Chat as stress relief

... the sheer amount of time invested in what ranges from chatting to gossiping is time not spent on other things...

I've been working at universities in Catalonia for the past 10 years or so, and it is very noticeable how students behave in comparison to students in other countries I've lived in. Surprisingly for many foreigners, the custom of chatting with friends will easily extend to inside the classroom, where you would have thought attention should be focused on the task at hand rather than idle chitchat. Socializing should be the word for this in English, but that word has different connotations, that of going out at night to meet new people, when in fact what I mean here is people spending huge amounts of time consolidating the relationships they already have. This is no idle point, as it extends from students into the workplace and all other parts of Catalan society and might be said to be the main activity participated in by Catalans, talking to one another about their lives, mainly their close circle of friends and family, in a way that not all other cultures do.

So what? Well the sheer amount of time invested in what ranges from chatting to gossiping is time not spent on other things, and in certain contexts would be frowned upon in many other cultures. When I taught in Germany, the students' attention to the teacher was meticulous - no one would ever think of speaking while the teacher was addressing the class. In Japan even more so, reaching a level of respect many Europeans (including my native culture) would not even recognise. The importance seemingly awarded to interacting here may also explain why in places where it is clearly signposted that silence is to be maintained, such as study rooms and libraries, young people still talk loudly to one another, presumably viewing such signs as an intrusion on their right to social interaction. It would also explain why they look affronted if an inexplicably irate Englishman violates that right by asking them to keep the noise down when they are “only talking”.

Now, let's look at it from the other point of view, i.e. the fact that in other cultures, such as mine, people do not socialize (during daylight hours) in quite the same way and therefore perhaps do not build the same strength of connections with people, leading to a society with more cases of isolation, antisocial feelings, disorders, estrangement, and a general lack of social skills around other people unless they've had a few drinks of alcohol. Clearly not a very desirable situation.

And therefore to sum up, I'm jealous. Jealous of people having the freedom to spend a good chunk of their day just shooting the breeze rather than feeling obliged to constantly get more things done. And I'm jealous of people simply ignoring social etiquette and talking at the top of their voice in any old place, oblivious to those around them. My upbringing was far too disciplined and strict to allow me to even contemplate such a way of behaving. And I'm all the more stressed out as an adult because of it.

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