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  1. #1
    breaking out of my cocoon SearchingforPeace's Avatar
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    Default Some cultures frown on smiling

    Why Do Russians Never Smile? - The Atlantic

    I thought this was an interesting article.

    Here’s something that has always puzzled me, growing up in the U.S. as a child of Russian parents. Whenever I or my friends were having our photos taken, we were told to say “cheese” and smile. But if my parents also happened to be in the photo, they were stone-faced. So were my Russian relatives, in their vacation photos. My parents’ high-school graduation pictures show them frolicking about in bellbottoms with their young classmates, looking absolutely crestfallen.

    ....

    It’s just that grinning without cause is not a skill Russians possess or feel compelled to cultivate. There’s even a Russian proverb that translates, roughly, to “laughing for no reason is a sign of stupidity.”

    ...

    In some countries, smiling might not be a sign of warmth or even respect. It’s evidence that you’re a fool—a tricky fool.

    Krys focused on a cultural phenomenon called “uncertainty avoidance.” Cultures that are low on this scale tend to have social systems—courts, health-care systems, safety nets, and so forth—that are unstable. Therefore, people there view the future as unpredictable and uncontrollable.

    Smiling is a sign of certainty and confidence, so when people in those countries smile, they might seem odd. Why would you smile when fate is an invisible wolf waiting to shred you? You might, in those “low-UA” countries, even be considered stupid for smiling.

    Krys also hypothesized that smiling in corrupt countries would be, um, frowned upon. When everyone’s trying to pull one over on each other, you don’t know if someone’s smiling with good intentions, or because they’re trying to trick you.

    ....

    He found that in countries like Germany, Switzerland, China, and Malaysia, smiling faces were rated as significantly more intelligent than non-smiling people. But in Japan, India, Iran, South Korea, and—you guessed it—Russia, the smiling faces were considered significantly less intelligent. Even after controlling for other factors, like the economy, there was a strong correlation between how unpredictable a society was and the likelihood they would consider smiling unintelligent.

    .....

    Anyway, read the whole thing.

    I do wonder if there could be a type issue as well, if people of certain types predominant in a certain country.....
    Quote Originally Posted by Archilochus
    The fox knows many things--the hedgehog one big one.
    And I am not a hedgehog......

    -------------------

    Jesus said "Blessed are the peacemakers" not "blessed are the conflict avoiders.....

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    “Orthodoxy means not thinking--not needing to think. Orthodoxy is unconsciousness.”
    ― George Orwell, 1984
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  2. #2
    Senior Member ceecee's Avatar
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    My father says this too about the Russians. He spent a lot of time there pre and especially post Soviet Union and all the emerging nations. But it's not difficult to understand - would you smile much living in Soviet era Russia? Would you have much to smile about being Russian and living in a breathtakingly corrupt, oppressive and still isolated and paranoid country? India, Iran, and I'm certain places like Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan - I don't think smiling is high on the priority list of their citizens either. Incidentally, my father said the saddest people in the world, of all the places he went, were in Turkmenistan.

    The Japanese, I think are a bit different but I think they don't want to be lumped with the other Asian countries. While I liked it there, there is a kind of depressing fog all around, but I wasn't there long enough to really investigate it. South Korea - I don't know about that, but perhaps it's changed, I do know younger people are very stressed. I've been to Seoul and what I observed at the time was - they like fun, they smile and laugh a lot and they can give the Finns a run for their money in competitive drinking.
    I like to rock n' roll all night and *part* of every day. I usually have errands... I can only rock from like 1-3.
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  3. #3
    Just curious geedoenfj's Avatar
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    Interesting.. And in some cultures it is considered a musculine/ feminine thing..
    Work for a cause not for Applause
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    “sometimes... confused people are funnier, nicer, and more open-minded than non-confused people.” labyrinthine


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  4. #4
    breaking out of my cocoon SearchingforPeace's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by geedoenfj View Post
    Interesting.. And in some cultures it is considered a musculine/ feminine thing..
    Really??? Do elaborate, please.....
    Quote Originally Posted by Archilochus
    The fox knows many things--the hedgehog one big one.
    And I am not a hedgehog......

