►Russian Culture ►Russian Smile
For many tourists to Russia the first thing that strikes them about the Russians is their supposed closedness and inability to smile. However this doesn't mean that Russians are mean and hate everybody around them. The Russian smile is a particular feature of the Russian character.
What is behind this behaviour? Firstly for Russians a smile is not a sign of politeness like it is in the West. To Russians the constant American smile seems false and unnatural and is worn only for appearances. An unnatural smile or a smile for no reason is often taken by Russians to be insincere.
Secondly it is not the done thing for Russians to smile at strangers. This is why you will notice that the majority of service staff in Russia in shops, cafes and other places won’t smile at you on your first meeting as they don't know you. However if you start going to these places and see the same person again and again, they may start greeting you will a smile, as you will no longer be a stranger.
It is not expected for a Russia to smile back when a stranger has smiled at them. Instead they will think why this unknown person is smiling at them - did I do something funny? do we know each other? In the Russian mentality you don’t just smile without having a reason for doing so; only crazy people do that.
A Russian smile is a sign of personal affection. If a Russian smiles at you it means they like you. In addition you can know that it is for real, Russians don't usually smile just for show. It is also not standard for Russians to smile when fulfilling their official duties - for example at passport control - and no matter how much you smile at a border guard he or she is unlikely to smile back at you, despite the attempts which have been made to give Russia a friendlier image for tourists by ordering border guards to smile more.
Therefore there is no need to get offended by the lack of smiles you see in Russia. For Russians smiles are usually always natural. So when do actually see a Russian smile you can know that it is sincere and that this person likes you.