(Older White man walks into subway car and stands near a seated younger White woman, who soon recognizes him.)
Woman: Hello, Mr. Baxter. Er, good morning.
Man: You can call me John when we’re not in the office.
Where are you headed?
Woman: I’m going to Queens today.
(They remain silent for the next 10 minutes.)
Man: (Exiting the train) Good-bye.
For what we’re about to say, it’s true we could benefit from having more context, like where these two work and their formal roles there. Still, we have enough data to form an impression that feels plausible.
The two commuters were clearly American in dress, accent, and non-verbal behavior, such as making direct eye-contact when communicating. So why didn’t their conversation correspond with the American cultural value of informality when greeting someone by name? Continue reading