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Smiling

Did you notice while travelling that people smile more in some countries and less in other ones?

I lived in Russia, Finland, and Portugal and visited other countries in Europe. Interestingly, smiling is a part of the culture, which has its local norms. This means that smiling should occur in definite situations with definite people in some places. In other places, people smile when they feel like without any frames.

The Portuguese simply shine, and I always need to ‘catch up’ upon my arrival to the country.

Actually, Russia is famous for strict-looking people. There are a lot of jokes on this topic, and foreigners are recommended not to smile as it looks ‘stupid and unserious’. The Russian culture is exactly that one, where you should smile in particular situations, and not, for instance, while saying ‘hi’ to a shop assistant. Personally, I have a big mismatch with my own culture as for some reason I smile a lot.

The same strictness regarding smiling, I observed in other Slavic countries – Poland, Czech Republic, and Slovenia. Based on that, some tourists have misconceptions that Slavic people are tough, silent, and even rude. However, if you get to know any person from those countries, you realise how hospitable and friendly people are. We all have different ways to express ourselves, and there is nothing wrong about it!

In the next 2 posts, I will discuss the peculiarities of greetings in Europe and I will elaborate on Russian and Finnish soups.

Picture from my Instagram

35 thoughts on “Smiling

  1. Interesting blogpost. I have travelled a lot before in ‘eastern’ Europe(2x Latvia,lithuania, 41x to Czech republic, Slovakia, 3x Poland,Belarus, Macedonia,Serbia,Croatia,2x Slovenia). Indeed there is like a stigma or clichΓ© about the Eastern Europe ‘smiles’. Was never an issue for me, just do my thing… . I like observing people and things. Maybe some sellers have a bad day, or indeed it’s maybe not just a clichΓ©. I was thinking about this theme two months ago when I travelled to Romania… the people were there just rude in the shop, totally unfriendly. Embarrassing. In Belgium I have a few lovely Romanian colleagues and a very sweet personal friend here… . Maybe the point is? In many countries they have to work their ass off for so little money and they do not have the chances(like we have in Belgium for example) to improve their lifesituation? Cheers Stef

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You are a real traveller! Definitely, the economic conditions affect happiness. Unfortunately, people have low salaries and touch work conditions in Russia. It is important to keep in mind. At the end of the day, people are extremely exhausted and the last thing they want to do is – to smile. On the other hand, life in Portugal is not that easy either, but the Portuguese have a great quality – to live in the moment so that they can switch off from the troubles. Have a nice evening!

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  2. It’s a very nice article, plus it’s hard to judge people according to a brief experience. One should always stay longer, visit more often, mix with people, observe them from the outside as well (for example sitting on a bench, in the park, or in a plaza, at the beach, when relaxed). I know in my town people who are very nice and friendly in attending their customers and bitter people that I avoid. And those with a forced smile that you know they’ll talk behind your back after you leave the place. I assume that is the case everywhere. πŸ™‚

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    1. Thank you for the comment! I agree that it takes time to learn about person. There are definitely people in every culture that smile into your face and talk evil behind this back. It is always good to be careful.

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  3. This is a great post, we are having the same experience with USA vs New Zealand with smiling and how people greet you! We are talking about travelling Europe in October after this trip. Any tips on Travelling Europe and which countries are more welcoming would be amazing πŸ’— xxx

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    1. Thank you for the comment! Europe is a very diverse place. Probably, you can choose the country based on your interests, e.g.: history, architecture, nature as you will be busy exploring the place. Anyway, no one is mean; however, the problem is ‘language barrier’. This can be a crucial issue. Despite the fact that English is a global languages, still there are countries which can provide rather limited service in the language. I hope it was helpful! πŸ™‚

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  4. Ohh, this sounds terrible: “Foreigners are recommended not to smile as it looks β€˜stupid and unserious’” I smile and laugh all the time so I definitely must never go there. Slovenia is much better now than it used to be when we were in Yugoslavia. But here in Italy I can see what it means to smile. Not by all though: some women can be very condescending and would rather die on the spot than crack a smile. :p

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  5. Great topic and yes, even I have observed the places and smiles. In Japan, people almost do not smile. Rest of Asia generally smiles. The US has a smile built into their culture. India unlimited smile and sometimes annoying! But yes, the smile does not mean they are good or bad. That’s why many times smile deceives us! πŸ˜€

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  6. After living in Hungary for years, I visited the Netherlands and omg were the people so friendly and hospitable. Later I realised that Hungarians are equally nice but in the Netherlands it is far more obvious like there is something in the atmosphere whereas in Hungary you’d have to look a little deeper to find their bloom.

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  7. I often take a morning or evening walk along a nearby canal. I find it interesting to smile and say ‘hello’ to those I meet and to see reactions. To some I have ‘made their day’, to others who bow their heads, avoid eye contact and pass by, I feel very sorry for them πŸ™‚

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  8. What an interesting little post. I was fascinated by the cultural differences that you outlined. Perhaps we of northern European descent can learn from our Mediterranean neighbors. Thanks for the fun time, and here is a smile for you. 😊

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    1. Thank you for the comment! πŸ™‚ it is very interesting how much we are culturally shaped and we very often don’t realise that. Have a nice day!

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  9. Very interesting, and demonstrably true. This summer I am going to Switzerland, Portugal, and England. Each culture is quite different. It will be interesting changing gears. I try to observe closely and adopt the ways of my host country. But even more importantly I watch the person I am talking to and make sure that I’m presenting myself in such a way as not to violate their expectations. At least at first. Once we get to know each other, we can just be ourselves. I think that’s the most comfortable thing for everybody involved.

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    1. It is important to know the differences and be respectful for others. It is also important to keep also personal habits. There is nothing awkward than forced behaviour. Enjoy your trips! πŸ™‚

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