Hum... maybe I don't look "smart" enough for people to think I'm a physicist. Or maybe I dress and act "differently" than what people envision a physicist should look and behave.
I've gone to many social events, and even hosted many myself, where I interact with a lot of people from many different backgrounds. In my "obsession" with my other hobbies, I often mingle with a wide variety of people and have lots of fun. Inevitably, once you get a conversation going and people start being interested in you, the question on "what do you do for a living" comes up. When I tell them I'm a physicist, it never fails to generate a surprise, and often followed by a subsequent interest in a number of things, such as:
1. What exactly do you do?
2. Where do you work?
3. Are you creating black holes?
4. Do you blow things up?
5. Do you smash particles?
6. Do you work with nuclear bombs?
7. Do you work at Fermi?
8. What are they doing at that big particle accelerator?
I suppose such reaction is because of the obvious. One doesn't encounter a physicist that often in real life. Almost everyone gets their impression of what a scientist or physicist looks like from TV and movies. But I think, in my case, there's an "added bonus". I don't think one expects a physicist to have an obsession with "Disney", or to actually enjoy shopping for clothes and home furnishing/accessories! :)
But there's another twist to this as well. Those who do know me already and aware that I'm a physicist, often are surprised at some of the other things that I can do, as if being a physicist renders me socially incompetent, can't dress properly, and have no sense of style. When I bought a new home recently and furnished it myself, I invited friends over to the new digs. People were thoroughly surprised at the decor and that how good it looks. In fact, I've had more than a few comments telling me that if my job as a physicist doesn't work out, I should seriously consider interior decorating! I'm not sure if I should take that as a compliment or not! :)
So maybe I don't look like a physicist and don't behave as one in the social setting. But maybe, that is simply another "barrier" and misconception we have to break about people in this profession.