The Importance of Small Talk on the Front Porch

porchAfter being in St. Vincent for six days I can clearly see some differences between life on the Island and the United States. Most of them are obvious [1] but it’s the smaller differences that make the most impact.

One of those small differences I’m getting accustomed to is making the front porch a big part of life.

Just about every house on the island has a front porch, and almost everyone will spend lots of time (particularly in evenings or early mornings) on them.  Of course a big reason for this is it’s just cooler out on the porch, but I’ve learned there’s more to it than just cooling off

Like other cultures, life on the island is relationship centered, which means people enjoy coming by and visiting.

In Australia this kind of connection (often referred to as “having a chat”) is usually done at a local coffee shop over mugs of cappuccino or in the home. It’s not surprising that a cool breeze on the porch is preferred over hot coffee here 🙂

Interacting with other people from my front porch for the last six days has revealed a very painful truth…I’m terrible at small talk.

Unfortunately most of my conversations go something like this:

Me: Hey how are you?
Other person: Good and You?
Me: I’m good
(awkward silence)
Me: Well it was good seeing you!

It isn’t always that bad because sometimes we would talk about sports, television, movies, and if the person happens to bring up the subject of running we could talk for hours 🙂 But most of my small talk conversations last less than five-minutes before the “so it was good seeing you.”

It’s not that way on the island

Monday night a Church member came over so we could visit a chicken restaurant in the town. It was closed, so we ended up sitting on my porch eating a sandwich, then  talking for two hours.

Did you get that?

We sat on the front porch and talked for two hours!

As you can imagine he did most of the talking because sadly, we didn’t talk about running

This awkward small talk would unfortunately be pretty common for Americans because we happen to be a culture that no longer uses the front porch.  It’s not that we hate the front porch or don’t want to interact with people, but there are just too many other things to get done.  So “sitting on the porch and talking” is pushed far down the list of priorities.

Living in St. Vincent has taught me that isn’t a good thing.

Walking through town people often ask why I’m there (being the only white man in town) and I explain I’m staying in the house of a missionary that has gone to the states for a short time (pastor Berry).  The thing is EVERYBODY knows Pastor Berry because he has spent hours and hours talking with people on his front porch about the Gospel of Christ.

So I sit in a chair with my book or computer,

wave at people when they walk by,

And do my best to have a conversation that lasts longer than five minutes

But step one is making the front porch an important part of my daily life.


 

[1]: roads are smaller, not everything you can get in the States

[2]: I don’t think relationships aren’t viewed as important. We just don’t have time for them

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