Recently, my acquaintance, one of those who long for the Soviet Union and believes that capitalism is evil, finally went to America himself. I hoped that this trip would change something in his mind and that he would return as a different person. However, he returned an even greater criticism of the Western way of life. According to him, people in the States are indeed polite: they smile, yield the way, and don’t push in lines. But as soon as a slightly tense situation arises, their friendliness drops like a mask, revealing impenetrable coldness and intransigence. For example, he once threw a cigarette butt in an inappropriate place, and another time he accidentally stood in the middle of a queue. Then all the people who had just been smiling at him looked at him as if he were an enemy of the people. So were they smiling insincerely before? “Our people,” he says, “also won’t let anyone cut in line. But at least they don’t smile. From their faces, you can immediately see that it’s better not to mess with them. They can give you a good beating. But if someone smiles at you, it means that you have a friend or acquaintance in front of you who will forgive you for everything and even give you the shirt off their back. But with Americans, there’s some confusion in my head. They seem to smile, but they don’t let you cut in line.” Yes, he is right. In America and Europe, a stranger’s smile doesn’t mean anything yet. It doesn’t mean that the person in front of you is a friend or that they will give you the shirt off their back. For them, a smile and politeness are just attributes of everyday behavior. Just as minimal and necessary as getting dressed before going outside. Behind their smile can lie both good and bad attitudes, and most often, indifference. But as long as a person behaves normally, it is customary to smile at them and wish them well. We, on the other hand, more often expect impudence from a passerby. Therefore, we are ready to resist aggression or even to use it first just in case. And in this sense, my acquaintance is right: the faces of our compatriots honestly show alertness and gloominess. In our environment, smiling at strangers looks like weakness or stupidity. But I prefer even “feigned” politeness over outright rudeness. I understand that every person primarily thinks about their interests, but if everyone is smart enough to understand that polite behavior towards others creates a pleasant atmosphere throughout society and makes everyone’s life better, then why not smile at passers-by and behave decently?

Comments: 0