Breaking down the cultural differences in regards to conversation & in our over-saturated world of technology, the importance in taking time to disconnect.
Upon finding myself settled into a coffee shop corner table, I take a second to look out the window & at the people around me. I have been living in the small city of Nässjö, Sweden since the middle of December. Halfway around the world, from my home in the United States, I have noticed differences between the two cultures. Not to say that one or the other is superior, but indeed they are different.
Differences in regards to the types & the quality of conversations appear clear as day to me, as I observe the people around me in this city.
What makes the two cultures so different?
A group of teenage girls come into the coffee shop & sit at a nearby table. They each have a slice of matcha cake in front of them. I immediately tried to imagine this scenario happening in the U.S. I’m almost certain there would be an iPhone whipped out to snap a pic of their stunning green cake. Even I was guilty of taking a picture of my perfectly poured cappuccino, about twenty minutes before their arrival.
The apparent presence of phones. That’s the difference. Is it good or bad? You decide.
The habit of picking up a phone…it’s become so common to us that we don’t even think twice about it. Here in Sweden, I’m finding that not to be the case. Yes, iPhones obviously exist, but their presence isn’t noticed in social settings. It’s something I noticed right away, upon my arrival.
Since I’ve been in Sweden, I have come to enjoy this lack of cellular connection when doing simple things such as walking to the grocery store, sitting in a restaurant, & watching Devin’s basketball games. All without wifi. Just a few weeks ago, I had to wait three hours in a gym for a basketball game to start. I didn’t have wifi or anyone to talk to, because I obviously don’t speak Swedish. Instead of resorting directly to my phone, I sat quietly alone with my thoughts, observed what was going on around me, & ate a hot dog without a bun. I was starving & sometimes options are scarce when your gluten free LOL.
Are we scared to disconnect?
Or have we become comfortable with the security our phones provide us. Do our phones provide us a crutch in awkward situations? Have we lost touch with the ability to sit still & remain quiet, without having to rely on a phone to keep us occupied?
You be the judge.
For me, moments of disconnect have been refreshing. Of course wifi is available in some areas & in our apartment, but when I don’t have it, I enjoy being disconnected, even if it’s for just a few hours.
With the constant use of our phones, have we lost the value of face-to face conversation?
Conversation without quickly glancing down to see if you got a text or snap or whatever.
Conversation where two people are engaging & are actually listening & are able to provide genuine responses.
Having the type of conversation where eye contact is present & maintained, where no one is looking down at a device.
This type of conversation takes practice. But it’s never too late to learn.
This is the type of conversation that I have observed here in Sweden. Even when talking to people for the first time, they engage with what I am saying & I have no choice other than to fully engage back.
Have our phones taken away moments like this?
Why are we always checking our notifications, when we all know they will be there whenever we go look later. They aren’t going to disappear.
Since they aren’t disappearing, let take moments shared in coffee shops, in the car, waiting for a meal or waiting in line & let’s challenge ourselves to be present & engage with one another! Ask someone how they are doing & care about the response! If you are by yourself, ask yourself how you are doing. It sounds cheesy, but taking quiet time alone with yourself is just as important.
While we scroll through our phones, real moments are passing by…real opportunities for conversation. The moments, disconnected from a phone are the moments to enjoy because they just might not be there later.
So here’s to enjoying meaningful conversation, smiling at the stranger next to you, & connecting to the people beside you. Here’s to putting our phones down, so we can reconnect with the life & people in front of us!