My husband returned home from the supermarket the other day, wearing a wide smile on his face. A stranger who had just climbed out of a massive SUV had complimented him on his car at the supermarket parking lot.
“It must be the first time in my ten years here that someone addressed me in the street like that,” he said, exaggerating like a true Italian – even though, it is clear to me, there is little need for exaggeration.
It turned out to be his lucky day. In the afternoon we went to a nearby dam. While I queued at the bar to get us some drinks, two Slovak cyclists struck up a conversation with him when they noticed him speaking to our kids in Italian.
“We apologise for being a nuisance,” one of them told me (in Slovak) after I came back with the kofola. “But you know, these southerners... It’s not like us: talking to them is so easy.”
They quickly got up and left before I could get into a conversation with them.
On the train
So how is it, really? Are Slovaks too Nordic for conversation? I conducted a small, non-representative survey among my friends and found that incidental street “small talk” tends to take Slovaks aback. When someone talks to us without any apparent purpose, we immediately view them as suspicious.