Why are Americans so loud?
From Julia Belluz at Vox:
…Americans are loud
A final point about why restaurants are so loud. This has nothing to do with restaurateurs or designers or acoustic engineers. It has to do with Americans — who I believe are a slightly louder people, on average.
As a Canadian working in the US, I am often struck by how much louder my fellow diners in restaurants seem to be, and how much more loudly the people I’m walking near on streets speak to one another or into their cellphones.
This is not a scientific observation, but it’s one that’s fueled Reddit discussions and even a ban on “loud Americans” in a pub in Ireland. Sietsema, for one, also agreed with my view. “When Europeans imitate Americans, they shout,” he said. “We tend to be louder people — we’re louder talkers; we’re bigger with our expressions.”
And Alex W. asks me: Since you’re so well traveled, is this true, and if so, why? I can think of a few hypotheses:
1. At least originally, Americans had much more space than did Europeans, and this is still true to some degree. That induce norms of loudness, which have to some extent persisted.
2. America is a nation of immigrants, with English-language proficiency of varying quality, including historically. For whatever reason, good or bad, we tend to shout a bit when the listener is not fluent in our language.
3. Taleb has suggested that higher status people shout less, talk in more hushed tones, and are more likely to whisper, to grab the attention of the crowd. Perhaps America has fewer high status people to set social norms. Or perhaps our high status people derive status from their wealth, and feel the need to emit fewer cultural signals, just as wealthy Americans often dress more poorly or eat a worse diet than European elites.
4. Characters on TV speak more loudly, and Americans watch more TV and admire and mimic it more.
5. Americans command a broader personal space, keeping a greater distance, and thus they have to speak more loudly to each other (and they feel Italians are intrusive with respect to how close they stand).
6. Loudness is perhaps a byproduct of individualism.
7. American culture values “forthrightness and self-confidence.” Plus maybe it’s a regional thing?