Puzzled by a smile

10 Sep

 On my way to English class I walked down the stairs. My second year from Virginia (USA) passed me. “Hi Floor!”, his voice sounded full of energy, enthusiasm and above all full of happiness. Since I immediately felt his happiness, my face got covered by a smile. “Hello”, I answered. “What’s up?” he added to his greeting. I stopped walking to conversate for a minute. But at the moment I wanted to answer, I realised my conversation partner did not stop. He kept walking. An uncomfortable feeling got inside me. I managed to shout “I’m fine”, but he did not hear me anymore. At that moment I sat down. Misled, I felt misled by the smile of my schoolmate. At first he gave me a good feeling, but after all he did not listen to my answer.

I realise that my journey through cultures has started. My puzzled feeling can be called a part of the culture shock, which I pass through at the first weeks of UWC. All American schoolmates, faculty members and people in town seem to smile every single moment. The “How are you?” or the “What’s up?” belong to their greetings. Therefore, I consider a big difference between the European culture and the American one. While Europeans frown more than they smile, I see Americans smiling the whole day. Scientists, as Charles Darwin and William James, claim that smiling increases your mental well-being. James even suggest that if you don’t express a feeling, you don’t feel it. More smiling can give a psychological boost to someone.

The question how to interpret emotions of others bothers me. Originally, my interpretations are based on the Dutch pattern.

Psychologist Paul Ekman says there are more than 50 ways of smiling. Being at UWC gives me inter alia the opportunity to experience more body languages. In that way, I learn more about others and my own cultures. Having friends from all over the world gives me the opportunity to understand more body languages. Hopefully, I learn to speak more body languages. I want to enjoy the smiles of my friends. It reminds me of a Dutch folk song, “ Een glimlach van een kind” by Willy Alberti. I even get to know my own culture. After all, I want to understand and to have fun with my new worldly friends. Let’s send smiles to each other!

Montezuma (NM, USA), 5th of september 2013

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