Really? You’re saying. I’m really an introvert. You’re kidding? I’m really a reluctant extrovert because I over compensate for being an Asian immigrant. Compared to American culture, I think most Asian cultures are more “introverted’ in a sense that they are more of a hearer-based culture rather than a speaker-based culture.
When I was in grad school, I read Daborah Tannen’s groundbreaking You Just Don’t Understanding about how women converse differently than men. In American culture, the goal of male conversation is to make a point while the goal of female conversation is to interact. So that’s why men complain about being frustrated with women making small talk while women complain about not getting along with men. According to Tannen, men and women do talk differently because their goals of conversation are usually different.
Using Tannen’s model, I think American culture is very much a speaker-based culture. In other words, the burden is on the speaker rather than the hearer. If you don’t speak up, then you’re typically not going to get what you want. You don’t expect people to guess what you think or guess how you feel.
Particularly in personal interactions, I faced a major culture shock when I first came to America in college. I didn’t know I had to express my feelings. Don’t people just get it?
In Asia or at least in Hong Kong, I grew up having to guess everyone’s feelings. You’re not really supposed to say or do anything unless you know the other person is going to like it or most likely approve of it. Otherwise, silence is golden. Before the global proliferation of American culture, I don’t remember ever saying “I love you” growing up in Hong Kong because if you loved someone you would both know it by interaction or action. You wouldn’t have to say it.
Coming to Los Angeles I’ve learned the hard way that L.A. has a linguistic culture of its own. You’re supposed to be engaged in a speaker-based culture—and constantly keep people engaged—but you’re really not supposed to say anything that will upset anyone because you never know what kind of power the people you’re talking to may wield.
In L.A., you’re supposed to be a pleasant extrovert and the worst thing you can say is probably “It’s interesting” even if it sucks.
So you can see how I always say the wrong things because I’ve been multiple culture shocked. Please forgive me.