Inside Voices Please

I have just endured two four hour journeys listening to people shout at each other in a confined space. The context was I was travelling on a train in an Asian country where people speak in very low volumes. When they take a mobile phone call, they carefully do all they can to minimise noise. In this space, we were assaulted by people from a different cultural background whose speech volume was in complete disregard to those around them. Oblivious to the glances, glares and smouldering stares, they spoke at this volume for the entire ride. Of course, no one said a word to them because this would not be appropriate for this culture!

The volume at which we speak does vary from country to country. North Americans and Australians speak at a higher baseline volume than French people or Singaporeans!  As well, British English speakers use volume to convey anger, but other countries use volume to command someone’s attention.

If my “friends” in the first example, had been riding on the subway in New York, their volume would have been fine.

When travelling, do a quick check of your volume. Are you creating pain for your hosts because you are too loud – or too quiet?



  1. What Asian country? Surely it wasn’t the Philippines! I have never been in any country where almost every cellphone user shouts when communicating. Worse, the incessant blabbering of people in public venues is quite obnoxious. It wouldn’t be so annoying, but when the conversation has no substance…people are just speaking to be heard by everyone else within earshot. Get a clue here people…it’s not all about you.

  2. A helpful solution that doesn’t solve the problem: carry ear plugs.

    At least you won’t have to endure their insensitivity and garrulousness

  3. After came back from three years in Japan to my home country, Thailand, I had a reverse culture shock. The past three year in Japan got me used to always keep “manner” mode on my mobile phone and refrain from unnecessary phone call. Sometimes, we even had to turn off the mobile phone when standing in “priority seat” area as our mobile signal might interfere with the operation of pacemaker of elderly sitting in those seats.
    I think I would never find any public transportation in the world as quiet as the one is Japan.

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