Introductions in Deaf Culture

It is often said that Deaf conversations are perhaps too revealing for the hearing culture.

Upon meeting a stranger and introducing yourself, how much information do you reveal about yourself within the first five minutes? A little? A lot? Nothing (after your name, of course)?

Your answer to that question depends on your upbringing and what you’re taught by your parents. Whatever your answer may be, that’s who you are and that is the “comfort zone” you’ve established.

If you’re the type of person that shares very minimal about yourself when meeting someone, you may that Deaf culture is the opposite of your own.

Order of Introduction in Deaf Culture

When a Deaf person introduces someone new to someone else, they will normally include these details about them:

1. How they know the person. 
2. The person’s employment.
2. School or college the person is attending or has graduated from.
3. The mutual friends they have. 
4. Their interests.
5. Their family (usually this includes if the person has a Deaf or CODA family member).
6. Where they live (this includes where they live currently and where they come from originally, such as their birthplace or hometown).

TIP: The things on the list doesn’t have to be exact in order above. It depends on the reason for the introduction.

Introducing Yourself in Deaf Culture

The same rule applies when you introduce yourself or someone else introduces themselves to you.

Here are a couple of examples based on my experience:

When I was dating a well-known entertainer whenever I introduced him to my friends, I would just simply say, “you know him, right?” before telling him their names.

Then if he and one of my friends had something in common, I’d mention it. Then from there my friend’s would pick up the conversation and go further into details about themselves.

Example Introductory Conversation in Deaf Culture

When I introduce my friend to another friend, I’d go like this:

Amy: Hey Matt! Rem I told you about the job opening at GLAD (Greater Los Angeles [Council] on Deafness) last week? Here is someone I wanna introduce you. His name is John Smith and he works there as an information technician. John, this is Matt Gangle.

Matt: Nice to meet you, John!

John: Likewise! 

Amy: (telling Matt) We (John and I) met at a party hosted by a mutual friend…you know Lisa Grom?

Matt: Hmm…I don’t think so. The name doesn’t ring a bell.

Amy: No? Okay, anyway, we met at her party and have been friends since for about 3 years. Right, John?

John: No, it’s 5 years, not 3! Ha ha.

Amy: Oh, I’m wrong, you’re right…5 years! Gosh, that long?

John: Yeah, that long! Time flies fast!

Amy: Whoo…! Anyway, he came from CA, born and grew up in the SF Bay Area and went to CSD (California School for the Deaf) Fremont. After graduation, he went to Gallaudet before transferring to NTID (that’s National Technical Institute of the Deaf in Rochester, NY, another Deaf college). After graduating and working at different companies for a while, he then landed at GLAD and since then, work for 7 years now. You know Jane Smith, the one with brown long hair, blue eyes and kinda chubby you met a few weeks ago at Kathy’s party?

Matt: Is that the one wearing the funky polka dot dress, that’s so outdated like from the 1970’s?

Amy: Ha ha! I agree about the dress!

Matt: You gotta ask her where she get that dress ‘cuz I wanna find one like it to surprise my wife for her birthday. She love that kind of stuff.

Amy: Sure, I’ll ask her about it and let you know soon. Anyway, that’s her husband! They have two kids, boy and girl, both KODAs, age 5 and 7. Now, John, Matt and I have been friends since we were kids…20 years?

Matt: Oh, no, 25 years, not 20.

Amy: Oh, 25 years?! Yikes! Are we getting so old now?

Matt: Yeah, unfortunately! I wish we could stop the clock when we reach 25 years old! Ha ha

Amy: I wish, too! 25 years…blah! Ha ha…anyway, we grew up in the same oral mainstreaming schools and in high school, we went to different schools but still hung out often. After high school, while I went to CSUN (California State University, Northridge), he went to Gallaudet, too…oh, what year did you enter? 1997?

John: Yes, correct, it’s 1997.

Amy: Matt, you? 2000? (Matt nodded) Think you two might have met there once or twice?

John: Actually, I don’t think so ‘cuz I transferred to NTID two years later in 1999.

Matt: Really? That’s why you don’t look familiar at all. That makes sense. 

Amy: Aww, it’s too bad that you both missed each other then! Anyway, he (Matt) graduated and moved to NYC to teach at Fanwood (deaf school) for several years. He met his wife…John, maybe you know Sally Roarch, who went to NTID at around the same time as you?

John: Sally Roarch…sounds familiar…she has blond hair and very thin…always eats a lot, more than most guys…even football players? 

Amy: Yeah, she has blonde hair and thin…always thin, never gain a pound…lucky woman! She still eats a lot now. I don’t know how she stays thin!

John: Really? Seriously?

Matt: Yeah, she still does.

Amy: Yeah, that’s his wife now! (both John and Matt were surprised by how so small the world is for them and John wanted to see his wife as he hasn’t seen her since NTID days and Matt agreed to bring him to his wife after this) Great! By the way, Matt and Sally just moved here from NYC and they’re looking for jobs. That’s why I thought of you. Do you know if there are any openings at GLAD that they could apply for?

John: Yeah, I think so. I can find out from my boss on Monday.

Amy: Yeah? Awesome!

After that, both John and Matt picked it up by discussing the possibilities of working at GLAD before they go and find Sally to surprise her.

In your view, that may be probably the longest introduction but it’s pretty common and perhaps time-saving, too as you make connections faster. One of the advantages of that is better, bigger, and faster networking.

What to Expect When Meeting a Deaf Person

When you meet a Deaf person for the first time, don’t be surprised or even offended when they ask you some personal questions. For them, it’s the norm…similar to the Asian culture, most Asian people ask the person questions about money like how much they earn or the price of the house the person just bought, etc. 

If you feel uncomfortable and mention that to them, they’d understand and probably would share some information about themselves to keep the ball going…(unless you drop the ball). 😅

Because the Deaf world is very small, we don’t see other Deaf people often if we don’t work in a Deaf school or Deaf-related job. Whenever we meet, we chat for hours and hours to catch up. That’s why (most) Deaf people are famous for this – DST, sort of as a joke…well, half joke and half serious – Deaf Standard Time.

It’s mostly the strong need to reconnect with someone that has the same identity and needing to let our hair down, being ourselves with no limits in between you two (no barriers, culture differences, etc). If you’ve heard about “Deaf Goodbye”, then you’d know what I’m talking about. If you haven’t, then one day, I’ll tell you about it.

That’s pretty sums up for this posting. 😀

Until then, ta ta! 😄🤟🏻

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