Are foreigners really loud, or does it merely seem so?

I think it’s quite common for English people to find foreigners to be loud or noisy (i.e. in their speech and in their behaviour such as the music they play).

Now I’m well aware of the phenomenon of confirmation bias and other statistical fallacies, which is why I’m asking; is it verifiably true that some cultures are typically louder than the typical English one? Are there any cultures that consider Brits to be loud or noisy?

Anyone who has ever seen British tourists in Tenerife, Mallorca etc ? :wink:

Granted, but that’s at best a subculture and does not represent the typical behaviour of the British - people act differently when they are on holiday. Now, if we could find abundant examples of British ex-pats being loud and ill-behaved, it might be a more apt comparison.

Compared to typical American tourists, most Brits are positively stealth-visitors.

I think the behaviour of tourists is potentially misleading. I’m thinking more of the kinds of interaction where cultures come into contact with each other in business contexts, in international communication, and in immigration/naturalisation.

Again, I’m well aware of the way confirmation bias can shape an impression, but here’s an example of what I’m talking about:
-My neighbours are from Bangladesh. They nearly always speak in a loud and animated fashion that looks to me like they’re arguing - even when they’re just discussing something mundane like watering the garden - they’re almost shouting at each other even though they’re face to face.

Of course that’s just one sample, but think about it - unless we’re going to believe that all cultures are qualitatively the same in this respect, then it is entirely possible that some are typically louder than others, isn’t it? It seems quite reasonable that there might be differences.

Are you sure you’re not thinking of black people?


Actually, not really - because I don’t know or come into regular contact with very many - but if I was, I think I’d be talking about first-generation immigrants from Africa or the Caribbean - this is about cultures, not skin colours.

My own experience is France is that Brits are loud. Be it after a few pints outside the pub or just chatting on the metro.

It’s often a langauge thing though. Take a tube in London and even if several people are speaking together, it’ll be the Spanish couple or French crowd that will stand out. It seems louder to your brain because it isn’t part of the background English conversation (all IMHO of course)

Saying that I find Catalan very loud, almost violent at times compared to English.

Spaniards and Italians are quite loud, yes. Heck, we’re so loud we can’t talk using just our mouths!

In Spain we do consider drunk British to be very loud and quite loutish (in reference to drunken people from other places).

Well here’s a photo taken at a US/UK summit meeting.

I think that is part of it.

That said I think that (on average, using a very wide brush etc) that there probably are cultural differences in loudness.

Swedes are often considered shy and reserved which we probably are. We on the other hand consider (stereotyping a lot here) Italians, Spaniards and other southern Europeans to be talking loudly and gesticulating a whole lot more than us.

Well, I can tell you, America has african immigrants immigrants who’ve been here for dozens of generations, and they’re louder than the bulk of the population.
I went to an historically black college. All of the yelling was flat-out annoying to me. I complained about the volume (not the race) and my one friend Yachelle gently reminded me that black people are like that, and I could bloody well transfer to the integrated college down the road if I didn’t like it.
It’s their way, and I support their right to be different.
It would be a very sad world if we had to live without varied cultures around us.

A few years ago, Mrs. Piper and I were in a small pub in Scotland with a Scottish friend. Four English folk came in, sat down at a table across the room, and began discussing their day. We heard every word of the conversation. Finally, Aunt Faye muttered, “Tsk, those English. They’re always so loud!” :wink:

In my experience, different cultures may perceive noise levels very differently. Here in Panama, a noisy party or loud music that would have the neighbors calling the cops in the US goes completely unnoticed. I’m sure that if I said something about it, I would just get blank looks. People simply don’t seem to perceive it as being loud.

However, I have not noticed that Panamanians in general converse at a higher volume when at close range than Americans or others. It’s possible they have a tendency to shout to each other more on the street, but that may be because of all the traffic noise around here.

I heartily agree with this. My experience is that I always notice on the tube, buses, even just walking down the street, that people not speaking English always seem noticeably loud and overly animated. Perhaps some are louder but surely not all? It seems sensible to conclude that we are also more sensitive to their less familiar language and speech patterns.

