Wednesday, October 03, 2018

Polite Talk

Today I am addressing two things that the younger generation and foreigners may not know about us here in the US and Canada regarding what you may ask us and what we find offensive.

The first thing is money. It is not polite to ask us how much money we earn, how much money we have, how much our house or car cost us, or how much money we have saved up.  Income and earnings are so private that most people will not reveal it to even their closest friends. Parents rarely, if ever, allow their children to know anything about their finances, but children should be taught never to reveal their parents income to anyone. It is a matter of private ownership. As a new era of openness has come upon us, children need to learn how to be reserved about private things, including money.

 If it has anything to do with personal expenses,  make sure you don't ask how much they spend or how much something cost them.  This is considered very private. If the person wants to reveal that they live in a low income bracket, or high income neighborhood, it is up to them, but it is a serious breech of manners to ask.

Sometimes the subject of vacations can be a sensitive spot. Asking about the places you stay on vacation can be seen as fishing for information about where you can afford to stay.

It is also rude to judge anyone as "poor" or "rich." That is also private.  I was visited by one foreigner who declared that I was "poor"!  They were not looking at my life outside of material things and they did not see my fabric stash.

The other area of rudeness is asking who someone voted for. At the start of an election, many people will encourage others to vote for their favorite candidate or issues, and may be quite open about what they think is right or wrong,  but once the election is past, the door is slammed shut, so to speak, and it is considered a very private matter.

 Our votes are considered private. We vote by secret ballots. If we want to reveal our vote to someone, it will be our own voluntary choice, but generally no one likes to be asked who they voted for.

Sometimes it considered very offensive to ask about someones political beliefs. If they sense your hostility to their politics, they most likely will decline to reveal them.

So these are two things you must not ask:  How much money do you make, and who did you vote for. Those two subjects are so private that most people do not share the information  with their grown children or relatives unless they are dying.

These two subjects are private. A person may be vocal about his income or his vote, but it is not polite to ask.

Once when I refused to say who I voted for, the foreigner who asked, replied, "We are not afraid to say who we voted for in our country."

I replied that I am not afraid to say, but that it is a private matter,and that it is out of respect for people who voted the opposite way that I am not willing to say. I don't want to provoke resentment or stir up trouble of any sort. Votes are private. Also, if I reveal my vote, you will judge me and draw lines of fellowship.

Another foreign visitor wanted to know what our financial back-up plan was. He knew we were independently self-employed and was trying to understand how we could live without any sort of government aid. Financial matters are private. I may tell you, but you cannot ask.

These two things are private: money and voting.

Warm friendships and lively conversations can still be had with the many other subjects that are available to us that we find in common. There is so much to discuss that are both uplifting and intellectually satisfying. 

Can you list some in the comments?


vintage ellen said...

Pets! We are traveling with our black lab dog right now. Many people come over to pet him and tell us about their pets, what kind, how old, their personalities. Deacon (our dog) opens many doors to meet and talk with people who are all kind and friendly. Good post and well explained.

Adelaide said...

Thank you for this post! This is so true. Interesting to note that in Europe, it is usually considered quite rude to ask people how much they spend, make or an item they have costs (I made the latter mistake once...). Perhaps this has changed with the younger generation...
Goodness, things to talk about instead...Ellen's excellent comment about pets got me thinking...well, how about the weather, for starters - it is always changing, different from year to year, day to day, especially if you are talking to a farmer or someone who grows their own food; The beauty of the seasons - the way the light and leaves change, the snow (if you get snow)... even in the warmer parts of the USA, the light shifts according to the seasons. My husband and I recently had a discussion about when seasons begin (are the equinoxes really the beginning of Fall/Winter etc, or the middle, based on the way the light changes - some cultures thought they marked the middle of the seasons...). Art, music, books, plays, movies, sewing projects, hobbies, home projects, exercise, what one does to unwind, and social events (like tea parties); people one admires and why; interesting or funny happenings during one's day / lifetime and observations therein; local happenings in one's community...Just to name a few that come to mind.

Mary said...

So glad you posted this. It is so important in our day and age. Something else private would be why a couple does not have any children. Or about the couple's physical relationship. Or medical information.

Maggie said...

Thank you for bringing this up. My husband and I try to keep out financial, and other personal business, private, as we don't depend on others to support ourselves and our children. We feel we don't owe anyone any explanations. However, in our experience, the older generation seems to have a problem with not discussing these matters too. I've learned the hard way that once our, or anyone else's, financial and other personal matters are in certain older peoples confidences, they don't stay private. We've been the subject of many older folks gossip sessions and it has made us feel a bit violated.

Michelle said...

Nice things to talk about might be where you are from, where your extended family lives, pets, trips you've been on, home projects that you might be working on. If you are talking with parents who have children of the same age, typical childhood things are good conversation. New recipes or new restaurants are another good topic. Anything pertaining to food is generally interesting to many people! I have never thought it rude to ask where someone went on vacation, but I would tend to ask something like, "What did you do this summer?" rather than "Where did you go on vacation?" mainly because some people do not go on vacation and that would put them in an awkward position.

We do share our budget with our children and I think that's fairly common among families raising children now. I don't think we have cautioned our teens not to discuss our finances with others, now that you mention it. I don't think their friends are interested in our mortgage payment or what our electric bill costs. ;)

I would never ask who someone voted for (how rude!) but I do think that many people discuss it openly. Or they have bumper stickers with their candidate's name. More unfortunate are the bumper stickers denigrating a politician on the other "side." I try not to bring up current events unless I know I am among likeminded people because I would want to argue with someone about politics.

I agree with you that it is good to have an idea for some topics that are appropriate to discuss in any type of mixed company so you don't accidentally put your foot in your mouth by blurting out something that is not polite to ask about.

Christine said...

Safe travels!
When you return, be sure to share what dresses you wore while traveling in each state.
How fun!

Unknown said...

I don't know where these visitors hail from. But it is actually considered rude to ask such questions in the UK.

By the way, as a child, I never discussed my family's finances with anyone and an adult that encourages the child to spill the beans is just being a busybody

What can be discussed, what we can learn from the Bible in terms of food and health.