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The Russians Smile Only for a Good Reason
December 31, 2013 23:09


 “The Russians smile only for a good reason” - a scientist explains the reasons for what seems to be Russian sullenness.

The well-known linguist Prof. Josef Sternin has revealed secrets of the well-known Russian unsmilingness. Foreigners always say that Russians are surprisingly unsmiling people; they write about it in blogs and guides, ask each other at personal meetings, and tell to all friends and acquaintances. The famous researcher calls this common unsmilingness one of the features of the Russian character and explains it with several factors.
 
1. The smile in Russian communication is never a sign of politeness. The western greeting smiles generally mean politeness as such. The more a person smiles, the more he or she wants to express friendliness to the other participant of communication. Among Russians such a constant polite smile is termed a social thin smile and is considered to be a manifestation of a person’s insincerity, reserve, and unwillingness to show one’s true feelings. The Russian smile is a sign of genuine personal affinity and good graces rather than mere politeness.
 
2. The Russians do not smile to strangers. In Russian communication the smile is generally addressed to friends and acquaintances. For this reason shop assistants do not smile to buyers: they just do not know them! If the buyer is familiar to the shop assistant, he or she will surely smile to him or her!
 
3. It is not typical for the Russians to smile in response. If a Russian sees a stranger smiling at him or her, it will be understood as if there must be some reason for the other person’s fun. Perhaps something is wrong with his/her looks, clothes or hairdress and that made the stranger smile. 
 
4. A Russian needs a sufficient reason for smiling and this reason should be obvious to others. It grants the person the right to smile — from the point of view of others. In the Russian language there is a unique saying which is not present in other languages: “Laughter without the reason is a sign of the fool”.
 
5. The unsmilingness of the Russian person is far from gloom: most of the Russians are quite cheerful and witty. And yet, it is also supported by the Russian folklore providing lots of sayings and proverbs “against” laughter and jokes. Vladimir Dahl's dictionary Proverbs of the Russian People contains quite a number of them, for instance: A joke does not bring you to the good. — Even laughter provokes the sin. You don't know whether to laugh or cry. Some kind of laughter is responded by crying. 
 
6. It is not customary for the Russians to smile on duty, while performing some serious task. Thus, for example, customs officers at the airports never smile because they are occupied with a matter of concernment. This feature of the Russian smile is unique.
 
7. The Russian smile is aimed to be sincere only: it is considered as one’s heartfelt expression of good mood or goodwill to the interlocutor. So, if a foreigner smiles at you it may mean nothing but the fact that he/she was taught to smile at everyone, but if a Russian smiles it is only because he or she really wants to smile.
 

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Author: Vera Ivanova

Tags: Russian Character Smiles Russian Customs   

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