Russians are smiling- you just can’t tell)

One of the first questions foreigners will ask upon arriving in Moscow is “why isn’t anyone smiling?”.

There are two possible answers to this question:

  • There is nothing to be happy about.
  • They are smiling, but it’s only on the inside, which to the casual observer makes it difficult to observe their overwhelming mirth.

What I have learned is that in many situations, a Russian will find something humorous, but unlike his American counterpart, doesn’t always feel the urge to guffaw like an orangutan on crack cocaine.

One of the slang words for laughing in Russian is “neighing”.  Next time you’re giggling with some friends, remember that interesting and useless fact.  Yes, you are now engaging in equine euphoria.

But what this blog post is really about is the emoticon.  The emoticon is the most important area where Russia and the United States don’t understand each other.

You see, Americans really love dragging everything out in conversation.  In Russia, the idea of small talk is more than a little strange.  I pontificate on how this matter affects international business negotiation here.

And if I were to simultaneously attempt to think deeply and also in broad stereotypes, I might also add that Russians are usually very good at the technical “hard skills”, but sometimes don’t see the use of “soft skills”.  If we’re getting the job done, why discuss everything with all of these “how are ya doings”?

And Russians are getting the job done with the smiley face emoticon.  Problem is, the rest of the world doesn’t understand.  I’m here to fix that.

You see, there are various options for the smiley face emoticon in the West.  But usually, it looks something like this. 🙂

A Russian, on the other hand, isn’t going to expend any additional emoticon effort, especially when it comes to smiling.  So, when a Russian wants to let you know that he is smiling, it looks something like this.)

No, I didn’t miss the other parenthesis.  That is a Russian emoticon smile right there.  I hope you didn’t miss it.  You might wonder where the eyes and nose are on the Russian emoji, and the Russian might ask why you didn’t add eyebrows and hair while you were creating your masterpiece, Michelangelo van Gogh.

And if the Russian has stepped into the wild world of unbridled neighing, the emoticon, will look like this.)))

The greater the number of parentheses, the greater the frivolities.)))

So, the next time you meet a Russian and it seems to you that he looks like this:


Remember to look a little closer.  Maybe he’s smiling- at least on the inside.)

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