World Cup soccer fans in Russia have been laughing, crying, and screaming as their favorite teams win or lose. But Russians themselves aren’t known for their emotional displays. In fact, in the lead up to the World Cup, Russian workers actually got training on how to smile at visiting fans. Which raises a question: Why?
Why do some cultures smile more than others? Masha Gartstein is a professor of psychology and director of advanced programs at Washington State University and she’s written about what she calls, “the smile gap.”
“Russians are suspicious of people who appear to be smiling for no reason, and at worst are probably thinking that perhaps there is some intellectual deficits, or maybe even mental illness behind this seemingly unnecessary expression of positive emotionality,” Gartstein said.
There are a variety of reasons for this cultural difference. One of them is the fact that historically, there used to be vast differences in commerce.
“Back in the days of USSR there was of course no pressure to provide any kind of customer service because nothing was consumer driven.”
That’s part of the backdrop. Another part, Garstein noted, is that there really isn’t a smiling deficit in Russia. It’s a smiling gap.
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