To Smile or Not to Smile: a Curious Case of a Grumpy Eastern European

More often than not, Eastern Europeans who come back to their country (usually for a short visit) notice, that the locals won’t smile. They have already gotten used to the happy faces in the West. However, people in Eastern Europe seem to be teflon coated and the smile just won’t stick. And there are various theories trying to explain this peculiarity. I will offer yet one another.

After about a year of uninterrupted living in the UK, my friend asked me to send him a selfie. So I did. He liked it. But he had a question. “Why such a big smile?” It sounded disturbing. “Why not?,” I replied. Just an inner state of excitement. That is quite unfathomable to my friend.

Really. Why not?

Most of the arguments I’ve heard, could be summarized as follows:

– poor economic situation: but there are countries in Africa and Asia much poorer than ours!;
– historic circumstances: people in the post-Soviet nations were being spied on by the government, therefore had developed a neutral facial expression, so that it would not attract unwanted attention;
– Eastern European gloom: a certain mentality, based on the location, dark and cold winters – which is a legit explanation, why not? Look at the Nordic people – economy there is great, but they seem to get quite moody.

All three arguments are quite reasonable. But there is one more difference, which I have picked upon soon after I’ve arrived to the UK:

British don’t fuss that much as we tend to.

I find Europeans to be way more fussy about the small stuff. When I got here I was shocked. By all the small things, that a common British person would simply overlook. Like no ventilation in the old houses. Dusty baseboards. Sticky tables in a local café. DIY approach to the interior design. Jeremy Clarkson. (I have a crush on him.)

English don’t care. And although I have been grouching about that for a bit, I have grown to appreciate the mentality. (I do clean my baseboards though.) Not fussing about that sort of stuff means:

– a relaxed atmosphere;
– more time to care about the bigger stuff (thus more time to get it done – like creating your own business, saving money for your own house, etc. etc.);
– being more lenient towards the fellow human beings;
– having more time to party (and then dance naked in the streets and break the internet with the nasty photos the day after).

And that does not mean that English are careless. Far from it. They:

– put a next-customer bar after themselves in the supermarkets;
– keep a very safe distance between the vehicles on the motorways;
– say hello to a passerby in a dark alley to diffuse the former’s fearful suspiciousness;
– say sorry if they are in your way in the supermarket (Eastern European feels that the Englishman is in his way. The intergalactic balance is being resorted here in the UK. Yay!).

Just a lovely country, nothing else to add here.

(Oh, but I will expand this curious case in my future articles.)



  1. I remember in my childhood wide smile, “American” as we used to call it (because we saw it mostly in Hollywood movies) was something very bad, because I couldn’t believe people are sinscere if they smile showing their teeth. And now it’s very normal for me to smile wide and say thank you and sorry. It just became a sort of habit. A good habit. As you said we used to bother about everything, even (or maybe especially) about a smile – is it true smile? Is he smiling because he likes me or it’s just a habit for him? Why he is smiling at all? And so on. Eventually the verdict is – he/she is strange, out of this planet.


    1. Yup. Speaking of Americans. I really do admire their positive spirit. Even when things go so wrong, I would be so pissed off, they just shrug their shoulders and carry on with a smile.

      Liked by 1 person

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