Wednesday, August 02, 2017

Why Do Americans Smile So Much?

Staff writer Olga Khazan at The Atlantic published an interesting article back in May of this year titled "Why Americans Smile So Much." Ms Khazan begins her article by quoting a comment made by a Reddit user in Finland: "When a stranger on the street smiles at you: (a) you assume he is drunk; (b) he is insane; or (c) he’s an American."

It's true: generally speaking, we Americans are noted around the world for the degree to which we smile, even though we are no longer as open and friendly a people as we used to be. One reason may be the diversity of our population which, unlike many other countries, is made up of immigrants from all over the world. The results of a study cited in Ms Khazan's article suggest that "when there are a lot of immigrants around, you might have to smile more to build trust and cooperation, since you don’t all speak the same language." Another theory holds that Americans value high-energy, happy feelings more than some other countries.

Perhaps there's an element of what the Germans would call Schadenfreude - the pleasure we feel at the discomfiture of others ... in this case, a sense of superiority at being from the United States*.

Or maybe it's just gas.

Big, happy smiles are also big business in America**: how many ads do you see every day for toothpaste, teeth-whitening treatments, and cosmetic dentistry?

All theories aside, though, to listen to our news and to all the political snarkery and to observe the prevalence of road rage and gun worship*** in this country, one might rather ask why Americans still smile at all.

Have a good day. Smile.

More thoughts tomorrow.


* Not necessarily applicable in the age of Trump.

** For those who can afford dental insurance, anyhow.

*** You may remember the often-quoted (and misquoted) line from Owen Wister's classic Western novel The Virginian in which, after the villain Trampas calls him a "son of a bitch," the titular Virginian lays his pistol on the table and says quietly, "When you call me that, smile."


Amanda said...

So THATs why! It actually took me awhile to get used to all smiles and greetings whenever I walked into any shops in the US. Australians are friendly too but I think not as openly friendly as Americans.

eViL pOp TaRt said...

I think that we smile to strangers to indicate that we mean them well, that we trust them. I've noticed in France that so many look glum or serious, like they have their game faces on all the time.

Canadians tend to smile a lot too.

John Hill said...

Now, more than ever, people should question what we Americans have to smile about!

Margaret (Peggy or Peg too) said...

This is interesting. I am someone who smiles at strangers and find it rude when they don't. I am big on smiling and greetings upon entering a store or business. While sitting on the stoop with my dog when people walk by, I smile and say hello and I don't know them. I just think that is polite. I guess it's not so much polite as American. Hmm....

Leroy said...

Americans feel a need to fake it more than Europeans.

Mike said...

Seeing a comment from Amanda made me smile.

Banana Oil said...

Americans smile so much because they are less constrained to be somber and serious! Hey, we have life, liberty, and the pursuit of hsppiness, and we do it with a vengance!

allenwoodhaven said...

I've heard of studies showing that people who smile a lot, even when faking it, score lower on depression scales (meaning that they are less depressed). I agree with pOp TaRt that we smile to indicate we mean no harm and want it to be reciprocal.