    -------------------

    Jesus said "Blessed are the peacemakers" not "blessed are the conflict avoiders.....

    9w8 6w5 4w5 sx/so

    ----------------------

    “Orthodoxy means not thinking--not needing to think. Orthodoxy is unconsciousness.”
    ― George Orwell, 1984

  5. #5
    Digital ambition Virtual ghost's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ceecee View Post
    My father says this too about the Russians. He spent a lot of time there pre and especially post Soviet Union and all the emerging nations. But it's not difficult to understand - would you smile much living in Soviet era Russia? Would you have much to smile about being Russian and living in a breathtakingly corrupt, oppressive and still isolated and paranoid country? India, Iran, and I'm certain places like Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan - I don't think smiling is high on the priority list of their

    Yeah, that was my first thought when I saw the thread. Countries that have long history of totalitarian and obviously opressive governments are much more likely to be involved in this.
    PTSD, rules and paranoia just get to you, especially if you watch this from birth.

  6. #6
    Fabula rasa Kas's Avatar
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    It reminded me this thread: Why are Americans so FAKE?

    Both of these threads show how different are cultures despite of globalisation and how easy it is to misinterpret one's behaviour. From one side- others can appear fake, from the other gloomy or unfriendly. It's very interesting. The point of article about judging one's intelligence basing on smile/ lack of smile as well.

    Can't speak for Russia, but I can for East-Central Europe and being positive isn't promoted so much as I believe it is in US. We can appear more serious. It's not as it's described in article (and meeting some Ukrainians and Belorussians , I think it's exaggerated about Russians too-similar culture), but the attitude is more of smile when something makes you smile, than keep being positive.

    Long story is probably behind it. As it was said the history of nations, the conditions are causing some preferred traits and behaviours. But if we go back years ago I think there would be differences too.
    “The world is full of obvious things which nobody by any chance ever observes." A.C. Doyle


  7. #7
    Fabula rasa Kas's Avatar
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    Hmmm... hope it's not off topic, but I reminded myself that with my friend, inspired by the book, we organised 'experimental signal of kindness' during junior-high years. It was basically smiling to the strangers: on the street, in the bus, in city centre. We met subtle but various reactions. Some people seemed uncomfortable or worried and some seemed happy or responded with smiling back.
    “The world is full of obvious things which nobody by any chance ever observes." A.C. Doyle


  8. #8
    Digital ambition Virtual ghost's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kas View Post
    It reminded me this thread: Why are Americans so FAKE?

    Both of these threads show how different are cultures despite of globalisation and how easy it is to misinterpret one's behaviour. From one side- others can appear fake, from the other gloomy or unfriendly. It's very interesting. The point of article about judging one's intelligence basing on smile/ lack of smile as well.

    Can't speak for Russia, but I can for East-Central Europe and being positive isn't promoted so much as I believe it is in US. We can appear more serious. It's not as it's described in article (and meeting some Ukrainians and Belorussians , I think it's exaggerated about Russians too-similar culture), but the attitude is more of smile when something makes you smile, than keep being positive.

    Long story is probably behind it. As it was said the history of nations, the conditions are causing some preferred traits and behaviours. But if we go back years ago I think there would be differences too.

    Yeah, Americans are much more "all over the place" than most East Europeans.

  9. #9
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    Interestingly, when other primates are smiling it is a sign of aggression or submission.

    Scientific American

    It seems that in almost all other species, especially primates, baring one's teeth is a threat or a show of potential force. How did the 'smile' become a friendly gesture in humans? Are there any cultures in which smiling is not considered friendly?

  10. #10
    What Is Life? RobinSkye's Avatar
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    In China, it's used as a sign of shame, or even apology. It's as though they cover up their true "face" or reputability, by covering their face with a plastic grin.
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