The Italians are coming!
Well, you have just pushed my story button:
I think much depends on the gestalt in which it occurs, and what is
considered correct behavior there. It varies a lot. In American sales
meetings, such behavior is common and acceptable, even
enthusiastically enjoyed by the audience. Out of place, it can
produce culture shock. I got a small view of that once, when I took
the rail from Stuttgart, Germany to Florence, Italy.
At Stuttgart, I sat down in a compartment with the usual two long
bench seats facing each other. There were several Germans in the
compartment with me. Everyone sat with hands folded in laps or
holding a book or magazine. Nobody touched another person. All
luggage was stowed neatly in the compartments above the seats.
Conversation was polite and rather quiet.
That afternoon, we arrived in Zurich. All of the Germans had left the
car, and had been replaced by Swiss. The Swiss were more like
Americans. Still somewhat reserved, but animated, and moving about,
crossing a leg over a knee, or turning their bodies toward others
they were conversing with, unlike the Germans who tended toward only
turned heads and both feet on the floor.
That night, we crossed beneath the Alps and during the early hours of
the morning, arrived at the Italian border. All the Swiss had left
the compartment. I was sleeping, stretched out on the seat, full
length. I was awakened by several noisy Italians, who came into the
compartment with luggage and paper bags, which they sat on the seats
beside them, on the floor, or stuffed into the compartments above,
without attention to neatness. One of them tapped my feet and
indicated that I should move so he could sit down. I did, but it was
annoying, being awakened so abruptly, and made to sit up.
People crowded against me. They made no attempt not to touch me. Two
of them sitting on each side of me, leaned across and carried on a
conversation in Italian that I couldn't understand. I could feel
their breath on my face, and it smelled of salami. I was getting
Then I felt someone nudge me, and looked. Smiling and chattering in
Italian, he handed me a sandwich. Another one passed me a bottle of
Chianti. Somebody brought out a mandolin and started playing. People
sang along. Everybody was happy, and soon, so was I. It was
impossible not to like them.