Features of the Russian smile
Features of the Russian smile

The Russian smile has a great national originality - in fact, it performs completely different, if not opposite, functions than the smile in European countries.

Russians from the point of view of Europeans are gloomy, gloomy, unsmiling. This is due to the phenomenon of everyday unsmiling of the Russian person, which is one of the most striking and nationally specific features of Russian non-verbal behavior and Russian communication in general.

The following specific national features of the Russian smile can be distinguished.

1. The Russian smile (normally) is performed only with the lips, occasionally the upper row of teeth becomes slightly visible; the demonstration of the upper and lower teeth with a smile, as the Americans do, is considered unpleasant, vulgar in Russian culture, and such a smile is called a grin or "horse".

2. A smile in Russian communication is not a signal of politeness.

Features of the Russian smile

In American, English, German communicative behavior, a smile is primarily a signal of politeness, therefore it is obligatory when greeting and during a polite conversation. Russian writers have repeatedly drawn attention to the difference between the Russian and American smiles, characterizing the American smile as strange and artificial for a Russian person. M. Gorky wrote that the first thing you see on the face of Americans is teeth. The satirist M. Zadornov called the American smile chronic, and M. Zhvanetsky wrote that Americans smile as if they were included in a network.

In the West, a smile when greeting means, first of all, the politeness of the greeting. The more a person smiles when greeting, the more friendly he is at this moment, the more politeness to the interlocutor he demonstrates in this communicative situation.

Smiling in the process of dialogue with the interlocutor also signals politeness to the interlocutor, that the participants politely listen to each other.

A smile in the service sector in the West (and in the East) also serves primarily as a demonstration of politeness. Wed Chinese proverb: He who cannot smile cannot open a shop. In Japan, girls at escalator entrances in large department stores smile and bow to every customer who steps on the escalator - 2,500 smiles and bows a day.

A politeness smile in some cultures has the meaning of preventing the other person from being upset about the perception of the story. Thus, I. Ehrenburg in his memoirs tells about a Chinese man who, with a smile, told him about the death of his wife. But this polite smile, as I. Ehrenburg writes, meant: "You should not be upset, this is my grief."

In Russian communicative behavior, a smile of "politeness" or "out of politeness" is simply not accepted, and even vice versa - to a purely polite smile of the interlocutor, if it is recognized as such, the Russian person is usually wary or even hostile: the Russian phrase "he smiled out of politeness" contains a disapproving attitude towards the smiling person.

A constant polite smile is called by Russians a "duty smile" and is considered a bad sign of a person, a manifestation of his insincerity, secrecy, unwillingness to discover true feelings.

"Take away the smile on duty!" - spoke in Voronezh to a Russian teacher of English, who all the time in American "kept a smile."

3. In Russian communication, it is not customary to smile at strangers.

A smile in Russian communication is mainly addressed to acquaintances. That is why saleswomen do not smile at customers - they do not know them. Saleswomen will smile at familiar buyers.

4. It is not customary for Russians to automatically respond to a smile with a smile.

An American at the dawn of perestroika wrote in Izvestia: “For some reason, when we look at the customs officers checking our passports and smile at them, we never get a smile in return.When we meet our eyes on the street with Russian people and smile at them, we never get a smile in return. " This observation is correct: if a stranger smiled at a Russian person, it would rather prompt the Russian to look for the reason for the smile addressed to him than to prompt the stranger to smile.

The smile of a familiar person in Russians also does not always automatically follow a smile; rather, it is seen as an invitation to make contact, to talk.

5. In Russian communication, it is not customary to smile at a person if you accidentally meet his gaze.

Features of the Russian smile

Americans smile in such cases, while Russians, on the contrary, tend to look away.

Russians do not have to smile when looking at small children or pets together. It is accepted by the Americans, but not by the Russians.

6. A smile in Russians is a signal of personal affection for a person.

The Russian smile demonstrates to the person to whom it is addressed that the smiling person treats him with personal sympathy. Smiling shows personal affection. Therefore, Russians smile only at their acquaintances, since there is no personal disposition towards a stranger. That is why a smile at a stranger may be followed by a reaction: "Do we know each other?"

7. It is not customary for Russians to smile in the line of duty, in the performance of any serious, responsible business.

Customs officers do not smile as they are busy with serious business. Sellers, waiters - too. This feature of the Russian smile is unique. In the Chase Manhattan Bank in New York there is a notice: "If our operator does not smile at you, tell the doorman about it, he will give you a dollar." In Russian conditions, such an inscription would be viewed as a joke.

