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Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Country Agnostic

Does age bring wisdom?

Not necessarily.

Sometimes age just means that you've had time to make a lot of mistakes and to your astonishment, you're still alive to make many more.

But if you're not too thick, if your learning curve is more or less on an upward trajectory, you do acquire a few tricks along with the wrinkles.

I've been struggling for years with questions like:  Which country is better (or best)?  This one is a real minefield and you tread into it at your peril.  Because they are asking you to make a comparison (our country versus yours) and comparisons are tricky.  

The people who ask this one, in my opinion, almost deserve to be lied to.  But lying (also known as deft diplomacy) makes me tired and cranky.  Yes, you can weasel out of it by saying something neutral and non-committal like, "Well, there are things I like and dislike in both countries."

But then you've practically invited them to continue the conversation (the one you don't want to have with them in the first place) and they always shoot right back with a: "So tell us what you like about living here?"  Or, "Please tell us more about what you don't like about your country."  The latter is a lot like asking someone how he or she  feels about the spouse or how both of them feel about their religion.

If you really don't want to engage in this kind of conversation, and you have no axe to grind or a need to charm, then may I humbly suggest this way to cut it off before it starts?

Smile and quietly reply, "I'm country agnostic."

What does this mean?  It means you don't know.  You're not sure.  Your feelings aren't facts and your preferences may change. Maybe country A is better than country B, but for the moment (and perhaps until the end of your days) you prefer to withhold judgement.

I've been trying this one out and it's worked pretty well so far.  People look a little startled by the reply, and then they usually chuckle and let it go.

A clever way to turn a nasty question into a nice experience for both of you?  Try it and find out.

For my part, I find that when I can poke fun at myself, decline to be the expert or the arbiter of truth, and make someone smile, I don't feel any wiser, but I do feel a whole lot happier.

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