Lately, I’ve been reading some cross-cultural comparisons — meaning, comparing contemporary American culture to various other cultures of the world — in preparation for my upcoming ATLOSCon talk on the role of philosophy in life. Such comparisons help illuminate the hidden assumptions and dispositions which influence the effect of philosophic principles on a person’s life.
I thought that I’d share this delightfully cantankerous gem: 17 Cultural Clashes This European Had in America. Here’s a bit:
3. SMILES MEAN NOTHING
When I meet Americans abroad, one of their biggest complaints are along the lines of “nobody smiles on Prague’s trams!” “That waitress was so rude to me! She didn’t even smile!”
Goddamnit America – I have the opposite complaint for you. You guys smile way too much. It’s annoying! How can you tell when someone means it? And why the hell would a stranger doing a crossword puzzle on public transport want to look giddy?
When people smile in Europe it means something. For example, because Germans don’t go around looking like an American toothpaste commercial when I was with them and they smiled, it lit up the room – you know it’s genuine and you can’t help but smile back, because you are genuinely happy. You’ve shared a joke, or a funny story or you are in love etc.
But all the time? When you smile all the time in public it means nothing. Apparently a smile releases endorphins, but if your face is stuck that way I’m sure your dreams of a natural high will fade soon. I’d rather focus on trying to make my life better and have reasons to smile than lie to myself and the world.
Despite how surely I sound in this post, because complaining is the theme of the article, the fact that I vent when I mean it, means that when you see me happy you know I’m truly happy. And that is indeed a lot of the time :) But not all of it!
As someone who smiles even more than the average American… I can’t help but laugh!