It is not customary for children to smile in class. Russian adults teach children: do not grin, be serious at school, while preparing lessons, when adults are talking to you. One of the most common comments of a teacher in a Russian school: Write what you smile.

The smile of the service personnel in the line of duty in Russia was always absent - the clerks, salesmen, waiters, servants were polite, helpful, but did not smile. A smile in the service sector among Russian personnel must be developed as a professional requirement, it cannot appear on its own.

8. The Russian smile is considered as a sincere expression of good mood or disposition towards the interlocutor and is intended to be only sincere.1

There is an imperative in the Russian communicative consciousness: a smile should be a sincere reflection of a good mood and a good attitude. To be eligible for a smile, you have to be really good with the person you are talking to or have a great mood at the moment.

9. The smile of a Russian person must have a good reason, known to those around him, only then a person gets a "right" for it in the eyes of those around him. If the reason for the smile of the interlocutor is incomprehensible to a Russian person, this may cause him serious anxiety, it is necessary to find out this reason.

So, one saleswoman ended up in a psychiatric hospital: “the director is smiling at me, for sure I have a shortage”; A university teacher once wrote a complaint to the rector of the institute with the party committee - "he mocks me - he always smiles when we meet with him."

In the Russian language there is a unique saying that is absent in other languages ​​- "Laughter for no reason is a sign of foolishness." People with Western thinking cannot understand the logic of this saying. One German teacher, to whom the meaning of this proverb was explained (If a person laughs for no reason, his head is not all right), he could not understand everything and asked everything: "Why does this follow from this?"

10. The reason for a person's smile should be transparent, understandable to others.

If the reason is not clear or is considered insufficiently respectful for others, others may interrupt the smile, make the remark - "Why are you smiling?"

For example, an unfamiliar old woman grabbed a smiling American woman in Leningrad in 1991 by the sleeve and exclaimed: "Why are you smiling?" The American was also shocked because she did not find this word in her pocket dictionary.

A worthy (and in fact the only) reason for a smile in Russian communication is the current material well-being of the smiling person.

D. Carnegie's call "Smile" usually leads in the Russian audience to the reply: "Why smile, then? There is not enough money, there are only problems around, and you - smile. " Noteworthy is the use of the pronoun what: the Russian consciousness does not actually perceive a smile as addressed to someone, as if it does not see a communicative meaning in it, perceiving it as a reflective, symptomatic signal of a good mood due to material well-being.

11. In Russian communicative culture, it is not customary to smile simply to raise the mood of the interlocutor, to please the interlocutor, to support him; it is not customary to smile, and for the purpose or for self-encouragement of all these functions, the Russian smile practically does not. If there is no good mood or well-being, the Russian person most likely will not smile.

In a Japanese documentary film about an emergency landing, it was shown how the stewardess smiled at the entire passenger before an emergency landing and how after landing she fell and hysterically - she fulfilled her professional duty, reassured the passengers.

Public opinion in Russia to some extent even condemns the smile of self-encouragement: “her husband left her, but she walks around smiling,” “she has seven children in the shops, and she walks around smiling,” etc.: all this is a condemnation of a woman’s smile who tries not to give up in a difficult situation.

12. In the Russian mind, a smile, as it were, takes a certain amount of time for its "realization". It is viewed as a kind of independent communicative act, which, as such, in most cases is superfluous. Wed Russian proverb: business time, fun hour.

Teachers very often make remarks to children: "Then you will smile, work."

At one time, A. Raikin pointed out a similar problem in a satirical form: “You have to laugh in places specially designated for this!”.

13. A smile should be appropriate from the point of view of others, correspond to the communicative situation.

Most of the standard communicative situations of Russian communication do not sanction a smile. It is not accepted to smile in a tense situation - "not to smile." It is not customary to smile if there are people nearby who are known to have serious grief, someone is sick, preoccupied with personal problems, etc.

14. A smile in a formal setting and in a company demonstrates a good mood and friendliness of people. The British are surprised that the Russians smile and laugh all the time in an official setting (Brosnahan, p. 77). But it is in a formal setting that Russians try to maintain a smile. In a company, a smile acts as a sign of mutual benevolence and a pleasant pastime - when people are gathered, everyone should be pleased, which means fun.

15. In Russians, there is a vague distinction between a smile and a laugh; in practice, these phenomena are often identified, assimilated to one another.

Wed the teacher's remark to the smiling children: “What a laugh? I didn't say anything funny! " In general, smiling people in Russia are often told: “I don’t understand what’s funny here!” or "What did I say so funny?"

These are the main features of the Russian smile.

