“How was your trip?”

“Oh my, it was a blast! The food was amazing, the countryside was gorgeous, and the people were all so incredibly nice!”

I’m talking to a friend who just came back from Ireland (I’ve never been) and they’re telling me how everything on their trip was absolutely wonderful. They raved about all of it — food, drink, the people — you name it, it was awesome.

I’ve had lots of these kinds of conversations over the years with friends.

Sometimes it’s me telling of a place I’ve been, and sometimes it’s them coming back from somewhere and relating their adventures to me.

And I’ve noticed one common thread with all of the stories. Sometimes the food isn’t all that interesting, and maybe the weather wasn’t the best, but through it all I can’t recall one time either I or my friends didn’t think the people were nice.

It doesn’t matter if you’re talking about a place where English is the primary language or not, by and large the people — all people — usually are very interested in meeting a stranger and also in being helpful when the need arises.

I’ve been given rides and shown around strange towns and given tips on the dos and don’ts of wherever I am by the locals. And my friends have had the exact same experiences.

The only differences I’ve ever noticed are things that have nothing to do with the people themselves. It has more to do with what they’re given to work with.

For example, if people aren’t given much room in which to live (like most of Europe), they place a pretty good premium on personal space. The yards are small and almost everybody has a fence.

If they’re given a lot of coastline (like Japan), they’re going to be eating a lot of seafood.

If they’re not given much money because the country is poor (like Haiti), they make the most of foods that are cheap such as beans and chicken and goats.

And of course if they’re given guns (like the United States), they shoot each other.

Now, some of you are going to immediately think this has something to do with guns. It does not. It has to do with people.

Every society has its quirks, its own way of dealing with whatever it is they’re given to work with. If it’s money or space or proximity to water the inhabitants adapt to what they have to work with.

That’s the point. All people really are the same. People in Haiti don’t eat goat because it’s cheap, they eat it because they’re poor. People in crowded countries aren’t standoffish, they just are trying to have a bit of their own space in a crowded environment. And folks in places like Japan eat seafood because they’re right on the ocean.

And Americans aren’t any more violent than anyone else. They’re just given the tools that make violence easy.

This article came about because I was chatting about the issues we have with gun violence. My companion said Americans are violent by nature.

We’re not. We’re the same as everybody else. When I talk to friends from other countries that visit, they all say the same thing: Everyone they meet here is so nice.

That got me to thinking that people really are people the world over.

It’s what they have to work with that makes the difference.

Pete Mitchell’s “In America” column appears every other Monday. He lives in Geneva and can be reached at peteinamerica@yahoo.com.

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