Although the smile is a universal facial expression, the use of smiles in communication varies across cultures. This may lead to misunderstandings and miscommunication. Both Americans and Europeans experience the same frustration and communication failure when they do not find smiling faces in Russia. At the same time, it is common for Russian people to perceive the smiles of Westerners as artificial and insincere. What is the reason for such a difference in perception? Why don’t Russians smile in some situations?
The study of the use of the smile as a non-verbal sign in a few chosen communicative contexts across Russian, European and American cultures showed the difference in its meaning and distribution according to the cultural tradition. The reason could stem from the difference of Russia’s history when compared to that of Western Europe, as well as in the specific restrictions in Russian Orthodox Christianity and the traditions of laughter in Russia. All the meanings and specific cases of distribution are clearly retained and expressed in the languages. If we compare the Russian улыбка and улыбаться with the English smile, we can see both common and distinctive semantic elements and different connotations.