Whenever in a public place in Iceland or Scotland, I always noticed that Americans were the loudest people. I found myself self conscious of the way I spoke; I was louder than most of the people around me. The book and film title, “The Quiet American” always seemed to be a contradiction, and now I knew why.
Why are Americans this way? Partly it has to do with the way Americans are much less guarded about their private lives. We don’t care if strangers know about us. Another component is the influence of our undeniably crass television fueled “culture.”
There is a third reason that would probably evade many foreigners observing Americans. America is a big place. Our mountains are bigger, our states are bigger, our rivers are bigger. I suspect some of the characteristic loudness comes from the pioneers who walked into the vast emptiness in the frontier and started talking louder just to remind themselves they were there. As an Oregeon pioneer notes in Sometimes a Great Notion, “For one thing, Jonas couldn’t see all that elbow room [they] talked about. Oh it was there, he knew. But not the way he imagined it would be. And for another thing, there was nothing, not a thing! About the country that made a man feel Big and Important. If anything, it made a man feel dwarfed….” Loud talking was a natural reaction to reassure ourselves. Add that to the very energetic, active nature of Americans, and you end up with lots of bustle and noise that makes it nessecary to shout to avoid being drowned out.