Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Say Cheese

Americans are often amazed that Europeans don’t smile.

“Tell me again, really? They don’t ever smile?”

“Not at you,” I reply.

They don’t smile at you because you are a foreigner and you scare them. Because if they give you one little smile, you might give them your entire life story. Come on, you know you would. In English. Without bothering to ask if they understood the language first.

And if Europeans don’t smile on the street, it might also be because it is August, 52 degrees, and raining. They aren’t smiling because they are worried that they might not see the sun again until May. I’ve been there. I live here.

But inside their homes, where they have families and sun lamps, Europeans smile.

Now I’m not saying any of this makes sense, I’m just saying that’s how it is. There are plenty of contradictions in American life too. An American isn’t afraid to reveal their entire life story to a stranger, but they would never bathe topless. Does this make sense either? I don't know. But it makes me smile.


Unknown said...

I'm 100% european and I smile all the time!!! I agree the weather doesn't help, since I moved from Barcelona mi face muscles are not that strong!

Anonymous said...

Interesting! As a Korean-American in Hawaii, I blog about my personal life quite a bit --- but I would NEVER swim topless (or bottomless, for that matter)!!!

mrschlosser said...

I was once asked by my (now former) Swiss boss why I was smiling. It totally unnerved him. I told him that there was no particular reason, that I'm just a happy (American) person.

He's a great guy, but I know that if he's smiling, chances are an American equivalent of him would be laughing so hard that he would wet his pants.

Chantal said...

I got asked many times why I was smiling at my Zurich office. We'd get a new assignment and I would smile and say things like "great, looking forward to working on this" and they would all look at me like I was crazy: how could anyone be excited about work?

M'dame Jo said...

Your post made me smile.

But I'm at home and it's very sunny today.

Emily said...

Baring your boobs versus baring your soul, what an interesting observation. In Greece, where the locals are far more chatty than the Swiss, you will rarely see a Greek-speaker going topless.

Chantal said...

M'dame Jo, always happy to make you smile. ;-)

Emily, I also think it's really interesting how chatty cultures don't bare boobs and quiet ones do. I guess it's there way of making an equally quiet statement.

Lakshmi said...

It made me smile too..Ive been briefly to some countries in Europe and to the US, I was lucky to find a lot of people who were always smiling , cheerful and helpful

Chantal said...

That is good to hear, Lakshmi!

Hattie said...

We have had an epidemic of tooth whitening in the U.S. which has led to a lot of very strange smiling incidents.
I keep my choppers an honest off whitish yellow. I lived in Europe too long to think those big white Chiclets look good.

Lindsey said...

Yesterday was sunny and warm and everyone in Adliswil was smiling! I was extra smiley, even for an American, because I was back on the head cold meds. What a great day it was! :)

Chantal said...

Great weather always makes me smile too!

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