It was 6 th of April and hoping to present something to my mom I entered the glass-ware shop called “Limex Ross”. But I quite forgot that I wanted to buy some vase or so when I saw a huge bunch of bamboos having an intense longing for plants. I asked the shop assistant to help me. That was a young girl with very dull personality, very short (shorter then me, huh) and plump. So with a wide smile on my face I asked her how long the bamboos would last. She said something , but as it was very noisy in the shop (obviously the shop had received a new consignment of goods and everything was in a mess) I misheard and said: “I'm sorry?”, still keeping the smile. Then she rose her voice and said “aseci inchqan paheS…” (“I said as long as you keep them”) and looked at me in such a manner as if I had borrowed money from her and refuse giving back. For a moment my smile disappeared, I just looked at her resisting myself not to utter anything, turned around and left the shop.

I’ve always wondered why people here have so bad manners. On the way home I was pondering whether I said or did something wrong. I guess no, I was very courtesy, I talked distinctly, then what did I do wrong?? Oh, yes, I smiled, this was my great mistake. People here do not like when you smile, they take you for a mad or in cases like this one, girls like this seller think they are it and consider themselves to be higher than you. Although I am for elimination of various barriers of socioeconomic groups, but perhaps I should had reminded her that she is just a seller and I doubt greatly that she’s even intelligent and perhaps she’s just a remote relative of one of the owners of the shop and only thanks to him she works there. But, no, I would rather hold back, let the shop owners thank her for losing customers. I got the gist, I smiled and didn’t receive a smile back.

Many times it happened when I'm with my friends in some café and while smilingly ordering some meals to bring, the waitress speaks so reluctantly and without any emotion that my smile automatically disappears and I start thinking whether something is wrong with my speech or appearance. And they have that approach of looking down at you, not only directly, but indirectly as well. Yes, I understand that they are getting very tired working the whole day, but that's their work. Imagine a scientist who works on an important project and does it reluctantly because he is tired. His invention is likely to have a negative effect more than positive. Here again they chase away clients.

Would I face such a scene if I happened to be abroad?

The first thing foreigners notice and ask is: “What has happened to this nation? Why don’t they smile?”. The usual explanation is that throughout history Armenians have suffered a lot, they have lived a dog’s life, that life is still difficult, they work hard, no work , no money.. bla…bla…bla. But wait, chuck it! Stop that cheap crying! Yes, the history has left a cruel heritage but shall we blame it for not smiling today? Yes, life is not always a bed of roses, it’s hard, full of burdens, but who’s life is not? And as a matter of fact those people “cry” who need for nothing, they have more than enough money to support their needs and live in luxury. Just having money breeds another problem: they live all their lives guiding the money they pile up in order not to let the others obtain it. No doubt, that’s a frustrating life..

Among poor people, on the contrary, you can find such people who always smile though they are the ones to complain for the hardly earned bread of each day. Peasants spend the whole day in the burning sun and in the evening they return home exhausted but with inner satisfaction and gratitude for life. I know so many such people, who live in ramshackle, who are surrounded by problems, who are the ones to cry, but they don't . They smile, they crack jokes, they infect us with their laughter and thus they live. This reminds me one of Toomanian’s tales, which he took as far as I know from an Arabian story: “Qef anoghi, qef@ chi paksi ( The one who is resilient, will never lack resilience)”. I think the translation is at least close and you guessed what tale I mean. I really recommend reading it.

The day before yesterday while waiting other students to come I had a chat with my professor of Spanish. She remembers when she first time came to Yerevan from Tbilisi she was also astonished that people here do not smile. So she kind of got adopted to it, trying not to smile on every occasion. She told me with admiration about the years spent in Cuba, that people there are so kind and they seem to be so happy, that they celebrate every little occasion, mainly accompanied by beer and music, and not tradition tormenting preparations as is the case in Armenia. Though Cuba is one of the problematic countries, isn't it? After returning from Cuba she couldn't help smiling any more. And it's so pleasant to see a woman about 60 always smiling. When she enters the auditorium nicely smiling, it always has a positive impact on us. Whenever we are tired or reluctant to study she immediately emboldens us with her stimulating smile and laughter. …And how can we withstand her resilient smile?! Sometimes it seems as if we are 60 and she is 20….!!

