Beate Caspari-Rosen, MD
(1910 - 1995)
Different Countries, Different Customs
I learned this fact—different countries, different customs—when
I arrived in the United States. I made my first faux pas shortly after
I landed. As I was introduced to my husband's family and friends I
naturally went around the room shaking hands with everyone. I was brought
up that way in Germany, but I soon found out that this was not the
American custom, which was certainly more relaxed, casual, and friendly.
In Europe, it may take years until you called friends and acquaintances
by their first name. This is comparable to the French mode of address:
in France when you say “you” the formal "vous" is
used rather than the informal "tu." That is used
to indicate intimacy. Titles, like professor or doctor, are often omitted
here in introductions, and only first names are given. Not so in title-conscious
Germany where almost everyone has an honorific title, such as Herr
Postmeister (Mr. mailman), Herr Polizeibeamte ( Mr. policeman);
wives have to be addressed with the title that their husbands have.
In Germany, one did not know very often, when speaking to a married
woman, whether the title was given to her in her own right or because
she was married to a man with an honorific. I was, surprised to learn
that in the United States, in a letter a woman was addressed with her
husband's first and last name. I think it is hard enough to give up
one's family name, but why give up, in addition, one's given name.
it. In Holland [The Netherlands], Spain, and Portugal, as well as in
many South American countries, a married woman continues to keep her
maiden name hyphenated with her husband's name. [In The Netherlands,
Caspari-Rosen indicates that the wife’s maiden name is Rosen
and Caspari, the name of her husband].
When I arrived in New York I
lived with my parents-in-law for a several months. I am now realize
that they were somewhat taken a back, affronted even, when I kept the
door to my room closed, whether I was in the apartment or not. Europeans
keep their doors closed, probably, to prevent warmth to escape from a room. To
my surprise I found that the living room, the dining room, and even the kitchen
were often did not have doors. In Germany, windows were closed during the night
in winter as well as in summer. I was taught that night air is unhealthy. I experienced
the pleasure of open windows at night after I lived in my new country. Window
screens are still unknown in many European countries, while we would not think
of living without them. If windows were kept open during the day, one avoided
a draft, which is called cross-ventilation in America and considered desirable.
Not so In Europe. In the hottest season [summer], on public transportation—the
bus, trains, and so forth—windows are closed.
These are only a few examples of experiences I encountered when I came
to this country. II adopted this way of life enthusiastically except
for one thing, I still refuse to give up my first name and to address
married women by their husband's name in official and unofficial correspondence.