It is interesting that laughing is a common Slavic root, it has the same correspondences in Indo-European: lat. smietis - to laugh, Skt. smayaty - to smile, eng. smile - smile; but in Russian this root gave a laugh, not a smile. Smiling is a special, actually Russian education from smiling - smiling, grinning.

The everyday unsmilingness of the Russian person (it is the unsmilingness, not gloominess - Russian people are mostly cheerful, cheerful and witty) - is largely supported by Russian folklore, where we find a lot of sayings and proverbs “against” laughter and jokes. Wed a list of such units only from the dictionary of V. Dahl "Proverbs of the Russian people":

Features of the Russian smile

Business time, fun hour

The joke does not lead to good

And laughter leads to sin

And laughter and sin

And laughter and sorrow

Laughing for no reason is a sign of foolishness.

Another laugh echoes with a cry

The one who laughs last laughs well

Joke, look back

There is no truth in jokes

There is no truth in jokes

Whoever does not understand jokes, so do not joke

Joke, joke, but people do not muddle

Know how to joke, be able and stop

There is no better joke than over yourself

Don't joke that there is no way

They don't joke that they don't give

Every joke is a joke

Will make a smile sore

It's no laughing matter

There is no laughing matter

The joke doesn’t fit

Joking people drink honey

He joked, joked and joked

The boyar is glad to the jester, but he does not line up with him

A jester is not a jester, but a good spy

Jester striped / inverted, pea, podnovinsky /

This and chickens mockery

Chickens laugh

Young to laugh: no hair has grown on the teeth yet

I was not amused before good

This is laughter before tears

You will not be full of laughter

Laughter - bagpipes: cheated, played and threw

Martyn was joking, and he fell under the tyn

Who is cheerful, and who has hung up his nose

And it's funny that the stomach is skinny

For fun, sorrow is at his heels

With a fool, laughter takes, but grief is here

Laughs laughs, but business is business

Beer beer, business is business, but a joke go to a strange village

Laughter is laughter, but a joke aside

The devil would be joking with the devil, the water with the devil

Every joke is dissolved in two: who finds it funny?

to the mouse for trouble

Bad joke, troublemaker

I was frolicking, I was having fun and I fell into a hole

And not every joke suits a fool

Who is laughing is tearful

From a fool and laugh we cry rushing

Know how to joke, be able to laugh it off

Do not laugh at a friend, without becoming out of date

Laughs are good, but what will be the laughter

Whoever you laugh at will cry over you

What you laugh, you will work

The last laugh is better than the first

Do not laugh with your nose: the air will stick (runny nose)

Don't laugh, peas: no better than beans

Don't laugh, water: she's young

Don't laugh, peas, over beans - you yourself will be under your feet

To joke on others, to love a joke on oneself

Who does not like jokes, do not joke about them

You love a joke on Thomas, so love on yourself

It's funny too, but it's gone to the knife

People used to be smarter, but now they are more fun


A joke is a joke, but business is business

Joke, joke, but buy rye

The jester in friendship is wrong

Do not believe the jester

Laugh well on the dry shore

No joke

They gnaw nuts not for ridicule

This joke is not in a fox coat / that is, naked, rude, unpleasant /

Jokes to joke - to stir up people

Just joke, but take care of the space behind your back

Joke, joke, but pay the debt

Joke, joke, but buy bread

A century lives on laughter

You will ask for a century, you will live the word

For an age-old joke, no one will become

We live in jest, but we really will die

An extra joke is not good for fun

Joking is good until paint / until you get angry /

Joke on a friend until the paint enters his face

More / more / more / ruble don't joke

A joke will not lead to good

A joke will not lead to good

In what laughter lives, in that is also sin

You never know

Joke the devil with your brother

The everyday unsmilingness of a Russian person can be explained by the following reasons.

Sincerity and openness are characteristic of Russian communicative culture; collegiality, the collectivity of the life of a Russian person suggests that everyone should know everything about each other, there should be no special secrets from others. Hence - the desire and habit not to hide your feelings, your mood.

The everyday life of a Russian person, his daily life, has been a difficult struggle for existence for many centuries; the life of an ordinary Russian person was extremely difficult and preoccupation was entrenched as the normative everyday mimicry of a Russian person.A smile reflects in these conditions an exception to the rule - well-being, prosperity, good mood, and all this can be in a few and in exceptional cases, it is noticeable to everyone and can cause questions, envy and even hostility - "Why did you smile?"

Note that market relations in the current conditions are an incentive, on the one hand, to even greater concern of the Russian people, and on the other hand, an incentive to the emergence of professional, "commercial" friendliness, which ultimately cannot but affect such a non-verbal component of the Russian communicative behavior like a smile.

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