Later she went on telling that when her sister came from Tbilisi to visit her, the first thing she warned her sister was: “Alla, don't smile, people here will understand you incorrectly”. Yes, from your smile implications may differ immensely.

If you ask an old man how he is, he is likely to answer: “Eeeh…balam…balam (Oooh..boy..boy)”. then he will start telling his life story, how well or how badly they lived many years ago.

Let's leave alone elder people, but what about the youth? History can't have any influence, then what's wrong with them? I have a way of watching people while walking and I rarely happen to see faces which are whether neutral or have slight expression of smile (I don't mean a wide smile while walking down the street, otherwise we'll consider them to be really mad). The youth seems so tired, worn out, as if they have many things to worry about. And they really do, for instance, thinking what to wear tomorrow, what restaurant to go this time, what cell phone to choose, what make up to do, what color to dye their hair, so on and so forth. All this is so difficult, you can't even figure out, and the whole day they just break their heads pondering what to do. And thus they find themselves in such a desperate plight that even forget to smile at times and walk with such faces as if day in day out they search for solutions to global problems, at least to Nagorno Kharabakh conflict. I need to ask them to lend me that expression of face for some time, it may be handy, who knows… Poor…Poor they are…

Now I don’t know whether to smile or not. People older and wiser use to say that our face is the mirror of our inner ego. I always smile and it’s not something artificial, but that’s coming from my inner state. I’m very sociable and I like smiling and I think everything must be done with smile. Treating everything with smile means softening our life. Smile helps us to live easily. Yet, when you smile people may be dubious about it, and they may assume quite strange things. For those who know me my smile is a usual matter, and whenever I don't smile being awfully tired and that's all, my friends conclude that something is wrong with me and they usually ask whether someone has offended me. Of course, no, just they are too much used to my smile.

We must smile in every situation, it always gives courage and aspires us to do more than we are capable to do. To smile means to cheer up and never give up. To smile is to hope. Even when you are in bad moods or you are angry with someone, smile, and you will feel the sustaining ease occupying your mind and soul.

And as I frequently say: there are no borders for smile – All people smile in the same language 🙂 …Life is camera so keep up smiling and never give up…!!! 🙂 🙂 🙂

SMILE!!! 🙂


12 Responses to “WHY DON’T YOU SMILE ?!”

  1. Myrthe Says:

    I so recognize what you are talking about, Zarchka! But there is another side to it as well: I have noticed that so many Armenians treat waitresses or sellers in a shop as some lower sort of people and that they are really rude and arrogant towards them. No wonder the sellers and waitresses don’t care much about their customers. I keep making a conscious effort to be nice and courteous to sellers and shopkeepers and smile to them as well and just say “Thank you”. I have noticed many times that this seems to work, it breaks the ice in a way and people are much more willing to do something for you. However, I know that my being a foreigner might be a bigger or smaller factor in this. 😉

    Right after reading this post I happened to come across another one, that is somehow related to what you wrote:

    “Who doesn’t want to walk into a restaurant where everybody knows your name? Who wouldn’t rather work with someone who knows who you are and cares about the things you care about? Who hasn’t had the experience of being treated like less than a person by a clerk, a doctor, or a boss? Didn’t that make you want to say, “Hey, I’m a person I have a name.”?”

    “Grouping people doesn’t work for getting to know them as individuals.

    My son taught me that when he was all of three. I said, “Hey kid, let’s go.”
    He stopped cold in his tracks, looked at me, and said, “I’m not a kid. I’m a people.””

    I love this last quote!
    The post is here: http://www.successful-blog.com/1/customer-think-im-not-a-kid-im-a-person/.

  2. Zarchka Says:

    No wonder the sellers and waitresses don’t care much about their customers.

