Why is it not common for American people to wear masks when you have a cold in general?

Q: Why is it not common for American people to wear masks when you have a cold in general?

A: In western culture, traditionally, the only people who cover their faces are criminals. So if you walk around wearing a cold mask, people instantly become suspicious of you. They probably don’t even know why! It is ingrained in us from a young age through things like stories and movies – the cowboy-train robber covers his face with a bandana. The bank robber covers his face with a ski mask. The mugger in the street covers his face with a hood. The only time you can wear a mask without suspicion is on Halloween.

Of course, these days, people know what surgical masks look like, but even seeing a person with a surgical mask makes us feel uncomfortable. If you get on a crowded bus with a surgical mask on, everyone will move away, because they think you must have some contagious disease.

Doctors are trying hard to change this perception, and in the past few years have started to provide surgical masks in their offices. There is usually a sign saying “If you have a cough, please wear a mask”, but very few people do. Maybe it will begin to change, slowly.