Some cultures also have very different facial, physical and tonal codes and practices. My Bulgarian friend always seems loud, violent and hostile and when interacting with any of her friends and family one would assume they are constantly bickering but I have learnt this to just be a cultural affectation. I am less intimidated now after knowing her a few years!

Not sure exactly how to classify someone as a foreigner, since I’ve lived in quite a few places, and I’m currently living in a place where I wasn’t born (so I guess I’m more or less the foreigner), but it seems largely to be a question not of race or culture but economics. I often find that people of any stripe tend to be quieter the more they’ve bought into the notion that life should be a quest for economic achievement. It’s not a hard and fast rule, by any means – some of the most accomplished people in the world are also loudmouths – but in general, people who study hard, work hard and are ambitious tend to be quieter. People who generally believe or accept that their life consists of job, supper, pub tend to be louder. And I’m fairly convinced this cuts across most cultural and racial lines.

I lived for a while in a very multicultural area of Paris. About a third of the population was Parisian, a third European (non-French, mostly from poorer Euro countries) and one-third North African. In general, there was no racial or cultural delimiter for behavior. There were people, like me, who got home from work every evening around seven, head down, lost in thought, scurrying busily and getting ready for all of the serious “home” stuff they had to accomplish and all of the projects they were involved in. On the other hand, there were people who got off work at five or earlier, had supper and got into the bars as quickly as possible to have fun, converse into the wee hours and make noise.

It would be tempting to try to attach racial designations to each group, and it might even be doable, but ultimately, it’s misleading, because it’s really just a question of how much anyone from any group buys into the notion that their life is supposed to be an unending socio-economic record of achievement, accomplishments and improvements. The black North African chap in the apartment above me sure bought into it, and wouldn’t be living in the 20th arrondissement for long. He was the most buttoned-down guy I ever knew, and rarely arrived home from work before eight. He spoke several languages fluently. The Spanish family that ran the laundromat on the main floor sure bought into it (they also owned two apartments in the building and rented one out) and I bought into it too. We were all very quiet. Other people in the building didn’t buy into it. They wanted to live in the here and now, and have fun before they shuffled off. They were a noisy crew.

I suppose you can say that certain cultures/countries/races have that emphasis on serious, studious achievement, but I have a feeling it’s just a question of economics. Once you toss up the promise of the stereotypical good life and make it a reasonable possibility through education and economic opportunity, most people in the group will go for it and leave behind the stereotypically simple, raucous (and probably more enjoyable) life they once led.

I had somewhat similar experience in Tunisia (in the late 90s). I was always with a group of French citizens, and the locals assumed that I too was French and always spoke to me in that language. They were a fun-loving, very friendly and open group. When they learned that I was a native English speaker, they were all over me, hungry for knowledge about America. They were desperate to have me teach them English. They became very serious and attentive when I spoke English to them. The transformation was shocking. They seemed to equate English with… the key that opens the door to the promised land. Getting ahead, in blunt terms, seems to inspire seriousness in many people.

Anyway, I’m boring myself to tears, and indulging in both generalization and anecdotal evidence, but I guess I’m just saying I’m not sure behavior is a question of race or “foreigners” but a very slippery question of economic opportunity as well as attitudes toward economic opportunity and achievement.

Japanese consider most westerners loud, but Americans and Aussies moreso than Brits.

The gf’s family are first generation Vietnamese immigrants, and I find them and their community to be very loud talkers (both when speaking English and Vietnamese). My completely WAG as to why is that people who grow up speaking tonal languages tend to be louder to make changes in tone clearer to listeners. I haven’t been around enough Chinese or Thai people to see if that theory holds up though.

Actually, I thought this was an amazingly interesting and insightful post. The hypothesis might require some fine-tuning, but I found it a very convincing notion.

I’m the foreigner here. It’s the locals who are quite loud. And oh man, don’t EVEN get me started on China.