I had a cross-cultural moment yesterday. Actually a reverse one. An American woman I had recently met at an event called specifically to inform me that I had done something the other day she didn't appreciate. She was very American about the whole thing by reflecting for 48 hours before calling, speaking very calmly and without a trace of emotion while being studiously assertive and precise about what she needed to express and finally telling me that she had called me for my own good so that I would be more aware in the future. I am sure that she felt good when she got off the phone -- she had gotten something off her chest in an appropriate, unemotional, rational way.
The problem is, I felt bad! I had been hastily judged by someone who doesn't know me or anything about me on the basis of her perspective and I wasn't put in a position to be able to think it through for 48 hours and respond appropriately!
Gotta love the Italian obsession with la Bella Figura, which goes hand in hand with other cultures' need to "give face". All that American individualism can foster an excessive need to express yourself in a very direct, clear and assertive way with little consideration of the person on the other side. Other cultures allow for getting the point across through context, while gracefully allowing for giving and receiving "face".
Italians will certainly tell you like it is, in your face, even in a very animated and very emotional way, at exactly the moment that it happens. You respond, they respond....and then it is over, poof, and you can go get an espresso together. Otherwise they will do whatever it takes to enhance your role in making the world a beautiful and elegant place, worthy of their effort at upholding belief in the Bella Figura.
I'll go lick my wounds and be back...