Not so much 'persecution mania', more 'looking for some aggro'... certainly where I grew up, to maintain eye contact (or even simply make eye contact, in some places) with a stranger is to invite violence.
I should imagine parts of the United States are very similar...
I would be surprised if it isn't common outside US as well, at least it is in northern Europe.
My guess it is a kind of instinct related alpha/challenge thing in line with this:
Eye contact is also one of the ways order is kept in a wolf pack. Only an alpha animal may use the stare to remind everyone who is in charge. When you initiate eye contact, you express your alpha position.
However, you do not want to try to do this with a dog who thinks he is already in charge of things. The dog must know you are the leader first. Otherwise you will begin a stare-down contest. An alpha dog will not be willing to be first to avert his eyes. If you are the first to avert or even blink your eyes, it will help confirm the dog's alpha status.
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The places where the armed forces drink tend to be the ones where you avoid eye contact...
Such places are places where you can learn more about some really serious + determined drinking No eye-contact is needed for that, not least as the chaps need their viewing capabilities for finding the way back to base .
I find not "staring" highly unnatural and makes me feel neurotic and strange. Say in public transportation where everyone has too little personal space and everyone avoids looking into someone elses eyes. It's just bound to foster neurosis, me thinks. I much rather look around and observe this strange behaviour.
I don't know what foriegners in this country look like. In the UK you can tell Continentals mainly from the way they dress. Half the people I start talking to here end up not being Swiss. The other half don't talk to me so much.... I guess the Swiss must know what foriegners look like, if that is why they are staring.
English is the new italian. When there was an influx of italians to switzerland there was probably alot of staring going toward the italian language speaking people.
But that was sometime ago and if you hear italian on the tram its unlikely others will be staring at those speaking it.
Now there has been an influx of english speakers the new foreigners are an oddity and will be stared at. If you find you are being stared at it is probably because you are speaking english, possibly a bit louder than you should.
I've noticed if you lower your voice and relax your tone a glance at these starers usually has them concentrate on other things, just going to take a little time for us to be accepted. However we need to aid this by following the more relaxed and polite culture of switzerland.
One thing to remember is that english is more accceptable to the swish than high german so at least a bit of dislike is going a different way and possibly we are just under the 'they are taking our jobs' radar.
Oh and by the way, staring has absolutely **** all to do with where you're from. We have roughly 20% foreigners staying here permanently, and a lot of the Swiss have foreign roots too, so it's certainly not your "foreigness" that makes someone stare, you might just look interesting, beautiful, ugly, happy, angry, different, whatever. I don't look very Swiss myself, but I would say less than half of the Swiss look typically Swiss anyways..
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I have never got what the big deal was...
I haven't felt like swiss people stare at me. And I confess that I look at other people all the time.
Sexy people get my umm-umm look
Cute people get my hey-hey look
Are you gonna propose?
Because if you're not, quit staring at me ..
This is so true and it happens too many times.
I did find out though that if you do the same and stare back with a way more serious face and with some anger thrown in the picture, they will either look down or pretend they weren't looking -> the weak cowards !
(sorry folks - it got to me)