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Recognizing So Many Complaints

Something I’ve been noticing: The Western world complains a lot.

A conjecture: one of the reasons why standards of construction are (generally speaking) higher in America than in some other parts of the world is because people expect things to be nice.

People expect things to be nice, so they demand things to be nice.

This has not been my experience over the past 2 years in many parts of the world.

But since returning to Europe this summer, and definitely since boarding the cruise in Tenerife, I have noticed that many of the Europeans and Americans I’ve been around seem to complain more than their Asian and Indian counterparts.

This could be due to the environments I’ve been in (people take a cruise because they are stressed and need a vacation, ergo more likely to complain).

It could also be because I understand English, German, and Spanish well enough to understand what people are saying, where I don’t understand any Asian languages.

So maybe I just notice the complaints more, and maybe all people, everywhere, complain a lot.

I don’t know for sure because I’m not comparing apples to apples.

Generally speaking, I think it is good to expect and demand high quality.

On the other side, I think that complaining has become so mainstream and popular that it’s almost weird if you don’t find fault with something.  If everything is good, then something must be wrong.

Snippets from 2 conversations I’ve had/overheard:

“How was your flight?”
“Really? That’s good. My last flight was TERRIBLE. The….”

The person initiating this conversation only asked the question “How was your flight” to set themselves up to be able to complain.


“Did I tell you about the really awful thing that happened?”
“Oh, let me tell you. It was SO Horrible. I don’t know how anyone could have gotten through something so awful. It started because…”

And then this conversation went on to talk about something relatively minor and inconsequential.


Another example:

“I Hate My Teenage Daughter“ is something being heavily promoted right now.

I saw an ad for it on one of our flights, but didn’t know what it was.

When I found out, I was confused.

Is “I Hate My Teenage Daughter“ actually the name of a Television show on mainstream television?  The producers of this show managed to stick a very forceful, very negative word right into the title of the show, as a desperate effort to get people’s attention.

The title of the show is a complaint many parents have probably thought, and so the producers have named their show this way so that they relate to their audience.

They say they have done this in the name of humor.

But this kind of humor (or at least the title of the show) is actually a complaint, offers no solution, and is a very poor message to reinforce for parents of teenagers who (probably) could actually use some help in being parents (which they likely aren’t going to get from this show, except a laugh which comes from making fun of someone else). Could they have called the show something that would have been as successful? I don’t know. But the title seems to reflect the general mood of complaining, so the show may do well.

One of my goals in returning to America is to be a person who excels at:

  • Speaking when I have positive things to say
  • Putting myself into environments where I associate and work with people who work on challenges (directly and) in positive ways
  • Staying calm and working through challenges myself, in direct ways, when I can do something about the challenges
  • Letting the rest go.

2 thoughts on “Recognizing So Many Complaints

  1. pennington

    YES. Having just moved to Singapore, I find that my husband, my young children and other ex-pats we meet complain a LOT. Yeah, it’s a different country! It’s not the same as being at home! And although we *chose* to come here for a while, we are guests in this foreign land, so let’s explore and investigate what’s here, rather than scouring the grocery stores for familiar things!
    I’ll incorporate some of your thoughts in my campaign to balance comfort (important to the kids) and adventure by modeling the behavior I want to see in my family.
    Thanks for your notes, I enjoy our intersecting nodes (CO, Sg, cruise, Finland, Italy, London, etc).

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