Well, I suppose it is no surprise to the world that Greeks are loud. Thanks to My Big, Fat, Greek Wedding everyone knows what Greeks are like (and I thought I knew what to expect when meeting my in-laws). When I first moved here, I was constantly taken aback by the number of people who were seemingly arguing on the streets, on the news, all around me. The the decibel levels of these palavers were damaging to my sensitive American ears, and I just couldn't figure out how people got so worked up over inane subjects.
After some time, however, I realized that these people are not arguing, they are simply talking to one another at a "normal" level and tone (a normal level for a ringmaster in a circus, perhaps). Being the picky American that I am, one who hates the sound of slamming doors, of loud vehicles, and loud voices, I really didn't know if I could ever get used to the volume of speech here. I suppose to an extent, I haven't. I can't stand listening to news that has a panel of people discussing an issue. I can't stand listening to neighbors talking in the hall. And sometimes I can't stand hearing my husband on the phone.
Is there a strain of minor deafness in the Greek ancestry that causes this need for loudness? Is it a Darwinian defense, of trying to make oneself heard over the din of a thousand voices? Or do they just like hearing themselves talk?
To their credit, my in-laws are not that bad. One on one they are positively quiet, comparatively. When you get several family members together, however, the noise level rises a bit more than average. They have learned well how to get one another's attention across a 2000 square foot apartment, though. My pitiable calls for my husband fall on deaf ears, as I can't seem to make myself yell loud enough. Luckily, there is usually someone to run interference for me, who hears my call and vocalizes loud enough for him to hear.
I am the crazy American, who can only speak loudly when I am angry, or in a state of extreme anxiety. We don't want the neighbors to hear us, after all. Yet I forget that here the neighbors are probably speaking so loudly themselves, they could never hear us.
I'll find my voice eventually, I hope. It is the survival of the loudest here, after all.