Member-supported news for Southern California
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations
Support for KPCC comes from:

Smile, Russia! Foreigners are coming

Russian President Vladimir Putin smiles during a meeting with the staff of the daily newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda in Moscow on May 23, 2005.
ALEXANDER ZEMLIANICHENKO/AFP/Getty Images
Russian President Vladimir Putin smiles during a meeting with the staff of the daily newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda in Moscow on May 23, 2005.

In the U.S., smiles are everywhere, accompanying your coffee order, your pizza delivery, even an “excuse me” from a stranger pushing past you on a train. Smiles are considered pleasant, polite and expected.

In the U.S., smiles are everywhere, accompanying your coffee order, your pizza delivery, even an “excuse me” from a stranger pushing past you on a train. Smiles are considered pleasant, polite and expected.

But that’s not true of all countries. In Russia, smiling is so much not the norm, that some service industry employees are taking courses in how to smile at tourists flooding Russia for the World Cup.

Regardless of whether you find this American norm pleasant or disingenuous, it’s one of the many small cultural signifiers that immigrants have to contend with when they come to the U.S.

If you’re an immigrant or come from an immigrant family, we want to hear which norms you’ve had to adjust to  –  whether it’s hugging, smiling, blowing your nose in public or wearing shoes indoors.

What norms surprised you or your parents and family members? Which have you rejected? Embraced?

With guest host Libby Denkmann.

Guests:

Jenny Kaminer, associate professor of Russian at UC Davis

Lindsey Bier, assistant professor of Clinical Business Communication at USC

Stay Connected