Swedes are rather stiff people, whereas the other Nordic peoples are not. Germans are very stiff, Mediterranean ones open and outwardly and including. I guess the JW communities are rather similar to the people of the area in general. Some JWs from a more open part of the country move to another part and are surprised at how stiff people are in the congregation there and vice versa. But non-JWs doing the same, experience the same. Some areas are more closed than others. And a couple of strong personalities might influence a whole congregation. Tell a joke as part of your talk if you hold talks in other congregations, and you will find that in some congregations they will laugh heartedly, whereas in others not a facial muscle will move - which might be rather embarassing for you as a speaker
OldHippie, My experience here in the US is that there is a big difference between different regions of the US. Cobaltcupcake is absolutely right. There is still a "Puritan/Calvinist rigidity in New England". Add to that, if you are close enough to Bethel to have Bethel speakers visit your congregation or have elders in your congregation that do commuter assignments at Bethel and you have former Bethelites who attend the Annual Meeting each year; this adds up to more GB influence. CA and FL are notoriously more laid back. The Mid-West (I pioneered in ND, and my never-a-dub sister lives in KS.) is more conservative with an emphasis on family. In fact, other than imports (pioneers) and a rare transplant from Montana, who claimed to be of the "annointed", every single person in that congregation was related by blood or marriage. I once commented in jest that the problem in our New England congregation was that there was just "too much inbreeding". No one thought that was funny! and yes, Captain Obvious, "A good 100lbs on average" overweight. The only allowable entertainment is eating out!
One funny example regarding watching TV-- years ago a visiting Bethel speaker said they only have the Discovery Channel available at Bethel. In his opinion, there is too much sex and violence on the Discovery Channel, so he wouldn't watch TV at all. The funny part is I had been saying the same thing to my hubby for years! I'm a born and raised New Englander. Hubby is from Upstate NY. (Not a New Englander at all from a true New Englander's persective.) I still can't watch animals tearing each other apart and clearly don't want to know the details of animal sexual behavior. There is a Jeff Foxworthy-like paroday of "You know you're a redneck if. . ." that starts, "You know you are from New England if. . ."
So in 1980 B.C. (before children), bethelyellowdollarbag and I decided to take a year off and take bicycle trip from New England to Florida, where we then worked and saved up enough money to buy and live on a 22' sailboat in the FL Keys for a few months before returning to New England. Of course, his rigid, 100% German parents highly disapproved.
We carried polyester meeting attire with us, and would pull up to a KH on our bikes, change in the restrooms and attend the local meeting. We had our Bibles and songbooks, so that eased some of the tension. Since in dubland anything that is different or looks fun is highly suspicious, there was only one occaision that we were invited to stay in the home of a local witness couple. They had recently moved from Chicago to Virginia. They were bored out of their minds and begged us to stay for just one more day. Our visit lasted nearly three weeks! Hurricane Frederick was headed to the Outer Banks, which is where we were headed, so they insisted we stay longer, just to be safe. They worked at Colonial Williamsburg and got us into all the tourist attractions for free. We had a blast, but were beinging to feel like hostages toward the end of our visit! They were openly trying to recruit us to become members of the local congregation. Interestingly, "worldly" people had no problem inviting us to pitch our tent in their back yard and use their kitchen and bathroom facilities for a night. One "worldy" guy, also a bicycler, invited us to stay in his apartment, gave us his keys and told us where his stash of money was, so he could take us out to dinner after his shift at work. Dubland has a culture of fear, anything out of the norm is viewed with fear and is highly suspect, so don't get involved!
Interesting experience in the early '80s in Florida, in a mostly Hispanic congregation, sisters openly breastfed their infants (baby's face discreetly tented with a blanket) in the main auditorium. When I had our first child and thought that I could do the same in New England, I was shocked and mortified to be hauled into the backroom to be told that it was absolutely forbidden. The brothers who were handling the mikes were sooo disturbed! I was to nurse my daughter in the ladies room. I informed them that wouldn't be possible, as first of all it was gross to think of eating in a bathroom; and second, there was no chair in the ladies room. It was agreed that I should sit in the back of the B school (noisy children's section where lights were dimmed).
In New England we have what are called "Snow Birds", people who move to Florida during the winter months. Elders who do this do not remain elders, as they usually show up in the springtime with flowery shirts, buttons open and revealing chest hair, sporting heavy gold chains: OMBob!
So here is my New England List (until 19 months ago):
Pantyhose, closed-toe shoes, and well-below-the-knee-length skirts with NO slits a must on stage at an Assembly Hall. I had an S.A.D. part (still makes me think of Seasonal Affective Disorder), and these were the instructions in 2010. Same rules for District Conventions and for pioneers in the ministry.
For brothers-- Two piece suit always, pale colored or white shirt. No goofy ties or wild socks! No beards at all. Brother with a severe skin condition tortured by shaving was never to become a MS. Period.
For sisters-- No pantyhose acceptable in the dead heat of summer. Brothers could forgo suit jacket or could drape their suit jacket over their arm, especially if they had any tatoos from pre-dub days! Beach wear-- Flip flops a huge no no. Summer string-type sundresses must be covered with a sweater.
No R-rated movies! PG-13 highly suspect! No sex, violence, sit-coms, reality TV, no Saturday AM cartoons, especially Casper the Friendly Ghost, no Harry Potter, etc., etc., etc. Funny memory at CA during the time of the TV series Dallas and the Who Shot JR? craze-- cue Dallas theme music. Many in audience were laughing. I didn't know what they were laughing about. C.O gave a thorough dress down about watching nighttime TV soap operas. Clearly those who laughed were not laughing by the end of his talk.
I could go on, but I think you get the point! I have vowed never to wear another dress, pantyhose or high heels again in my life.
Oh, and don't even get me started on mandatory work attire for quick builds!