, big-clapping handshake, talk-over-you way. Really loud in every single conversation way.

Like the other day, at a Japanese restaurant in a small upstate New York town.

"How is business?" the chef behind the sushi counter asked a big, ruddy-faced fellow who came in for lunch.

"Really slow this month," bellowed the man, which turned out to be good news for the townsfolk nearby. As the two banged on about cash versus credit, we learned the diner runs the funeral parlour down the road.

"But we had a great July, couldn't keep up with demand."

Over here you don't have to be in the room to be subjected to the detailed inanities of strangers' lives. Thanks to technology, we can increasingly hear both sides of everyone's conversations.

Over here you don’t have to be in the room to be subjected to the detailed inanities of strangers’ lives. Picture: Istock
Over here you don’t have to be in the room to be subjected to the detailed inanities of strangers’ lives. Picture: Istock

Of the many differences between Australians and Americans, little could be odder than their love of sharing entire phone calls with you on loudspeaker, like they're starring in their own reality TV show.

Sharing them with you on the subway, on the street, in restaurants and bars. In parks, in airports, on planes.

Perhaps it's something to do with how they are taught at school here, that everyone's voice matters, and it certainly makes the job of being a reporter easier.

But at times it seems almost overwhelming. All this sharing is considered socially acceptable, with no earbuds or headphones, just them and their phones at maximum volume. So everyone hears the whole back and forth, like it or not.

It's not just a young person thing either. Watching older people yelling into their phones on packed trains and buses is as common as teenagers talking out loud about their weekends.

With Thanksgiving coming next week, I had to dodge a frenzied hostess in the aisles of a supermarket recently as she talked through the menu with another woman she was face-timing.

At times the sharing seems almost overwhelming. Picture: iStock
At times the sharing seems almost overwhelming. Picture: iStock

Being a natural sticky beak and having been so heavily exposed to the phenomena over the past two years, I find myself on the fence about whether I prefer to hear only half the conversation.

I now have insight into how a contract worker named Martin from Connecticut is about to have his job cut, because I listened to his Wall St boss talking through it on a 30-minute conference call with what may have been an HR team.

The whole carriage could hear him making plans to take Martin out, but he was wearing earbuds.

I did find myself wondering if the others on the call were so breezy about squeezing every last idea out of poor Martin before they bundled him out the door, but I guess we'll never know.

Sarah Blake is the US bureau chief for News Corp Australia.



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