Russia Doesn’t Smile at Strangers

With almost half of planet earth (3.2 billion) watching the World Cup in Russia, Russians are having to adjust to some many cultures meeting in one place. One of the great adjustments is the SMILE. Look up “Why Russians don’t smile,” and you will read some interesting pieces. In a recent article about Russian culture, the author observes that…”in Russia, randomly smiling at strangers in public is often viewed as a sign of mental illness or inferior intellect.”

A recent study on smiling was conducted and concluded that in “Russia, children may only contract their facial muscles when they’re truly happy. It’s an authentic expression of emotion.”

In countries like ours, however, smiling is a crucial social cue. It may not reflect their feelings, “but instead signals acknowledgment or appreciation of another person. And this might explain why American kids who smile more also tend to have more self-control.”

It’s an interesting cultural data to be sure. I wonder what the religious implications are for a culture that views smiling to strangers with such disdain. How do they view hospitality? Friendship? Love?

Update: Someone opined that it’s hypocritical to smile if you don’t feel like.

My answer:

Life offers thousands of opportunities where we have to express ourselves in ways we are not inclined. Most biblical virtues found in Galatians are things we have to strive towards whether we want to or not. We are to be patient when we don’t want to, we are to love when we don’t feel like it, etc. It ought to be a human being’s natural impulse to greet other image-bearers who come their way.

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