Why Russians don’t smile

“Смех без причины – признак дурачины”

“To laugh without any reason is a sign of stupidity”

While in western countries smiling is a sign of politeness, in Russia, no smile is the sign of neutral politeness.  For Russians, the smile is always informative. The smile is always personal.  To smile politely seems very artificial to them.

Don’t feel alarmed if you’re not welcomed with a smile in stores, hotels, and restaurants. Even in tourist places, waiters and store clerks don’t smile to the customers. It’s not that they are annoyed by your presence, it’s just that they are not particularly happy to see you. And how can they be? They don’t know you.

For the Russians, there is a time to smile and laugh, and a time to work.

Russians like a sincere, good-natured smile, as a proof of our personal affection for other persons. The smile should come from the heart. It has to mean something deeper. The smile is meant to be shared with friends and relatives. Smile at strangers is interpreted as a sign of insanity.

Just because they don’t smile all the time that does not mean they are unhappy.

There’s something poetic about it. It made me think about my own behavior towards smiles.  There’s a lot of insincere smiles here in Brazil. We smile a lot and it doesn’t mean anything. Brazilians will politely smile at your face and stab you in your back.

This is a very useful information to know before get there otherwise I could misunderstand Russian people by sad depressed people.

By | 2017-09-28T19:01:18+00:00 July 15th, 2013|Categories: Russia, Travel Tips|Tags: , |5 Comments


  1. Fabiano July 16, 2013 at 6:46 pm - Reply

    The smile should come from the heart. I liked it! 🙂

  2. kombizz March 28, 2014 at 11:04 am - Reply

    I like your article about why they are not smiling.
    I should mention it is not just related to Russia. I am an Iranian photographer and I can see this behaviour in majority of people in Iran because of it’s past history and culture.
    You may able to find my portrait captures that I took them in my few trips back home. Barely anybody smiles.

    • ligiafortes March 28, 2014 at 8:13 pm - Reply

      Thanks for the comment and thanks for sharing your work. I saw your gallery and your photos are beautiful!

  3. thierry lasry prix April 3, 2014 at 9:09 pm - Reply

    Keep on writing, great job!

  4. Russia survival guide - Lily Overseas September 29, 2017 at 6:43 pm - Reply

    […] expect a friendly smile everywhere you go. Most people in Russia don’t smile at strangers even if they work in the tourism […]

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