Diaspora Banter Part 1:Dog Talk

Trying to assimilate into a new culture can be tricky for a member of the Diaspora.  Subtle cultural nuances such as mastering the skill to conduct random banter can be more challenging than the more obvious cultural shifts one must make when trying to mingle with their new neighbors.  In America for example, conducting meaningless small talk is an integral part of getting to know each other and is a skill that must be cultivated and natured if a Diaspora has any hope of interacting ad becoming Americanized.

There is hope however, for those who find it difficult to engage in the activity of small talk in order to appear more open and accessible to others.  To conduct small talk, one must find a topic that is safe to for the participants to engage in. At this point it is important that I mention that any topic that might involve actually knowing the details of one’s life is off-limits. Steer away from any references towards physical appearances; these attract lawsuits because of the real emotions they evoke. All personal details must  be volunteered without any prompting.

My dog Poligraf Poligrafovich

Dog Talk for Diaspora

In the process of enculturation, a Diaspora must get comfortable with filling every silent space with information whether it’s relevant or not. This is called being outgoing. Years of engaging in small talk have yielded one topic that is a sure-fire way to create a connection and possible camaraderie. A Diaspora must squelch the need to create meaningful friendships as this is rare but can happen if you continue to engage in meaningless small talk. It’s in the form of Dog Talk.

Vast numbers of Americans own dogs. . Lovingly cared for, the lucky canines receive undivided attention, affection and are coddled sometimes even more than humans.  Some studies have even shown that companionship from dogs has the effect of reducing stress levels among Americans.

So it is no surprise then that striking up Dog Talk can be responsible for creating the kind of small talk that is necessary to get to know your neighbors. To perfect the skill, it is perhaps best to try it out on Random strangers walking dogs. This is important because you must communicate genuine interest in a topic that you might have absolutely no knowledge or interest in. Later, once you have learned to appear interested, you can try it out on your coworkers and neighbors.

Most Americans don’t mind carrying out conversations about their dogs to perfect strangers because they love their dogs so much and can’t wait to display this to any and everyone.  Asking specific questions about dogs is a great way to create lengthy conversation. Don’t worry if you don’t understand what a ‘shetland sheepdog’  is. Most dog owners don’t care whether you know the difference. They just feel the need to tell you so that you too can celebrate the existence of their most beloved companion.

It is important however, not to be intimated by the vast amounts of information you may receive about dogs when you are getting to know your new neighbors. Sprinkling affirmatives is imperative because otherwise you risk losing an enthusiastic participant. Other questions you might want to ask are: how old the dog is, whether it’s male or female, and even if it’s been neutered.

If you are a Diaspora and are a neighbor to someone owning a dog, you must ask to pet the dog. This was difficult for me in the beginning because of a latent fear I had developed from unsavory experiences with wild dogs in Africa. American dogs are trained to be nice.  Some may  nip at you, some may be  too boisterous with their play but owners will generally tell you if you can pet them. This way they can continue to display how knowledgeable they are about their pets.

If you are a Diaspora who works with someone who has pictures of their dog on their desk, they want you to comment on the picture. It will yield more conversation than if you attempt to just ask them to tell you about themselves. Because most dogs reside inside the house with their owners, and are therefore

taken out on walks every morning or evening. Taking a walk during these times, will make you accessible to your neighbors so that you can engage in more conversations that will endear you to them.

In a culture beleaguered with small talk, a Diaspora must learn to engage in it no matter how uncomfortable the experience may be for them. I must say that as resistant as I was in the beginning, I found myself engaging in meaningless banter almost on a daily basis and has made people refer to me with adjectives such as friendly, outgoing, and even open despite the absolute lack of really knowing who I am and where I am from.  Without learning this most important skill, a member of the Diaspora has absolutely no hope of successful integration into American society.