September 15, 2004

You're Never Fully Dressed Without A Smile

Does a smile have to be genuine? Does it really matter? How important is smiling to getting along with others? Cosmic Zephyr wrote a nice piece about the importance of smiling in Western culture and how it contrasts with some Asian cultures. He writes:
"But, the cynic in me does wonder how genuine [smiles] are. I suppose I [have] to attribute that to the Asian way of upbringing which is to keep a mindful distance, and speak only when spoken to. Sadly, this behavior has often been misconstrued by most foreigners as being cold or rude. Hence, I've made a conscious effort to dispel that notion by initiating a gentle smile and acknowledgement to strangers or people I know. Thanks to increased Westernization, the Asian culture is slowly evolving (and vice-versa) into a more globally accepted one."

Living in the melting pot (I know, trite) that is New York City, I've picked up that different cultures have different ways of showing respect for one another. In some, direct eye contact is rude. In some, not making eye contact is rude. This leads to a lot of anger and misunderstanding (e.g. Korean shop owners vs. Brooklyn during Mayor Dinkins administration). It's a shame we aren't more culturally aware of each other. I don't think it's because we're mean people or anything, I just think that, especially in the case of New York City, there are so many people living together from so many different countries, it's impossible to understand the cultural mores of each country represented.

Anyway, Cosmis Zephyr linked to a great BBC quiz that allows you to see how good you are judging whether a smile is real or not. You can link to that here.

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