One of the most common stereotypes is that Russian people never smile. This belief is held widely among foreigners, in fact, it is up there along with beliefs about Russians drinking vodka every day or bears walking on the streets. And while the stereotypes about vodka or bears are exaggerated, the thing about smiling is more or less true. But the fact that Russians don’t smile as much as Americans do doesn’t mean that they are angry or mean, it simply means that the customs and cultural norms about smiling are different in Russia. Here are a few reasons why Russians don’t smile and why you shouldn’t consider it to be rude.
Russians don’t smile out of respect
In American and Europe people smile to show their respect for the person they are meeting or interacting with. The larger the smile, the more respect is shown and the more polite and friendly the person who is smiling appears to be. However, in Russia, a smile does not show respect, especially if the two people don’t know each other well. In fact, this kind of an “out of respect” smile can even be considered rude or contemptful. There’s even something called a “duty smile” in the Russian culture. When someone smiles all the time as a duty or at a job, it is considered to be insincere and sometimes even rude.
Russians don’t show their teeth when smiling
While it is almost impossible to imagine a true American smile without the person showing his or her perfect white teeth, in Russia people often smile only with their lips, without showing the teeth at all. Some people may even consider a regular smile “with teeth” to be an unpleasant grin, although, this is the case only in some situations and for some people.
Russians don’t usually smile at strangers
Another peculiar cultural norm in Russia is that people don’t normally smile at strangers. You can notice that when you buy something at a supermarket, the cashier normally doesn’t smile in return, however, if you go to a more or less expensive restaurant, you can expect to get smiles from servers and bartenders. It is also not customary to smile if you accidentally meet someone’s gaze on the subway or in other situations like this. Most Russians will simply turn their eyes away in this case, however, many Russians may smile if they look at a small child or a pet. Given the typical behaviors described above, you shouldn’t expect to get a smile back if you smile at a stranger in the street. This doesn’t mean that the person doesn’t like you it simply means that they don’t know you.
Russian smiles are rare but sincere
Based on everything said in this article you might be starting to think that Russians never smile. But is is far from being true. Russian people actually smile quite often, but there is always a reason for it. It can be that the person is in a good mood, they are enjoying your company or they are your good friend. For Russians it is very important that their smiles are sincere and that they reflect their true emotions, so if a Russian person gives you a sincere smile, you can be sure that you’re on the right path to becoming their friend.
Why don’t Russians smile?