Utterly Indiscreet

Sunday, August 07, 2005

The Art of the Smile

Nobody smiles in Singapore. I was getting my haircut today and my hair stylist mentioned that I am always smiling.

I smile because:

a)I am happy.
b)I am trying to be friendly or polite.
c)I like the other person.

Of course, I was smiling at my hair stylist because I know my hair is going to look great afterwards.

So I got into a discussion with my exceptionally talented hair stylist about why Singaporeans don't smile very much. Oh yeah, my hair stylist is Chinese Malaysian, so he does smile back whenever I smile at him.

However, I don't think he smiles at Singaporeans because.........well, that's just not done. Singaporean customers will probably give him crap for not paying enough attention to their hair or think he is hitting on them (which he would never do because he is very professional).

Btw, he also said that if he talks to customers they also give him crap because they think he can't cut their hair and talk at the same time. That's complete BS. He knows what's he's doing. He hasn't accidentally chopped anything off of me when we talk.

So why don't Singaporeans smile very much?

I think there are a few reasons:

a)They aren't happy. (They work a zillion hours every week with little vacation time and with slave-driver bosses, so there's not much to smile about.)

b)They aren't friendly. (Many other nationalities have labelled Singaporeans as rude and selfish. However, I have met some friendly ones even though they don't smile.)

c)They don't think smiling is important. (Like many other Asian countries, nonverbal communication is different. It may be dangerous to smile or make too much eye contact with someone.)

d)They are shy. (Find that hard to believe considering how they can be so direct with people in their conversations.)

So do Singaporeans smile too little? I will be watching my friends very closely the next time I see them.


  • At 6:36 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Well... it is true that it tends to be misconstrued, and then after a while, not smiling becomes a default expression, and people become even more surly because it's all interconnected with one's emotional state, and then, of course, that's just one less motivation to smile.

    ~ xena

  • At 3:07 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

    It true that people misconstrue friendliness with hidden agendas . . . that suddenly everyone out there is considered dangerous, scary, crazy, or just wants something other than just being acknowledged. Society is set up so that it becomes much more difficult to make and keep friends. What ever happened to the time before we got serious about careers, school, or whatever it is you are pursuing, that makes it so difficult to reach out to anyone with even a smile?

  • At 2:52 PM , Blogger indiscreet said...

    I think it's a culturally-based habit. People in Japan rarely smile too. But I notice that with most N. Americans, if you smile at them, they will automatically smile back even though you have never met them before.

    Also, I was told if I smile at a guy that I don't know then he may get the wrong idea..... But maybe people here are just paranoid.


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