Coming from a relatively small town in England, I am very used to smiling at strangers and other people in the street. Here, however, it seems to be an entirely different matter.
I found out in my first few weeks here that, generally, your smile is met with a blank look of indifference or surprise. As a frequent smiler, I found this very hard to accept and was determined I would smile at everyone in an attempt to start some kind of trend. It hasn’t really worked, although I have found that since getting a dog, I receive more smiles.
I brought this topic up with a Romanian couple that I know here in Oradea, and they agreed with my findings and imparted this little pearl of local wisdom to me:
“If you’re smiling in the street…people assume you stole something”
I found it a very surprising but sad statement; smiling should be seen primarily as a good thing, not an indication of something bad! It goes to show how different perspectives can be in different countries, even regarding something as small as a facial gesture.
It is just not custom here to smile at people that you do not know. I still find it a little bit strange but have learnt not to take blank reactions to heart – and I do continue to relentlessly smile at strangers.