Voronezh University Professor: I.A. Sternin wrote 14 distinguishing features of a typical Russian smile:
1. Smile in Russian communication is not a sign of politeness.
2. Russian people do not smile at strangers.
3. It is not typical to Russian to give a smile in return.
4. It is not typical for Russian to smile at a person whose eyes you met with your eyes by chance. Americans smile in such a case but Russians turn off their eyes.
5. Russians don’t smile altogether looking at babies or pets. (I think it is a controversial utterance).
6. A Russian smile is a sign of personal attraction.
7. Russians do not smile when working or doing something serious.
8. Russian smile is sincere. It is the expression of either high spirits or a good attitude to a partner.
9. A smile of a Russian person should have a sufficient reason.
10. The only worthy reason of a smile in Russian communication is the wealth of a smiling person.
11. It is not typical for the Russian communicational culture to smile in order to cheer up or make others cheer up. A Russian person will hardly smile without evident wealth or very high spirits.
12. In a pure Russian consciousness a smile need a proper time for appearing. It is considered an independent action, which is very often unnecessary and annoying. Another Russian proverb says, “Business takes time, fun takes an hour”.
13. A smile should fit the situation from the point of view of the people around.
14. Russians do not really distinguish between a smile and laughter. They often mix up these two phenomena.
I myself have seen these traits about smiles and 2 years ago when I entered this interesting country I was a little perplexed about the smile issue.
I myself am a non smiler (but happy), so it was easy adaptation for me. What took me longer to adapt too was the fact that smiles in Russia only happen if sincere.
I came from America where smiles are expected. I grew up with the, wave at the other driver and smile at everyone or they will think you are mad syndrome. I spent my life in America always being asked why am I unhappy? Why are you not smiling? Are you mad at something?
I believe that a smile has to mean something. A smile is sincere or there should be no smile. To me a smile is what you do when all other emotions will get you in trouble. A smile should never be used to cover up something.
My wife and I smile at each other and we mean it. When Svet smiles it is a precious moment and she just beams with beauty.
So coming to Russia was a natural for me. I have never been asked once in Russia, “Why are you not smiling?”
Kyle & Svet
comments always welcome.