Why Russians don't smile?
This is a question that most foreigners ask themselves when traveling to Russia or meeting Russian people for the first time. Despite the fact that Russian people don’t smile or do it rarely, they are often considered as outgoing, friendly and welcoming people. So why do the body language of Russians is so different from their interior?
In Russia, a smile is not a sign of respect or politeness
When you meet a person for the first time in America or Europe, you are supposed to greet him with a smile, showing in such a way your respect and good attitude to this person. Smiling while talking with your opponent in Western countries demonstrates that you are listening to your interlocutor with attention and you respect him. Unlike in Russia, where smiling may be considered as dishonesty and an intention to hide your real emotions. For Russian people avoiding to smile to strangers means uncertainty avoidance.
Smiling without any reason
There is a good Russian proverb that says: “Only fools smile without any reason”. According to the typical Russian communicative behavior, they smile when there is an appropriate situation for that. If you smile to a stranger without any reason, this person may think that he did something wrong or he looks weird, so you are simply having fun of him. Moreover, in business environment smiling “automatically” to your partners can make them think that you are not serious and just unreliable person. In such a way, it is better if your smile is a reflection of a good mood and a really friendly relationship with your opponent.
Typical Russian smile
More often you will face people in Russia smiling with a closed mouth and only rarely you can see their teeth readily visible. However, if you are with people you know well or there was some good joke pronounced, the “normal” laugh will be appropriate.
If you want to prove by yourself that Russian people are very gentle and open-minded people, you can book a tour with locals.
When Russians smile
In fact, I personally know a lot of Russians who are very kind and welcoming people. Russians generally smile to their friends and relatives. They smile or laugh when there is a special occasion. The occasion can be good news or a good joke. They can smile in public transport, at home and anywhere else. Unlike Americans and Europeans, Russians tend to not trust people from the first look. They prefer to observe, better know others before starting to trust someone.
Living in France in a beautiful southeastern region, I see a lot of Russians visiting the region during their holidays. Speaking Russian, I always try to get in contact with Russian people where possible. Sometimes, I talk to them in public transport or in a park. They answer me very politely. The conversation can last for 10 or even 15 minutes. Sometimes, they even start to tell me about their problems, their job, etc. But, they won’t smile at me or make jokes. They consider me a stranger and prefer to keep a distance.
Summing up, it is advised to foreigners traveling to Russia:
- Do not smile to strangers in the street, as they can take it wrong.
- Smile when you feel really good and you want to show a special and very friendly attitude to your opponents.
- Don’t hesitate to talk with Russian people even if they are not smiling, and you will see that in fact, they are one of the most joyful, generous and welcoming nations!
You will also discover that people in Moscow can appear more aggressive than in the regions. It’s a “metropolitan city syndrome”. Everyone is hurrying, stressing and there is no time for hypocrisy and smiling.