Serious Russians. Why Russians don’t smile?

They say that people spot Russian people by their serious faces abroad. Russians really smile not much. But If you watch old Russian movies, you will notice that the actors were smiling very often there. But then, during Perestroika and after the collapse of the Soviet Union, people became to express less optimism about the situations in the country.

Of course, there are some real reasons of that phenomenon. In Russia in the last 50-70 years there was very powerful people migration from villages to cities. People are now meeting a lot of strangers in the streets of the city.

After the collapse of the USSR standard of living in the country reduced much. Living conditions were difficult then.

Even now, not all Russians have a high standard of living. Maybe it is a main reason why Russians don’t smile much. But let’s try to understand the reasons.

A Smile in Russia and a Smile in Different Countries

As a rule, in different countries your smile is a part of polite communication. But in Russia such words as “Thank you”, “Please”, “You are welcome” etc express a polite tone in conversations.

In some situations the Russians may rate your smile as inattention to their words.

Russians Don’t Smile to Strangers

Serious Russians

In Russian restaurants or Russian gift shops there is a strong probability that you will not see smiles on stuff’s faces. This is not a rule to smile to clients. But if you are a patron – in this situation the staff will be smiling to you much as you will be familiar to staff :-).

A Date

If somebody wants to to ask yoy. out on a date you will get a lot of smiles. In this situation a smile is a signal to you.

If you smile to a Russian, it does not mean that you will get a smile in return for sure.

If you smile to a Russian – he will try to find the real reasons of your smile “Do you want to get acquainted with me?”, “What is up?” or even “Are you crazy?”. Moreover, your smile can confuse Russians …

“If You Smile for No Reason, It Means You are Not Far from a Fool”

[It is a popular Russian proverb, it is almost impossible to understand for aliens]

In Russia they think that if a person is constantly smiling – perhaps, he is mad. We consider that it is some kind of prejudice but nevertheless.

A Smile is a Sign of Sympathy to You

In general, Russians smile to you to show their interest. So, your polite smile to Russian people can be understood as personal interest even in sexual context. But why not? ;-).

Russians Don’t Smile at Work

A Smile at work, school etc is a signal that you are a bad, lazy worker or a student.

What should you do to make Russians smile?

There should be two factors:

  1. The Russian person should be in a good mood. In General, if Russians have some problems, you will see it on their faces.
  2. Russians should be in the mood for you. 🙂

Russians don’t smile when they have troubles.

In Russia it is not a rule to smile when persons are upset. It can be absolutely a mere trifle: E.g. to miss a train/bus.

Russians can say you: “You have such problems but you are smiling!”.

In other countries, as a rule, a problem for a person is just a task to cope with. In Russian it is not just a problem to solve, it is a subject for discussion.

A smile for Russians is not a trifle

Of course, times are changing and things are changing. Nowdays people are different than 10 years ago. Many Russians smile just because they want to smile -just because they have a good mood. Now Russian people can go abroad often, and they like to communicate with other people with a smile …

But nevertheless, it is still easy perceive Russians abroad.

But try to make friends with Russians – and you will get lots of smiles from them then!


To discover Russia with Alexey Gureev

In the article a little bit info is taken from a work by Joseph Sternin.


5 responses to “Serious Russians. Why Russians don’t smile?”

  1. Ksenia says:

    There’s only one answer to that. Russians don’t smile, because they don’t like false. They don’t want other people to smile to them, if they don’t feel like that. So we don’t smile to other people if we’re not really happy right now. But it’s not even mean, what we have any problems, bad conditions of living or something. We don’t love a lie. And we always feel if someone smiling just to be (or to seem) polite.

  2. Ksenia says:

    And also we smiling a lot even to a strangers if we have a good which is mean, if you met a stranger or talk to someone new friend, and he smiling to you, that mean, he really have a good mood, and sharing it with you.
    No masks! No pretending!

  3. Peter Rosenholm says:

    My grandfather came from Finland and I am built stronger like a viking than most cousins. I have noticed that I don’t smile as much as the rest, even though I’m fine inside. It is like I don’t have the muscles for smiling while still being happy inside. I a tribute it to living in cold harsh conditions where your face would have also been covered in the winter.
    We comunications with sight while dolfins communicate with sound in the water where they can’t see to far, they have sonar and see images in there minds and can send these images to each other. They adapted to their environment as do we.
    Maybe I’m wrong but that is how I see it.

  4. Vadim says:

    Smiling to other person is a sign of friendliness and trust. Russians don’t smile to strangers cause the lack of trust is a feature of russian mentality. A man smiling to strangers seems to russians as a quite naive person, almost blissful one.

    Actually, a lot of strangenesses of russians can be explained by our infantilism. Russians don’t smile at work and school because they play good workers or students, despite it looks comically. Children are unfamiliar with self-irony

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

We are glad to discover Russia together with you!

We put our heart into the project. Join us on Facebook or Twitter: