But though Americans won’t touch strangers, they will talk to them. They will chat to people at neighbouring tables in restaurants, or in line at the supermarket. That conversation doesn’t turn the speakers into friends – a mistake Europeans sometimes make. Generalising grossly: to Americans, conversation doesn’t imply intimacy.
Applying Carroll’s theories to Britons, you understand why foreigners think we are repressed. Americans won’t touch strangers, the French won’t talk to them, but Brits will neither touch nor talk to them. Passport to the Pub, a semi-official guide for foreign tourists to the UK, warns: “Don’t ever introduce yourself. The ‘Hi, I’m Chuck from Alabama’ approach does not go down well in British pubs.”