Saturday, April 7, 2018

Preparing The Great Smile Offfensive

Having children who live outside the US is a great benefit to Wife and I as travelers. Because they live in countries and not just visit, they have a much better understanding of local cultures. They also are more sensitive about how we (Americans) are perceived. One thing that we've learned as a result is that the vast majority of the rest of the world things we Americans are rather insanely friendly.

Think about it. In vast parts of our country the norm is to smile at people, say hello, make small talk, etc. One doesn't even think about it. Most of the rest of the world views this as being a bit bizarre. Smile and say hello to a complete stranger? That would be an invasion of privacy. You save your smiles and attentiveness for those you really know.

I remember thinking about this a lot when we came back from our last trip especially after our time in Albania where smiling was really held back by most. I remember coming home and thinking,

"You know, I really enjoy being able to smile and be genuinely happy around strangers.
I mean when I smile at people, look them in the eyes and say
'Hope you're having a good day'
With real meaning, I almost always get positive feedback"

So as we are approaching our next trip, I have been thinking. I need to be me. Yes I should be sensitive to and respectful of the culture of where I'm visiting. But that doesn't mean I should stop being who I am. When I was younger, I was obsessed with trying to not look like a foreigner. Now I realize that is hopeless. I just want to be considered a respectful traveler. And I want to be me. So countries I'm to visit, prepare to be smiled by someone who when he smiles genuinely means it.


Renee Michelle Goertzen said...

I think this is a reasonable idea. The exception for me would be if extras smiles, in that country, would be interpreted as threatening.

alexis said...

Or as an invitation for sexual advances RM! Dad, be careful or carry pepper spray if you're going to go smiling all over the place.

de-I said...

Wait, is my smiling mean I'm making a sexual advance or I'm asking to be advanced on? I suppose in either case the pepper spray makes sense.