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7 September, 2012

One day last semester, one of my Polish students asked me why I am always smiling.  Apparently, I’m a pretty smiley person.  His question turned into a conversation that was long enough to last the three block walk between building C and building G on SGH’s campus, and we each shared our perception of smiling people and why we do or don’t smile a lot in public.

While living in the United States, I had never really questioned why I smile in public, or whether or not anyone else would think it was appropriate; I just smiled because I was happy, was lost in a pleasant day-dream, or whatever the case was.

As part of our orientation in Morocco, we learned that the accepted culture there was a bit different from what we may have been used to in the US, and that, for women especially, walking around smiling and making eye contact with strangers, may send the wrong message.

And so I was asked in Poland why I smiled so much.  The conversation that followed reinforced the idea that I had already picked up on; Poles, like Moroccans, often portrayed themselves one way in public, and in another more relaxed way at home.  Seeing me walking around on campus all smiley was kind of weird for my student, but they all seemed to accept the different things I was doing because I was raised in a different country.

Yesterday, I met with a group of students for a program I am overseeing on campus, and one of the students commented that I smile a lot.  I’ve also noticed that for this particular group of students, many have indicated on the forms they filled out that smiles are something they like about America, and that for their activity partners, they want to be paired with people who smile.

I think I’ve found a really good fit for me here, and I’m looking forward to hearing more from my students about what they like and dislike about living in the United States, and what cultural observations they have made.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. 7 September, 2012 21:32

    Maybe you’re just happy 🙂

  2. Kathy Lehman permalink
    8 September, 2012 11:48

    EYE contact is also something that can cause problems and something I always insisted on in first grade. I didn’t find out until later that it was a culture thing for some people.
    Had one set of parents in talk about their son and the fact that he might need another year in first grade. The mom started to cry and said she would have to kill herself as that would be a sign that she failed as a parent.
    There are so many things we aren’t aware of as we go about our days!!
    Your smile is FANTASTIC and always a BLESSING !!! Keep it up!!!

  3. 23 September, 2012 15:38

    Simple things tell a lot about a person, i.e., a smile. I know you do have to take in consideration a person’s culture but it’s a shame one has to put up their guard in order to avoid wrong impressions. I did enjoy your insight. And thanks for the like on my blog as well.

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