    This is not about how I treat them, we are equal regardless of our responsibilities and work, we are people after all. But those are the sellers and the waitresses who should greet their customers with smiles and treat them nicely, thus stimulating them to use their services and not the others’. Other shops, cafes and restaurants are dime a dozen and I have a variety of choice and their task is to do all the possible things to become the selected one. In this respect I don’t need to make attempts to be nice, but regardless of anything I smile, probably because it’s just pleasant, but I need to receive a smile back.
    Now, I’m sure not to enter that shop any more as well as several such like cafes and restaurants.

    By the way, I quite appreciate the work the sellers do at “Grand Candy Ponchikanots”. Working non-stop the whole day these girls are falling with fatigue, yet they still keep smiling…

  3. nazarian Says:

    That’s what will help them to cheer up.

  4. nazarian Says:

  5. Zarchka Says:

    Actually I didn’t get it 😉

  6. Anarchistian Says:

    I don’t think history has anything to do with this.

    When I was in Armenia, I felt the same thing; I actually tried to be very nice with the waitresses at a restaurant I regularly ate at, and although they didn’t give me a bad attitude, they never really smiled, nor interacted with me as usually waiters/waitresses do here in Lebanon and elsewhere.

    In Lebanon, when you go to a restaurant, the waters / waitresses would put on a huge smile (and most of the time it’s natural rather than fake) and make sure that you’ve received the best service…

    I don’t know why it’s not the case in Armenia. Well, I think this is the case only in Yerevan; I was met with extreme hospitality in the regions and Artsakh!!! I don’t know. I guess city life does corrupt, and it does alienate people… Hmm.

  7. Zarchka Says:

    Anarchistian, probably that may be one of the reasons and I think it’s not accidentally that jokes are mainly connected with Aparantsi, Leninakantci, Qyavartsi 😉

  8. christian Says:

    A wonderful commentary — abris!

    As the Armenian proverb says:

    Yeresə srdin hayelin e. (The face is the mirror of the heart.)

    There must be something wrong with the heart of Hayasdan.

  9. Myrthe Says:

    Zarchka, I never said or implied that you personally treat employees badly. I meant to say that if they are not treated well by so many people, the employees might just start to expect such a bad attitude from any customer and they will start to approach _any_ customer negatively, no matter whether that particular customer will treat the employee normally or not. Which is not to say that I like such an attitude or that it is the right thing to do for those employees. The attitude might be created as a result of certain expectations, that’s all.

  10. Zarchka Says:

    Myrthe, I quite understood you, no worries 😉
    You are quite right…

  11. nazarian Says:

    I actually prefer neutral treatment by the service industry workers. A smile or two is OK. But sometimes you come across these really annoying waitresses who pester you (I am talking about the US where they are called servers).

    My impressions with Armenian waitresses was OK. They were not grouchy or mean in general and they were not overly eager either. We were quickly approached if we needed something.

    On my recent trip to Cyprus the service was similar. Nobody pestered you but they were there when you needed them. It’s a little bit shocking after the US but you quickly get used to it.

    I guess the key to the US service in restaurants is that they get paid less than half the minimum wage and have to rely on tips to scratch a living.

  12. Wendy Says:

    Actually, I just didn’t get it, really. I can’t speak for other cultures, I’m American and haven’t travelled abroad. However, this struck a nerve because when I was young, I was constantly asked “Why don’t you smile?”

    I do not believe people who claimed I never smiled. I smiled when it fit the context! But I was accused by complete strangers of “never smiling” and even when I was just shelving books or was walking down the street I was commanded to smile, over and over again, as if I were being reminded or corrected! What are people expected to do, walk around with a big broad smile? When ordered to smile, are we expected to obey, and apologize for relaxing?

    Also, if a critic of my nonsmiling moments caught me smiling, they’d usually confront me and tease me about it. You can believe this would discourage smiles. Most people have a rebellious, stubborn streak, and to be ordered by strangers to do something over and over again is going to trigger that.

    Also, if anyone spoke to me with a big, broad smile throughout the conversation like this author described, I would assume it was just a quirky habit of theirs to smile continuosly and probably it would not trigger a smile from me, especially when just connected to a request for information. What is this person trying to do, charm the pants off of everyone and accuse everyone else of having character flaws and bad manners when they don’t fall all over her?

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