If you want to make a Californian uncomfortable, look him right in the eye, smile and say hello. Works every time … well, nearly every time. Every now and then, he smiles and says hello right back. If this happens, he must be a recently arrived, newly made Californian.
If he seems refreshingly direct and friendly, he must be a transplanted Texan.
I asked my Californian wife why friendliness makes locals uncomfortable. She says Californians are suspicious of friendly, direct people because they’re unsure of their angle. They see a friendly face and wonder: What does this person want from me? People don’t just smile and say hello to be neighborly. It’s a little weird.
I’ve also noticed that once Californians get to know and trust you, they can be as friendly as Texans. It’s about trust. It’s also about boundaries. Which may be another reason for suspicion toward friendliness—perhaps the friendly person is merely feigning friendliness—one can never be sure, which is why it’s prudent to meet friendliness with suspicion until angles can be figured and filtered for possible offensive properties. Around here, friendliness can offend.
Get it? I know, it’s confusing; I’ve been working this stuff out since I got here.
I imagine sharing this analysis with another Texan—say, a cowboy from Odessa. He’d likely say something like, “I dunno whatcha mean. I’m friendly because I wanna be. Life’s too short to be suspicious. Besides—it’s the right way to be. No sense in overanalyzing it—ain’t got time to worry about offending anyone anyhow.
The way I see it, if they’re offended so easy, somethin’s wrong with ’em.”
For more Cali Crazy Texan takes on the Golden State, here’s part two: Cali Crazy: A Texan’s take on the Golden State—part 2—Flunking Cultural Appreciation 101