JanG wrote:After reading the multiple entries on this topic, I noticed that several of the responders equated class with wealth. This is a common observation in the US. I have lived happily in the USA for 30+ years even though I still have a "foreign" accent. I also have noticed that when meeting someone new in the States, the first 3 questions often asked are: where are you from? where do you live? and what kind of work do you do? actually really asking: how much money do you earn?
This last question is NOT often ask when encountering other mountaineers, especially in Europe where it is might be considered rude. It is my experience that sharing mountaineering experiences is the great EQUALIZER. I have been often enjoyed climbing or skiing tours of several days duration and wasn't asked at all " what kind of work " I did.
In the Alps, guides typically address you by your first name during the entire encounter which is quite different from normal social interactions in urban environments. This certainly the case in German or French speaking countries.
In conclusion, rather than describing climbing as upper or middle class endeavors, I consider mountaineering the great democratizing experience, where money, class, rank is ignored for those precious hours or days of sharing nature!!!
You sound like a real nice, down to earth guy, but I have to state that, like lots of Europeans, your observations about Americans vs. Europeans is off.
Europe is one of the most class conscious cultures anywhere, even when compared to places like India, where they're burdened by the caste system. In Britain, class is immediately distinguished by the type of accent you have. The English refrain from using names like Sean, since it would suggest an Irish heritage, which is deemed lower than English. The notion of having evolved from an aristocracy (or not) is very common in places like France. European languages even have two forms of "you", a formal and informal.