Thursday, December 4, 2008

"Excuse Me, But Do You Speak Money?"

I am working in the Netherlands and I had gone to the airport with a Dutch colleague to pick up an American co-worker. While we were waiting at the bar we got to talking and she asked me something that had her intrigued.

"Why is that Americans talk so much about money?" she asked.

I told her I didn't know, and frankly, I never noticed it. She said she and her friends often wondered why the Americans they had met were always bringing up money in conversation. She said we bring it up often, whether it was how much money people have, what things cost, how much money they saved, what they own, the prices of things, etc., almost to the point of obsession. She said that in Europe, outside of the cost of doing business, people regard money talk as something personal and found it oddly American to expect people to discuss it so freely.


Before I had time to contemplate this notion, or even decide whether I thought she had a point, the American associate arrived and we went to greet her. She was a woman I hadn't met before, although we talked with briefly over the phone, she seemed a pleasant woman, somewhere from the midwest. After the usual pleasantries and introduction to my Dutch colleague we headed off in the car. As we are driving back, she mentions this is her first trip to Europe, then immediately launches into a discussion about the cost of the trip, how much money she saved, wondered how much money people made here, followed by the price of a recent lunch.

As I sank into the seat, I glance over at my Dutch friend who is barely containing a laugh as I turn to my fellow American...

"So, have you seen a windmill yet?"

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