Must...learn...pleasantry...slavic...tendency...to frown...too...strong— Absurd Headlines (@HeadlinesAbsurd) June 12, 2018
"Russian workers are undergoing training to learn how to smile ahead of the World Cup." pic.twitter.com/qBY31xwhQ7
The 2018 FIFA World Cup begins this Thursday, and 1.5 million tourists are expected to visit Russia as a result. In order to help ensure foreigners do not leave thinking Russians are an unfriendly bunch, workers are being taught to smile.
According to a Russian proverb, “laughing for no reason is a sign of stupidity." So it’s no wonder that the country is known for its people’s unwillingness to flash some teeth. But as companies ready to receive tourists, they are working to disprove experts who say Russians aren’t as likely to smile as Europeans.
FIFA, Moscow Metro, and Russian Railways are all holding training that teaches workers how to smile. The goal is “to tackle the stereotype that [Russian] people are unfriendly.” And they plan to do that by changing Russian workers’ attitudes.
Despite the effort, BBC reports that smiling too much is not welcome in the country, especially not if you're in public.
On Twitter, some people shared some ideas on why Russians won't smile.
With Putin in power & their economy a basket case what on earth do they have to smile about.— Paul Connolly (@PaulCon52258910) June 9, 2018
Dangerous practice in the dead of winter in Moscow.— Patti Conn (@PattiConn) June 9, 2018
I wouldn't be smiling either if i lived in such a cold and miserable country..— ellie (@ellllie10) June 9, 2018
Why am I not surprised smiling is an alien concept in Russia? ????no smiling! ??— Peeka (@Peeka_P) June 8, 2018
The line between a smile and a laugh is more blurry in Russian than other languages. Imagine walking down the street and a stranger laughs at you, or the assistant laughs at you in a shop. Russians might feel similarly strange at an unprovoked smile, wondering what the reason was— Naomi O'Leary (@NaomiOhReally) June 9, 2018
In an interview for BBC, Russian filmmaker Yulia Melamed said she was stopped by a police officer, and when she asked him why, he told her she was smiling.
“That’s what he said, literally,” she explained. “It is strange for a person to walk on the street and smile. It looked alien and suspicious."
But considering that workers who are being trained to smile are trying to not seem as cold to tourists, it’s fair to assume that throughout World Cup season, officers will think twice before pulling anyone aside just for showing some happiness. Then again, we’re talking about Russia, a place where “gay propaganda laws” are a reality.
It’s no wonder people are not smiling.
Thumbnail/Banner Credit: Reuters