To say that people in Armenia keep it real is an understatement. Whether it’s feelings of love, rage, or happiness, they’re not afraid to express their emotions exactly as they come out. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve both witnessed and been a part of these unfiltered experiences. Armenians are a passionate people and in the motherland that fire hasn’t been watered down as it has in many places in the diaspora. It reminds me of that meme: “I’m Armenian, I can’t keep calm!”
It’s not uncommon to yell at taxi drivers (guilty!) and for taxi drivers to yell at you. One night I had called a taxi service, and in a sea of cars, I was unable to find my driver. When I finally tracked him down, he started scolding me like my dad would and advised me where to wait next time. Another time, a young taxi driver got mad at my brother for opening his window when it was drizzling, to which my brother said: “Well what can I do? You’re smoking!” Of course that didn’t prompt him to put out his cigarette. In America, a taxi driver would probably not smoke in his car or scold his customer for opening a window.
It’s also not weird to walk by strangers and hear them yelling at someone on their cell phone — no passerby even flinches. In America you would probably give that guy a dirty look for being rowdy. Likewise, it’s normal to see friends of the same sex holding hands; it doesn’t mean what it means in the US. I’ve also heard complete strangers refer to each other as “akhperus” (my brother). There’s still a very primal feeling here. No sugar coating emotions, what you see is what you get, even if it’s not pretty.
Unlike in the past, I have come to understand why people who deal with corruption on a daily basis would be more pessimistic versus optimistic. I certainly don’t enjoy being around annoyed people all the time — there’s a lot of warmth and smiles here, too — but when you mix the highs with the lows, you really come to appreciate the highs that much more.